domingo, 4 de novembro de 2012

Some facts about French Guyana

Since French Guyana is such an exotic place and not many people I know have seriously considered the possibility of going there, I will add further notes on the place, and try to encourage others to know the area.

As soon as your airplane approaches the airport at Cayenne, you realise the forest is indeed untouched by the French government: the horizon is an undulating green mesh of foliage, and the abundant trees and bogs stop flush to the fence by the landing lane. Practically no buildings or clearings to be seen. This is something maybe my Brazilian comrades ought to see as to realise the kind of result one expects from environmental protection measures.
Temperature is always hot, the air always heavy from high humidity, mosquitoes are everywhere near the vegetation or around you after 6 pm. You get to see Chinese, French, Haitians, Brazilians, Dominicans, and eventually even other peoples populating the streets. A few buildings, and beyond those, only the jungle or water. I particularly found the Haitians the most sympathetic people around to chat with, really nice chaps.

This is a very large tree at Montaigne des Singes (sorry could not rotate image)
Each city is quite far from each other, taking a 40-60mins drive to get somewhere else. The highways are in good state, though quite narrow and empty -- this further accounts for the good conservation of local nature. Practically nothing is produced locally at French Guyana, what also accounts for great nature... and awfully high prices. You will easily pay 8 euros for 500g of raw meat, or some ordinary fish, to take home. Local radio plays French songs, some American dance music, and a lot of Brazilian tunes (not exactly the best one in my opinion). TV offers little variety, local programs are not too good, and many stick to channels from France.
In a few words: it is a colony. An authentic, wild, overseas colony of the 21st century.

Typical house at Bourg, in Kourou
I definitely recommend visiting French Guyana, especially if you are a nature/adventure addict. And a nice piece of information to any scientists: there is no need for permits to collect and study local specimens, which include great rainforest insects, amazing snakes and birds, and all sorts of weird plants you can think of. Considering one almost gets lynched in my country just from attempting to collect beetles as one's hobby, this is indeed fantastic.

The beach at Kourou
Another curiosity about the place: French Guyana holds one of the main international stations for launching satellites and missiles -- thus you get the chance to watch a rocket making into space from inside your tent in the middle of tall jungle. I certainly plan to do this next time I stay there, if I get the chance!

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