When most people think of South America, they think of Latinos, Spanish or Portuguese syllables. However, one can find the Anglo language spoken here if you look long enough. Guyana is a little piece of land that happens to be one of the smallest in South America, yet it has a population of less than a million. Guyana is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the only South American nation whose official language is English – or at least a kind of English. Even though they are taught the Queens English, most of us Westerns will have trouble keeping up with their ”Broken English” accents and heavy slang. Why should you travel here? You should pick this little untouched emerald if you want to go to places that are roughly unspoiled by white mens hands. Guyana hardly has any tourists, and is probably the least touristic country I have ever visited.
Guyana, or officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, does culturally belong to the Anglophone Caribbean and is one of the only countries that isn’t an island. So the people you will meet here share the same temperament of the other former English colonies located on the islands near this country. They are warm, caring and very friendly.
We will start out tour in Georgetown, the capital. A natural place to start since 90% of the 760.000 people live on the coastal areas, which covers around 10% of the land. That leaves the rest of the 90% more or less untouched for the explorers that want to go on adventures in one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, some parts of which are almost inaccessible by humans.
What first caught my attention when driving through Georgetown was the amount of religious places – they’re simply everywhere, and they worship almost every God known. Second was the fact that in some places in the city, the houses stand on rather tall pillars. When I asked why, I was told that there was two rainy seasons in Guyana, and either it destroyed the harvest or it flooded the city, and that when it did flood, one should watch out for crocodiles in the streets. In the city, the houses looked, for the most part, dilapidated and poorly maintained, while other streets looked high class and über-chic. All of the national buildings were restored to perfection, like St. George’s Cathedral, which is the largest wooden church structure in the world. It was huge, so big that no matter how I tried to arrange my camera I couldn’t fit it in the picture. All the other government buildings are very well maintained as well, which is in strong contrast to the rest of the city.
Gateway to the Interior
After spending a few days in Georgetown, and checking out the big markets where you can buy everything your heart might be longing for, watching a cricket match or a football match played at night, you might want to work a little on your tan. But don’t head to the beach, because being dark skinned and non-touristy, the Guyanese do not use their beach for bathing or tanning. A better thing to do is to pack up your gear and head into the countryside to do a little exploring. Guyana is rich in nature, and prides itself with Kaieteur Falls, the world’s largest single-drop waterfall (by volume). This might not be a backpacker tour; taking into consideration that the only tour they offered when I was there was a flight in a one propeller airplane, and it cost around 300 dollars per person. Instead, one can head to Bartica Essequibo, a town on the left bank of the Essequibo River in Cuyuni-Mazarunwhich, known as ‘The Gateway to the Interior’. Getting to Bartica isn’t easy in itself. One has to drive quite far out of the city, crossing Demerara Harbor Bridge, the world’s fourth-longest floating bridge, and catching a speedboat down the river for a few hours. Once you are there though, it will be worth all the effort. Bartica is a charming little city with the freshest fruit you will ever find in its fruit markets, and the rainforest just there. Take a boat tour around and stop at a few places to enjoy nature that has no ”western” trails, and see nature the way it is shown on TV. This sort of nature is not only breathtaking, it is so untouched by man that you will hardly see any sign of human existence for as long as you go around in the boats. The people that run the boat tours are private and not owned by any company, which means you pay a flat rate for a boat and then you can choose how many people you want to be in the boat, and the price will not change. Furthermore, you can choose when, where, and how far you want to go, you just pay the man a little extra. Have you ever wanted to experience the rainforest by night, hearing all the sounds of the wildlife, and seeing eyes glancing back at you in the dark? Give the boat man a little, and he will give you a lot of experiences you would never get the chance to have in any other places in the world. Experience a swim in the river if you dare, bull sharks and crocodiles do not normally come this far up the river. You can stop and see the remains of the tunnel system created by the Dutch when they established a colony in Essequibo in 1616. Normally you have to pay a fee to enter this island, but our guide knew that the man who took care of the island went to church every Sunday, which is a pretty good example of how the country works.
Word of advice: Book your trip and hotel in advance, otherwise it will be difficult to find a hotel in this country. And if you tell them at your hotel that you won’t be needing a receipt they will automatic withhold the tax from your bill.
Enjoy your trip!