Iles du Salut
Iles du Salut Travel Blog› entry 5 of 35 › view all entries
January 14th, 2010 – by: IvanR
The book Papillon (Butterfly) from Henri Charrière was one of my favorites when I was kid, but I would never imagine I will have opportunity to see the place. I was growing in Communist Czechoslovakia, when travelling to neighbor socialist countries was a problem, I could only dream about another continent. An here I am.
Jozef and Richard are similarly excited, it seems we were growing up on the same books.
The only problem, we did not have any reservation, turned out to be no problem, there is not so many tourists here as it seems. We got ticket from nice lady at the wharf and we boarded nice catamaran.
Within few minutes some more tourist showed up, so we were about 10 at the end.
The way to isles took about 1,5 hour. Most of the time they have used sail and engines only in the harbor. The sea was rough, waves were sometimes giving us huge showers and we had to protect our cameras. Me and Jozef were sitting at the front, where it was the worst, but the view was the best. Richard gave up after first wave and went inside.
Because of big waves, muddy dark waters full of sharks, it all looked scary.
Iles du Salut consist of 3 islands. We started with biggest one - Ile Royale. This island was where the garrison was placed, together with some less dangerous prisoners who were helping them. There was a hospital - huge building in ruins, a nice chapel and water reservoir today filled with swamp and animals.
Many buildings are restored, but most of them are crumbling.
The island is full of life, different kind of animals walking around, I don't know their English names, so see on the pictures...
After lunch we move to the second island - St Jospeh. This is where most of the prisoners were stationed. There is still small garrison of French Foreign Legion there. It looked deserted, but they are signs everywhere with warnings not to enter.
We started to walk around the shore and decided to see the middle part with buildings at the end.
You can even see the swimming pool built by prisoners to protect them from sharks. Everything what I remember from the book is here. When we walk to the top of the hill, the most impressive building shows up. One can see the cells without roof, just with a iron grid, so the midday soon can burn on the prisoners heads.
Walking down from the hill, we see 2 older German tourists to walk inside restricted area and then from middle of nowhere, a half-naked tattooed guy with pitbull and machine gun runs after them shouting. I though he is going to arrest them - he looked really serious :) After 5 minutes of shouting and barking, he let them go. To my surprise, 10 minutes later Jozef is also trying his luck walking accross that area and the soldier with dog runs after him too. Jozef does not speak any French or English, he only says "Excuse me" :) The soldier let him go, probably he thinks he is retarded ;) (as me and Richard think right now too).
While waiting for the boat to embark, some turists from our group tries their luck and swim 50 m to the boat. I am trying to not look at them, these waters are famous to be full of sharks and I don't want to be witness of some bloody bath. Lucky for them, it did not happened.
The way back was more relaxed as we were riding on the waves rather then going against them. The whole trip to islands was absolutely amazing and is well worth to do if you ever visit French Guiana.
Tired from the trip, we tried a local restaurant close to the hotel. It was part of a normal house and had only 2 tables. The owner had to show us the fridge where we could select what we want, because we did not understand a word from the menu. We picked a fish and it was delicious! The ladies in the restaurant were giggling on us all the time, we were probably first foreigners who ever visited their restaurant. After couple of beers, our conversation skills in French improved to the level, when we understand everything :) What a great day!
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