TotalAdventure crossed the Maroni River from Suriname to French Guyana on the morning of March 25. Before dawn, my driver, supplied by the French Embassy, picked me up in Paramaribo and we drove east to Albina , where I went through exit formalities , then boarded the ferry to St.Laurent du Maroni, notorious as the maritime entry point for convicts banished to Devil’s Island and the mainland prison camps.
Watch the amazing video above. Cayenne and Devil’s Island !
After flagging down a driver for the 2.5 hour 100 Euro ride to Cayenne I relaxed with a cafe au lait and watched the jungle scenery fly by. The city is mainly old wooden buildings and is very low and swampy. There is a huge shopping mall with a Carrefour superstore. I stayed at the wonderful Hotel Ker Albert. We don’t normally post links to hotels, except where they are very helpful in achieving our mission.
The beach above is one of the only beaches in the Guyanas that is swimmable. but one would not fly there just to go to it. The water has almost no salt, as there is river runoff from every river between the Orinoco and the Amazon. It is very muddy and black underneath. Constant trade winds make for good kiteboarding.
The main reason I came to Guyane de France was to explore Devil’s Island. France banished its’ criminals – murderers and rapists, but also chronic petty criminals to a living hell from which few ever returned to mainland France. For good measure, I rewatched Papillon just before the journey.
The Iles du Salut – Royale, St. Josepsh and Diable – 10 miles from the mainland via shark infested rip current waters were for the incorrigibles, a prison away from the prison camps. Here is a cell for someone condemned to the guillotine. The bar was to secure a prisoner to his bed at night.
The solitary cells were the end of the line. Total seclusion in darkness and silence for up to five years. For attempted escape, the punishment was 2 years first offense , five years for the second – to be served in addition to the original sentence.
Three slats of wood for a bed. No lying or sitting for 15 hours of the day – only standing or pacing. Food was a soup or gruel with a minimum amount of calories to sustain life – reduced by half for violations. No talking, no reading material. Many went mad.
From the islands we returned via catamaran, with jolly French vacationers to Korou – site of the European Space Program. Then back to Cayenne for the evening. TotalAdventure then rose at 4:30 AM, took the van to St. Laurent for a mandatory covid test for both Suriname and the USA. Having missed the ferry, I crossed the Moroni by motorized pirogue to Albina where my Suriname driver was waiting. Back to Paramaribo for a delicious lunch and a 1 AM flight back to Miami.