Category: 2013

I was never meant to spend much time in Brazil. Although it is the giant of South America as it covers nearly half the territory (8.5 million square kilometres out of 17.8 million) and has nearly half the population (208 million out of 423 million), I wanted to pay only a short visit. It surely is a beautiful country but people there speak the “wrong” language. I wanted to use my time in South America to learn Spanish and exploring Portuguese-speaking Brazil in depth would not be helpful for that. I had a few points though, that I wanted to see: […]

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Fully integrated into France, Guiana is also part of the European Union (we stretch far!). French Guiana is the richest corner of South America and one driver of the economy is the Guiana Space Centre. The earth rotates around its axis within 24 hours. The speed at which we move is determined by the distance we have to earth’s rotational axis. At the poles this distance is non-existent but gradually rises until the equator. In southern Germany earth rotates at a speed of 1,125 km per hour, at the equator that speed rises to 1,670 km/h (40,000 km circumference divided by 24 hours). We do not realize this movement as our atmosphere moves at the same speed. But for a rocket, that leaves our atmosphere, that makes a difference. […]

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If I had to pick my favourite Guiana it would actually be Suriname. I just didn’t really connect with French Guiana and compared to Guyana it seems just a bit nicer and there are more cheap options for an independent traveller. Looking back, I greatly regret not having made use of the village lodges along the Suriname river. In this tourism project you can use the local boats running along the river Suriname and stay in lodges in the small villages. This is a lot cheaper than the expensive lodges that I encountered in Guyana and seems to be a perfect and slow way to get to know village life in Suriname. […]

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As there is no road connection between Venezuela and Guyana, I had to go via Boa Vista in Brazil. Crossing the border, you end up in the city of Lethem. According to Wikipedia it has 1,158 inhabitants and with that is by far the biggest settlement in the south of Guyana. It even has an airport with daily flights to Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana. The alternative to the flight is a 16-hour minivan journey on bad roads through the rainforest. But this is what I am here for, to explore Guyana and not to fly over it. With a few stops along the way, the journey will be an integral part of my experience. […]

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In October 2013, I am travelling to a country in turmoil. In the Spanish American war of independence, Venezuela was one of the first territories to declare its independence in 1811 but that independence was only gained in 1821 as a part of the federal republic of Gran Colombia. Simón Bolívar, the libertador, the towering South American independence hero was born in Caracas. A century later, during World War I, oil was discovered which transformed the Venezuelan economy. In 1960, Venezuela’s GDP per capita stood at 1,138 $ which put it worldwide on rank 18 and higher than countries like the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. Unfortunately, Venezuela’s elites were not able to transform this oil wealth into proper economic development. In the Spanish American war of independence, Venezuela was one of the first territories to declare its independence in 1811 but that independence was only gained in 1821 as a part of the federal republic of Gran Colombia. Simón Bolívar, the libertador, the towering South American independence hero was born in Caracas. A century later, during World War I, oil was discovered which transformed the Venezuelan economy. In 1960, Venezuela’s GDP per capita stood at 1,138 $ which put it worldwide on rank 18 and higher than countries like the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. Unfortunately, Venezuela’s elites were not able to transform this oil wealth into proper economic development. […]

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It is easy to recognize Curaçao from the air. A flat island with a massive harbour, basically an inland sea called Schottegat. It does not look beautiful as this inland sea is home to a big refinery of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. Curaçao is considered as a part of the Caribbean but geologically it is already part of South America. Politically, it gets a bit complicated, Curaçao is in fact one of the four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other constituents are nearby Aruba, still-Caribbean Sint Maarten and the Netherlands proper. On paper, the four parts are equal but in real life the Netherlands (98% of the population and area) seems to be more equal than others. […]

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I started this trip in Puerto Rico and to avoid problems with US immigration I had booked a flight out of the Caribbean (that is their requirement!) before I left home. I had not planned my journey in any detail, I just knew the date I would fly from Curacao to Venezuela and I had a rough idea which islands I wanted to visit along the way. I knew it was a tight schedule but I didn’t realize that it was too tight. I will have less than 48 hours on Trinidad & Tobago, […]

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Budget accommodation is rare in Saint Lucia. I found a hostel in Gros Islet, the sun sets beautifully as I arrive. I came just in time; it’s Friday night and the famous street party is about to start. I go with a traveller from Latvia. Street party is meant literally here, food stalls have been set up and the music is playing. The food is delicious and the dancing a bit weird. Time and again we see something that can only be described as “playfucking”, a guy, and sometimes it seems a guy unknown to the girl, approaches from behind, she bends down and he moves as if he would, well… Strange manners around here. […]

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I take a shared taxi to Saint-Pierre, formerly the biggest and most important city on the island. In 1902, the people thought a valley would save them from the lava flows of the erupting Mount Pelée. They didn’t know the concept of a pyroclastic flow that would just traverse the valley. When the flow came, nearly 30.000 people died and the sole survivor (at least this is how the story goes) was the prisoner Ludger Sylbaris. He had to spend the night in an underground dungeon that proved to be the only secure place in town. […]

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I arrive on Montserrat with the small boat from Saint John’s in Antigua. It is dark when we arrive but my bed is ready, I had made a reservation. Montserrat is an internally self-governing British Overseas Territory and in this way a remnant of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and appoints a Governor as her representative. Executive power though, rests with the Montserrat government. The links to Britain are more important if it comes to foreign relations and defence, or in case of Montserrat being struck by a natural disaster. […]

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It is early afternoon as the ferry from Puerto Rico arrives in Santo Domingo. I buy the bus ticket for tomorrow. In the old town, I get a first impression of prostitution Dominican Republic style. A young lady walks up to me, starts talking to me and soon thereafter asks if I want her to accompany me. Ähhm, no. She actually stresses me as she doesn’t realize how bad my Spanish still is and keeps talking way more than I understand. Time to say goodbye. […]

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I arrive by bus from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. It is a modern, air-conditioned bus and the passengers all look rather well-off. After the border some UN peacekeepers are busy repairing the road, the drive takes all day and we arrive shortly before sunset. The taxi drivers want an outrageous 20$ for the short ride to the hotel, I get them down to 10$ which is still ridiculous. I pay 55$ for a simple room, with no internet and no water in the pool. Probably still the best I can get in Haiti.

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