Hotel: Sleep Inn International, Georgetown, Guyana, $65
Flight: Trinidad (POS) to Georgetown (GEO), Caribbean Airlines
Woke up at 5 am, our flight wasn't until 7:45 but we wanted to be there a bit before (Our other Caribbean flights had actually been leaving early). There was noone in checkin line, and we went to have a breakfast of a muffin and juice. They started calling our flight, with nearly 2 hrs before departure! We went upstairs where there was a long line to pay departure tax. My passport had been stamped 'transit', so I didn't need to pay it! Still we were in the departure gate over an hour and a half before departure, yet they were already announcing boarding! We all boarded, then proceeded to sit on the ground for an hour! The plane was quite full, it had come in overnight from New York.
Not too many tourists, if any onboard. The flight took a little over an hour; we flew in over Guyana, viewing vast forests and the huge Essequibo delta. Hardly any sign of development anywhere; even as we were approaching landing we were flying over rainforest. Stepping off the plane the air was refreshingly cool; a surprise from the Caribbean where it had been quite hot. Still humid, it had been raining all morning. Immigration and bag check went quickly and we found a taxi to take us into town, about an hour away. On the way, we passed lots of sugarcane fields, and Dutch-style canal gates. As we approached town, the driver stopped at someone's house for us to change money, which seemed a little dodgy. The guidebooks always warn you Georgetown is dangerous, period.
Basically says, don't enter certain parts of town, always take taxis even if only going block, etc. Not reassuring. Guyana seemed a bit of a ramshackle place, many buildings were dilapidated or crumbling, but there were plenty of brand new houses and cars as well. There is a huge population of Guyanese living in New York and elsewhere that send money back. Most of the tourists (and very few), were all originally from Guyana, but now lived (or had lived) overseas. Guyana was originally Dutch, then British until they gained their independence in the 1960's. After slavery was abolished in the mid 1800s, many East Indians were brought over as indentured laborers to work the canefields, this makes for a unique blend of cultures similar to Trinidad. The Guianas are more Caribbean than Latin; most cultural and transportation links are with the Caribbean or their former colonizers, Holland and France.
St George cathedral
I had reserved a hotel in Georgetown, the Sleep Inn had good reviews, but I'd never heard back from them. We went there anyway, and they did have my name. It was a very nice place, just a few blocks from the market and other historical buildings, with free breakfast and internet for $65/night. Scott opted for a room with a fan, while Dean and I shared a double A/C room. We were about to go out and look at the town when it started raining again. After awhile it slowed down, and we got in a taxi to go check out what tour options were available. We went to the Le Meridien hotel to Shell Beach Adventures. I had wanted to go on a tour to the Kaieteur Falls, supposedly the highest single drop waterfall. The tour companies only go if they get enough people, 8 usually, but the plane only holds 10 including the pilot and guide.
So they need 8 and only 8 people. It's tough to get a tour going midweek, especially during slow (rainy) season. D&S wanted to do a river tour, but we didn't have any luck with that either. We then went to lunch at a place recommended by the LP. It had closed/changed names, but was still very good, the owners were Venezuelan and Belgian. Prices seemed to have gone up, taxis were 300 Guyana dollars ($1.50) when the book said they should have been 0.40. Food prices were a bit more as well, I think lunch was $6 when it should have been $4. Not complaining too much :) We walked down through town to the next tour company, only to find out that a trip to Kaieteur had just left that morning, with 2 empty seats!!! Doh. We wandered by St. Georges cathedral, supposedly the tallest wood building in the world.
At that point it started pouring rain again, so we holed up in the church until it subsided. We walked back to the nearest hotel to catch a taxi back to our hotel for a bit to regroup. Our taxi driver, Roy, had lived in New York and Suriname, we got his number as he knew the procedure for getting to the Suriname border. After resting a bit wethen went out again, this time to the Stabroek market. The LP guide describes it as a den of dope smokers, thieves, and other unsavory characters, but it was afternoon and the market was pretty quiet. The market has a huge gingerbread clocktower which dominates the Georgetown skyline. There are no high-rise buildings here and doesn't really feel like a city. Things are somewhat functional, there are traffic lights (new), apparently these were only just put in recently, until then there wasn't a functioning traffic light in the whole country.
We saw lots of money had been put into preparation for the Cricket World Cup, lots of brand new hotels and a huge new cricket stadium, but the crowds just never materialized. Someone made some money somewhere though. We stopped by a bar to have a rum&coke and ended up having a long talk with some Guyanese at the next table. One had just come in from New York, he hadn't been back to Guyana since he was 15. That evening, we went out to the Dutch Bottle Cafe, in an old colonial house. Excellent food but service was a bit slow. Georgetown is quite dark at night, there are lights on the houses, but no streetlights and no sidewalks. There was also quite a bit of flooded streets/drainage ditches because of the rain. The city sits 7 ft below sea level, and the pumps can't keep up. Just like New Orleans, in fact Georgetown felt much like New Orleans in many ways, but without the French influence.