Everyone in Suriname whom we told we'd be going to French Guyana considered us crazy. A couple of months before, one, yes that's one, bus was robbed by bandits. Probably since many illegal Brazilian gold diggers use the route to Albina and on to French Guyana to smuggle gold out of the country. This story, during the months since the robbery, was enlarged and modified and now everyone felt that every trip to Albina, where you cross the Marowijne river to get to French Guyana, was a high-risk trip.
Of course, we didn't listen at all to this advice and left for Albina anyway. The only problem we had was with the driver. The road to Albina is bad, very bad, but the driver didn't seem to mind. Several times, I looked around the bus to see if I could find a list of best laptimes. The man was driving like crazy. Still, the trip was cheaper than your average Fairground ride and worse for the bones so I guess we somehow got our money's worth.
Albina used to be a city where people went to escape from the 'busy' life in Paramaribo. A very green city, with many hotels, hammock camps, soothing views of the river and more. However, during the civil war in the 80s, the city was raised two times and now, although it's slowly gaining back something of its past glory, it's not much more than a transit point for traffic going to and from French Guyana. Even before the bus had reached our destination, we were already beaten into submission by people trying to get us on their korjaal (narrow boats) to cross the river to France.
On the other side of the river, we noticed the ferry, waiting for its second and final crossing of the day. It only held room for some two cars and a handful of people.
A couple of days later, when we were traveling back to Suriname on the same river, we shared a korjaal with a Brazilian couple. The guy, some 35 years old, was missing several teeth but was smiling most of the time. He tried to talk to me in a mix of Brazilian, English and TakiTaki (Surinamese). When he mentioned his reason for leaving Brazil, he apparently had killed someone over there, I kept on smiling as if it was the most normal thing to hear.â€¨The boatsman later put everything in perspective: 'When the awaras (a local fruit) are ripe, the river is very unquiet. When the awaras haven't ripened yet, the river is as smooth as can be…'
Back in Paramaribo, I had checked to see if there would be a launch at the Kourou spaceport during our stay, but nothing was planned for weeks. So we were surprised when, upon our arrival in St. Laurent, we learned that a launch was scheduled for that very night.
We had rented a car in St. Laurent. Not that we had cash to spare, but since public transport is virtually non-existent, we didn't really have a choice. In Holland, back home, I discovered I never returned the car papers. Mild justice for the way we were treated by the only car rental in St. Laurent. When we returned the car, the office was closed. I had to call them but, although my French isn't all that bad, I had a hard time understanding the lady on the phone. To make things easier, each time I mentioned I hadn't fully understood her, she would repeat the exact same sentence, only twice as fast.â€¨
We learned, through a special telephone number, that the launch at the spaceport would be postponed to the next night. A good thing since we had decided that we really wanted to stay in St. Laurent for the night.â€¨Our arrival in France was typical: Baguettes, French cheese, Belgian beers, good pastas and amazingly high prices. During our five days in French Guayana, we spent more cash than over two weeks in Suriname.