BootsnAll Travel Network

Day 59 Georgetown, Guyana

I woke with pretty much the same determination as my last day in Santa Elena, Venezuela. I wanted to get out of town and I was determined to find a way. I had learned from the guy the night before that the trip via road was rather sketchy. It was pot hole covered dirt road the entire way to Georgetown and it took his van 16 hours to get to Lethem. I was not thrilled about getting an ass pounding ride for 16 hours, but it was better than staying there. The meeting area was right by the hotel so I stopped by. The vans were already booked with the bus being broken down. I stopped by the terminal where I found out that ďuntil further noticeĒ meant that they would not be up and running until the bus could be towed in and damage fixed. The Airline guy was MIA and when I called the number that the guy had given me, they bounced me around until I got back to the terminal in Lethem. The guy was already getting pissed off explaining to the umpteenth person that the Airline person was still not there and that he did not know when the plane was arriving or if it had any scheduled flights out. After an hour and a half later, the guy showed up. He said that there would be a flight out at twelve thirty and he signed me up. I happily skipped back to the hotel to get my stuff. Luckily, since they were close to the border they also took Reals, so I would be able to use up my extra reals, the last of my Guy $ís, and cover the rest with US$ís. That was the plan at least.

Now the usual backpacker shuns flights because of the cost and in some way it is cheating. In this case, it was a matter of two days sitting in Purgatory melting, or coughing up the bucks. The way that I had it figured was that the bus would cost $50 plus two nights hotel at $13 a night. That would equate to around $76.00US. For an additional $34 I could fly out of there and be in Georgetown in an hour and a half versus 14-16 hours by bus. The drive was supposed to be amazing, but with a night bus I would not see anything except the last hour or two which would be the suburbs of Georgetown. Thats my argument and I am sticking to my decision. To be honest, I did not want to stay another minute there and would have payed whatever the cost to go. This whole leg of Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana, is nothing more of an exploratory trip because nobody ever goes there. It was going to be expensive, difficult, and not that rewarding. Well whatever, I am getting the hell out of Dodge.

Around 11am, I hauled my stuff down to the office where they weighed my bag and me. I luckily had enough Reals and Guyanese to cover the ticket so I did not have to dip into my stash of dollars. From there we waited until twelve thirty, then one, then two, and then at two thirty the plane finally arrived. After an hour and a half of unloading and loading of luggage, a rain shower, refueling, we were able to board the 16 person single prop plane. The flight went rather quickly as I dozed in and out, snapping a picture every once in a while. I had hoped we would have flown by the Kaeteur Falls, but I never spotted it, or slept through it. We landed at a local airport rather than the International airport which I was happy about because it would save me a $20 taxi and a forty-five minute drive. All the people were locals so I knew customs was going to be different for me so I waited until everyone went by. A family showed up late so they took a spot behind me. When I got to the officer he told me to have a seat while he took care of the family first. I knew it was going to be another pain in the ass session. Instead of standing there I grabbed a chair and waited for the onslaught of questions. We did the Q&A thing for twenty minutes until he knew my life story and all of my future endeavors. From there I was handed over to the customs person who I got to spend another 30 minutes totally emptying my bag and doing the same question and answer. This time, I had to show actual proof to my stories. I had to take out every piece from my pack, then I had to show proof of employment (pay stub), proof of funds (credit cards and bank statements,) proof of residency while I was in Georgetown (guidebook), he read through my stories on my notepad, questioned me about my job and what I did from hour to hour. Then he went into my heritage not understanding how a Japanese guy could be an American. That led into my family history and where my family lived. It would have been irritating had I not been prepared for the jerk, but all my iís were dotted and tís crossed. He had a little issue with the condition of my passport but I showed him my wallet which was also saturated from the Roraima Trek. I also pointed out that two other countries had already allowed my entry and exit in the last week without an issue. He finally gave up and let me go. The taxi guy that was waiting for me told me that these guys were corrupt and would try and find something wrong so they could ďfineĒ you. With that, we were off and the taxi driver gave me a quick tour of the city as we headed to the hotel. He had a great story of being called over by an attractive Indian lady and then a gun being stuck to the back of his neck while the guy robbed him of all his money and his stereo. It was good to be in Georgetown. The main reason why I was doing this whole leg of the trip.

The Lonely Planet under Dangers and Annoyances:

Georgetown is dangerous. Period. Street crime, often violent, is common even in broad daylight. Donít walk anywhere alone, carry next to nothing (ie, small change) and wear nothing of value – not even flashy trainers. Donít walk anywhere at night: even locals take cabs to restaurants two blocks from their homes. Electricity blackouts are quite frequent, and street lighting is poor at the best of times. Never enter the Tiger Bay area (north of Church St and west of Main st), avoid Middle St between Main and WaterlooSts, and stay out of Promenade Garden.

Now with an advertisement like that who could pass up visiting Georgetown. For me, once I read that one paragraph I changed my whole South American itinerary. I have yet to meet anyone who has gone or even wanted to go there, so that was a novelty as well. According to most people, two feet off the plane you are supposed to be mugged and killed.

After the twenty minute ride we pulled into the entrance way to the New Tropical Hotel. The taxi guide was very critical of my plans to stay there. It was a run down open air bar/disco with ten rooms on the upper floor. It was neither new or tropical. When I went in to ask about the room, people didnít know what to say and had to call the owner out. She explained that she had two rates. One for one night and a cheaper rate if you stayed longer. She took me up to the room to show me. It was a pretty scary place that was a shell of an old time bar and discoteque. The rooms were on the third floor so we made our way up the rickety staircase. The rooms had doors with padlock clasps ripped out. There were some with holes kicked into them. My room luckily had the door, but the lock clasp had been ripped from the frame with the padlock still attached. All I could think was goodby laptop. At least I would not need to be hauling it around anymore. I would have imagined that these could have been ďLoveĒ rooms, but I donít think people would be able to do it in there. The bed was an old springy model with torn sheet, the window had missing panes where they had been smashed out. The boards that went across to block someone from getting in were removed, the inside locking clasp had been reattached a couple times as the wood was ripped apart, there was only one lightbulb which cast a light haze on the place. The bathroom had a spigot sticking out of the wall for the shower with tiles missing and mold blooming between all the cracks. The toilet had no seat and the aroma of sewage permeated from both the sink and the toilet. I told the lady I would take the place for three days. What can I say, I can be kind of an idiot.

I found directions to the bank and headed out. Georgetown is more Caribbean than South American where people spoke the slang English just like in St. Thomas. The population consisted of mainly blacks and East Indian with a spattering of Asian. Caucasions were not visibly seen. No wonder it got a bad reputation. I did read about how the president of Guyana was putting out an ultimatum to stop the rejection of legal Guyanese people from visiting other neighboring countries while they welcomed people with open arms. The Guyanese just did not get any respect. In fact, I was reading that all three borders are in dispute over land ownership. Even in this day, three other countries claim parts of Guyana. The place quickly reminded me of Port of Spain, Trinidad. It was hot, dirty, smelly, and every square foot was some sort of shop selling crap. People were jammed into the town like sardines. The biggest difference was the smell. Not only did it smell because of the heat and all the car smog, but when they designed the town they created a network of little canals that line every street to keep the ocean from flooding back in. Now there arenít nice clean canals, but what looks to be raw sewage and run off. It is a greasy brownish, green, color that smells like raw sewage. Every street has them on both sides of the road so the whole town wreaks of a septic tank over flowing. That contributed to my biggest problem, and a pet peeve of mine, mosquitoes. This place is a breeding ground of mosquitos. Every street is one big hub of standing water. Surprisingly there are little fish in these canals that I guess feed on some of the mosquitoes, but as you read on, you will see that they are not the solution.

After wandering around that evening and then taking a late Chinese dinner, it was off to bed. This is where the fun started. Luckily, earlier that day I had noticed that there was no top sheet for the bed so the owner had taken a bottom sheet off of another bed. This became my only defense. At around 9pm they came. Like in the flaming arrows in Gladiator, the mosquitoes came. I had just gotten out of my sewer shower (I swear I smelled like sewage after my shower,) when I looked down and there was a bunch of mosquitoes buzzing around my feet. I grabbed my towel and started swinging away. There was a decent breeze coming through the broken window so at least I was cool. I quickly passed out. About an hour later I woke up with my arms and legs on fire. I switched on the light and my arms and legs were covered with mosquito bites. SHIT, FUCK, DAMN. I jumped into the shower to cool the fire, and then jumped back into bed with the light on. From my previous experience I set out a trap. I covered everything except my arm. In a matter of seconds the mosquitoes came. I quickly zapped them. This game went on for the next eight hours. I got about thirty minutes of sleep when I finally put on pants, long sleeve shirt, and socks. It was hotter than hell and the side I slept on was covered in sweat, but I had been defeated. It was so bad that earlier I fell asleep with the sheet wrapped around my bare feet and covering up to my face. After I had fallen asleep, I awoke to mosquito bites on the tips of my toes where they sucked through the sheet and my eyelids had bites on them. It was a horrible night. All I could think about was burning the whole place to the ground so that I could at least kill the mosquitoes. My plan became very clear. The bank at 8am to either get a cash advance or change some dollars so I could move and then to find a store where I could stock up on some insect repellent, insect killer, and mosquito coils. I was never ever going to have a night like this again. I ended up getting 43 bites (16 on my left arm), that I could count (on my front side and legs) and me killing seventeen.


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