Ahoy there fellow and would be adventurers!
I might have a tale or two to tell about Saint Laurent if you can spare me a moment or two…
Not so deep in the amazon jungle… err in fact not that close either… lies a small town forgotten by all..(except those seeking French welfare payments)… It’s “the place”, the ultimate stopover for hardy sailors seeking refuge from the torturous (flat) seas and tempests (10kts today) of South Americas Northeastern coast! Paradoxically, it’s the penal colony of Saint Laurent on the Maroni river in La Guyane.
No prisoners left these days, but curiously enough the place doesn’t even warrant a mention in any of my guide books.
Despite this, St. Laurent boasts:
- the safest, most sheltered anchorage in French Guiana;
- wild leopards!
- easy access at high tide along a buoyed, lit channel;
- wild leapoards!
- great provisioning at Super U (and free WiFi);
- wild leopards!
- and plenty to see and do (more on wild leopards later).
I’d expected the town to be packed with tourists of all nationalities, but for some unknown reason St Laurent sees only a trickle of French visitors. Why the secrecy?
For yachtsmen it is well positioned, (the Maroni defines the border between Suriname and La Guyane) so one can visit both countries from the one anchorage. However, from what I’ve seen of Suriname, I’d strongly suggest sticking to the French side of the river!
Here is what I’ve been up to over the past 3 weeks:
I’ve hung out at the anchorage for yachtsmen, where I’ve made new friends…. Beware of the ferocious guard dog on their catamaran! I’m the almost invisible yacht in the photo…The pontoon is currently under repair but should be fixed by the time you read this… (in hardback at a bookstore near you…)
The first thing I do when I arrive at a new destination is to take a few photos of buildings. It gets me in touch with the place and makes me feel suitably touristy (I’m just a touchy feely sort of guy) . No buildings in particular mind you…though a church often makes the cut (for karma points?)
Then it’s a matter of photographing whatever happens to take my fancy (architecturally) on the day:
Focusing on some of the more extreme examples that draw the eye.. or nose… (no not many live like this nowadays!).
It would appear that the French government is happily handing out nice new commission houses for all takers… I was tempted to take three! But join the queue, there is a rush on them from clients on the other side of the river…
Nevertheless, St. Laurent isn’t just about burgeoning housing estates! Transport and communication have obviously had significant growth over the last few years…
Can your television dish grow any bigger that this?
Perhaps a little more manure is needed here for adequate growth…
But I’m sure none of this superficial sophomoric photography is what truly interests readers… What if I venture to tell you of the more sinister aspects of St. Laurent?
Just take a look at this!!!!
OK, it looks like a local girl with a pretty smile. But what you may have failed to notice is the platted creature attached to her head! Fake hair extensions!!! Indeed, just the tip of the hirsute iceberg, as I was to discover during my three week investigation.
Upon closer inspection, a good 60% of the female population has succumbed to the diminutive form (i.e. the extension) or full grown variety (the complete wig or peruke). Twilight Zone music queued here….
I’m told they are all the rage in parts of Africa, but I’d never seen them…. ’till now that is… and I’m strangely fascinated…
No, these girls are not wearing wigs… I checked… There are secret ways….
It’s Regina and Anne, from Martinique stepping out of cell number 47.
Ever read the Henri Charrière book Papillon?
Apparently he was holed up here while waiting transport to the Salvation Islands off Kourou where political troublemakers were kept.
Now that could be a wig…
It’s Pamela Anderson on the Maroni river… Or perhaps it’s Pamela superimposed on a photo of the Maroni river. It was proudly displayed to me by an Amerindian in the jungle and has pride of place in his hut next to the chain saw…
Yes, in the few hours of leisure time afforded by my hectic schedule, I managed to wander about in the amazon jungle seeking calendar girls and wildlife…. and here is proof..
Not that I managed to see much wildlife. In fact there was more on display in town.
Oh, and did I mention the wild night leopards of Saint Laurent?
Apparently they come in all sizes (both with and without wigs…)
To be expected when I hang around rather dubiously named establishments such as this:
Don’t worry… I didn’t spend all my time there…
We three wise men (see photo) have considerably more cultural pursuits in mind with regards to entertainment…
Like admiring the local tribal art…
Checking out what passes as a hot-rod streetcar in these parts…
And other high brow cultural pursuits… 😉
Not taking my anti-malaria medication (Malerone), because thankfully there aren’t too many mosquitoes, has probably been my most daring accomplishment do date!
Thrilling, isn’t it?
Though I was kind of tempted to wait for this bus on a dare,
In a borrowed canoe we explored some of the Maroni’s tributaries…
hunting for lost treasures…
I found a spoon!
It could have at least been a silver spoon 🙁
Sneaking across the border to buy 10 liters of dingy fuel at half price was also rather adventurous…
I could have done without almost getting myself mugged (by the fellow in the black and white striped shirt) for taking the above photo. Apparently smugglers are camera shy.
Lucky for me it isn’t very difficult to play the stupid tourist that doesn’t understand what all the aggravated fuss is about…. Frankly, it isn’t worth the bother crossing to Suriname and the Gendarme have enough to worry about as it is without having to look for lost visitors.
So, most of my time has been spent keeping out of trouble and watching what the locals do to pass the time.
I’m not that fascinated by wheelbarrows (though I did borrow one to see if I could extract a fraction of the enjoyment this girl managed with hers… I failed…)
Nor did I find lugging a bird cage around with me everywhere (in order to train its contents to win singing contests) my thing… but then again I’m always difficult to please…
But always keen to eat at a good restaurant.
Unfortunately nobody invited me to eat in this one (violin music starts here), so I’ve resorted to plan B. Good food and company to be found on Thierry’s boat Ti’nga. Even if his boat has cockroaches!
Next stop is Tobago…
I’m so keen… I’m already on my way…