In my travels across South America, I had the opportunity to visit some rarely visited parts of South America. The former colonies of the Dutch, France, Portuguese, Spanish and the British. Guyana was both Dutch and then most recently a British colony but became independent from the UK in 1966 and in 1970 became a republic. The official language is English, the only country in South America where that’s the case. While I’ve been to Belize a central american former british colony that speaks English, it wasn’t the best trip. It is one of my least favorite. It was a mainland drive and I had a run in with the police. On my trip across Belize I found more depressing moments than not. I do plan to give it another chance sometime in the future. Guyana had a few sad moments, but I don’t let poverty keep me from visiting a place. I feel I both gain a greater appreciation for what I have, and I find what really matters in life. Our families, relationships, faith and shared experiences. I met the family of a couple of my local friends I met first on facebook through SharePoint the technology that I work with.
This post on Guyana will be part of a series on that part of the world. When I was looking to visit I found very little written on it. I’ll add the links as the stories go live.
Road less traveled series…
Traveling Georgetown Guyana Land of Waters
Saint Laurent du Maroni French Guiana
“Guyana was originally colonized by the Netherlands. Later, it became a British colony, known as British Guiana, and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on 26 May 1966 from the United Kingdom. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a republic. In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.” – More on Wikipedia article on Guyana
Georgetown is pretty raw. It’s a fascinating colonial town, but much of it looks like it hasn’t had much care since 1966. This isn’t going to be a history lesson more than sharing what I saw and experienced.
Welcome to city hall… GeorgeTown
One of the most fantastic experiences was wandering the city. I’ve collected 5 things to see in Georgetown and surrounding.
Guyana Light house and Beach
Back side of Georgetown City Hall
1. StarBroek Market… Fresh Meat and Food Market, Ferry Terminal and the heartbeat of the town. The name of the market is the old name of the city during dutch times. The beautiful architecture is an important part and key attraction of the city. It is organized chaos. This country really doesn’t get much tourists and you can tell that by the reactions you’ll get at the market. They aren’t pushy, they are simply surprised to see you. The homeless people sleeping near the docs are really sad, but it gives you a temperature on the city.
The market is raw, and it’s a great way to see life in Georgetown.
Ferry system in Georgetown to cross the great river
2. Capital and Grounds
In the national library we met a guy who wanted to show us something really cool… The real signed documents for independence!
The actual signatures of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the Independence documents
Judicial Court including statue of Queen Elizabeth herself
3. Promenade Gardens – a nice walk through the city will lead you to the gardens. Everything is all pretty close and an easy walk.
Gardens… While we didn’t end up spending so much time here. I hear there are places where you can see manatees. Virtualtourist Georgetown page has some more info on that.
There are some nice walking areas of town where you can get a feel for the bustling of the city while enjoying the people watching and soaking up the atmosphere.
A common site in Georgetown and a dose of reality is the sleepers. Homelessness is a global phenomenon, and I don’t mean to be unfair, but this is the reality of Georgetown. Lots of them.
You can tell by the look of this horse that they’ve had some tough times.
You need to be ok with seeing a lot of poverty to visit this city, but believe me… there is hope. There is a generation of powerful youth with a bright hope for the future.
I had lunch with five bright young people that represent hope. They are the future of Guyana.
There is a hindu influence that is also felt. There are really 3 major groups of people that I came across while in Guyana. The Blacks (former slaves), the Indians (former british labor), and the natives or AmerIndians. All groups have been exploited and feel marginalized, but it was both my lunch with the technical group shown above that gives me hope and my visit to the Amerindians that also made me excited about the potential. The teens were dancing to native songs that were designed to carry a positive message of pride in being an Amerindian. Any travel to a country should and must involve really getting into the culture and trying to understand the people.
4. Local Small Temples and Churches
Small temples and mosques from the Hindustani locals as seen on a short drive through the city.
4. Amerindian Village – Ask Elvis…
In the city there are a few reminders about the original inhabitants of Guyana. They call the native people Amerindians. They are comfortable with that name as well.
On a drive outside of Georgetown we saw a coconut stand and fresh coconut juice sounded refreshing. In our conversation with “Elvis” we found an Amerindian village just down a small unmarked dirt road. Our local friends had no idea the village even existed. Elvis is the little guy between the two big white guys. My friend Michael Noel, Sharing the Globe is the one with the massive camera.
The kids danced and sang songs of Amerindian bride and culture. I really enjoyed seeing this. Loved it.
Pickup game of stick ball or crickett. I did try a whack at it, but all I got was laughs. You gotta love an impromptu gave of cricket with a stick.
How can anyone have racial prejudice? This cute little amerindian little girl melts my heart.
5. Black Water Creek Park – an excursion about an hour outside the city is this beautiful palm tree surrounded creek with calm waters is setup as a swimming area with nice little huts. It’s a beautiful escape, and the water is really funky. Our local friends took us out here and we had an amazing time wading through the black water.
My hopes and dreams for Guyana are in the youth. Thanks Kevon for showing us your amazing country!