After our thesis work, Krisje and me went on a trip to see more of French Guiana. First we stayed a weekend at Cayenne in a house owned by friends of Valentine (one of the climbers). The weekend was very relaxed, we went to a museum (Musée départemental Alexandre-Franconie), the beach, the harbor where we saw a lot of birds, a fortress, we made a walk to some old buildings at the top of a hill, etc.
A Brown-chested martin on the left and a Scarlet ibis on the right.
Little blue heron
We also had the most exciting hike (Sentier du Rorota) on a hill to the East of Cayenne. We started our hike at Fort Diamant with the knowledge that the trail wasn't very long, so we could take it slow and enjoy the Fauna & Flora. Part of the hill was covered with bamboo forest, the "branches" were enormous. The trail was very nice, it took us to the top of the hill with a beautiful view at the seaside, but we started to realise we were hiking further than anticipated. At a certain moment we knew we were far from our car, but is was already in the late afternoon, so we started to walk faster to find the exit. In a thick forest it gets dark quickly, so we had to hurry. After a while it was getting really dark and a small part in us started to panick. It wasn't easy to walk without tripping and falling, but after a while we managed to get out of the forest on a road. There we realised we were on the other side of the hill and it was still a long way to the car. We started walking on the road, but soon a car stopped, we asked if we could join to Fort Diamond and the person was friendly enough to take us. Thinking about it afterwards, the hike was really worth it, we saw a lot of beautiful things and the excitement is something to remember forever.
After the exciting time in Cayenne, we took a plane to a remote village in the Amazon forest, Saül. With a small plane we landed on a sandy landing strip, the airport was only as big as a shed. When we had our luggage back, they offered us a ride to the village. Once in the village we went looking for a place to hang our hammocks and found this wonderful cottage rented by local people, with a kitchen and a dining room. Here we stayed for a small week and made wonderful hikes in the magnificent true tropical forest.
Our plane at the landing strip, surrounded by nothing but forest.
The town was small, but very beautiful, with one small shop, a school, a church, a hotel and some guest houses.
At the village their was a huge famous tree, le fromager de Saül, and competed for tree of the year of 2015.
Food was delivered by helicopter.
View from a nearby hill, early in the morning.
My first snake! During a hike we saw this Philodryas argentea between branches.
At the end of the same hike we saw a coral snake crawling under some leaves (species unidentified). A little bit later I went back to that place, hoping the snake would lie in the sun, but instead I came across 3 Tayras, members the Weasel family. They were hunting a chicken and in doing so they made a lot of noise. I could spot them easily and managed to make a beautiful picture of this awesome moment.
The forest was full with butterflies.
A Skeleton tarantula
One of the largest wasp species in the world, a Pepsis, crossed our path with a prey.
Another view, this time in the evening. After this picture, I went back to the cottage and saw a mammal of average height running in front of me, but I couldn't say what it was. For a Feline it was way too loud and it was to small for a deer or tapir. Maybe it was some peccary or a bush dog, we will never know.
After Saül we went back with the plane to Cayenne, from there on we had to find a way to Suriname, without spending to much money. Hitchhiking is very common in French Guiana, so we put our thumbs up and hoped for the best. At the airport we found a driver, a young nice man, to take us to Cayenne city and dropped us of at the driveway of the one big road to Kourou. There, we easily, after ten minutes or so, found another friendly driver with his daughter and he brought us all the way to Kourou, which was a ride of more than an hour, for free. Once in Kourou, we found a spot where we saw some other hitchhikers trying to get home. Here it was more difficult with the competition, but after a short while we found a driver ready to take us and a woman all the way to Saint-Laurent-Du-Maroni, which was at least 2 and half hour away. This man asked us some money, but we were happy to pay, because we really needed to be in Saint-Laurent that evening. With €10 in his pocket he took off, but he drove a little agressive, which is not always a problem on this lonely big road, but sometimes he really went to fast. After a while it got dark and he drove as a mad man, but we safely arrived at our destination.
Once in Saint-Laurent-Du-Maroni, we contacted a girl, named Harmonie, with who we could couchsurf. She came to pick us up, brought us to her place and after that we had some dinner together with some of her friends. Normally we would only stay for one night and day, but Harmonie and her friends were so sweet and fun, we decided to stay a little longer. At Harmonie's place we could swim in a pool, we went to the market together and had some meals together. We also took some time alone to visit the prison in which Papillon was locked up. One evening a friend of Harmonie threw a party for her birthday and we were invited too. There was a party on the other side of the river, which was Suriname already. We went by boat (a pirogue) to this bar at the riverside, with some chill music, some beer and fun. There I met some cool guys and girls, who were all teachers, but they smoked wheat and drank tons of beer. We played some volleyball in the river whilst there was a double rainbow and some parrots flying over, true paradise! When it got dark we had to go back to Saint-Laurent and there we searched for a good party, which wasn't so hard. The whole night was a whole lot of fun with all these people I barely knew and I'm so grateful.
Although we kind of wanted to stay at Saint-Laurent, we left Harmonie and her friends for Suriname. We took a pirogue to the other side of the river to a town called Albina, where we were "attacked" by multiple taxi drivers, convincing us to ride with them. Through the crowd we saw a bus, which was probably cheaper, so we went to ask the driver where he was going and how much it would cost. The driver was genuinely kind and he could drive us to Paramaribo when the bus was full. We accepted his offer and got on the bus where we talked to the other people (in Dutch!), one girl in particular was very sweet. After a while we could leave, it took us at least three hours, but the journey was comfortable and we finally had some rest.
In Paramaribo we searched for a place to stay and found a place called Zin Resort, with a large pool and a cocktailbar. It was a lot of fun, but the room was really small.
One day we hired some bikes and went cycling from Paramaribo to Nieuw Amsterdam in Commewijne. Because of one wrong turn, the voyage was much longer than anticipated, it turned out to be at least 50 km and that with a full tropical sun. Alongside the road we came across a few beautiful things though.
The day after we took it easier and went on a dolphin tour. In the Suriname river occurs a peculiar estuarine dolphin species, the Guiana dolphin. With a boat we went looking for this amazing species, but it is never certain that you can actually see one. The guide was a nice man who gave us some drinks and he put some music on, first some reaggea, then some Madonna. At that moment I spotted the first fin above the water! The dolphins truly most love Madonna, because suddenly we were surrounded by dolphins. A moment to never forget.
It wasn't easy to capture the dolphins on camera, never knowing when and where they will break the water. In this picture, the first dolphin gave away their position and I could capture the second one right on time.
After seeing dozens of appearances, we went ashore at Commewijne to visit some plantations, we had some diner, took a walk on the countryside and returned to Paramaribo.
Suriname river and Commewijne
The next day we went to Brownsberg, a national park more land inwards. We had a lot of luck to come across a guide in Paramaribo who went by bus with some other tourists. We could join for little money, we were so lucky. We stayed a few nights in Brownsberg with our hammocks and some basic food. The area was beautiful with multiple waterfalls.
This rich forest housed a lot of species, what follows is an impression of the biodiversity.
Lantern fly on the left and a Tailless whipspider on the right
Three-striped Poison Dart Frog!
Agouti on the left and Gray four-eyed opossum on the right
A magnificent blooming tree
On the left, a Lancehead viper aka fer-de-lance, one of the most poisonous and agressive snakes in the world. On the right a member of the Typhlopidae, a blind snake, it was crawling under my hammock.
A bunch of Grey-winged trumpeters came very close and were not disturbed by our presence. Here I had a little David Attenborough moment, lying on the ground and observing their behaviour.
Red-fan parrot on the left and Blackish nightjar on the right.
After every night, the white wall of the bathroom was filled with moths and other insects. A feast for geckos.
One morning, we got out of bed really early to witness a magnificent show. The combination of a sunrise over the Brokopondo lake and the strange, roaring sound of howler monkeys.
We left this beautiful scenery of Brownsberg, back to Paramaribo, where we took a bus to Albina. There we took a boat to Galibi, a reserve along the Maroni river, where we heard was a festival. The "festival" was not much more than an out of control beach party, but we met some nice people. After this it was time to go back to French Guiana. Once we were back in Saint-Laurent we had more trouble finding a driver who was willing to take us to Kourou. We stood at a roadside for hours and just when we were considering to hang our hammock somewhere, a man stopped and took us with him. We started talking French, but soon we discovered he was from Suriname, so we were glad we could speak Dutch with him. His name was Stanley and he was unbelievably nice, he lived in Kourou and was prepared to give us a bed for our last nights before going home. At his home we met his family, ate and drank together and had a lot of fun, all for free.
After a few days it was time to leave, go back to Cayenne to take a plane to Paris. The adventure of 2 months in South America was over. We met a lot of nice people and saw some amazing things. Thank you to all people who made this trip possible and enjoyable!