Recife - São Luis, Brazil - Cayenne, French Guyana 8 - 9 Nov 2005

Brazilian airport hassle and red tape, Cayenne fully booked.

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Since we had arrived in Brazil on a Sunday and anyway we were too tired to deal with all the formalities, we had to deal with all the red tape on departure from Recife. That included temporarily importing the plane. The whole business took four hours and it was after 1 p.m. when we at last took off. Fortunately, it is pretty dry in the northeast of Brazil at this time of year so we didn’t have any weather worries. We landed at São Luis after dark five hours later.
We had stayed in São Luis on a trip around Brazil in 1996-7, so knew it was a pleasant small city with a charming old colonial town. We put up at the Pousada Colonial, a short walk away from food, live music and the young “gatinhas”, particularly appreciated by o Senhor Flemming.
We thought departure the following day from São Luis would be relatively easy, but we were wrong! The procedure took about two hours, quite a long time considering we were just leaving the country and all our papers were in order. The guy in the airport office who had to work out the landing fees was quick and efficient – only his computer was painfully slow. To save time he suggested we went to see the Federal Police while he waited for the computer to cooperate. I think the policeman was not at all used to dealing with foreigners departing Brazil. After spending about 20 minutes just studying our passports he asked why we didn’t have a Brazilian visa. We had to explain that we didn’t need a visa for Brazil. Then he asked us what our nationalities were!! We wasted a total of 45 minutes in his office.
It was 10h50 local time when we finally took off and we would be crossing the intertropical convergence zone again on our way to Cayenne. But we were in luck and the weather was good. We flew back into the northern hemisphere before leaving Brazilian territory and started our descent soon after entering French Guyana. Although we are against deforestation, of course, it was always a relief to see the odd landing strip or road cut into the jungle beneath us. Engine failure over thick jungle would be a lot worse than over the big wide Atlantic ocean.
After speaking Portuguese for most of the trip (apart from the brief stop in Tenerife), it was fun to be speaking French again. And there was no airport hassle!!! But what a blow when we discovered that all the hotels in Cayenne, including the giant Novotel, were fully booked (if not overbooked). The guy in the airport office was really helpful and tried to call just about every hotel. Then I asked if there were any “chambres d’hôtes” (or b&bs) in Cayenne. The other airport office employee offered to try his parents who had received paying guests once or twice in the past. They confirmed they had room for us, so their son gave instructions to the taxi driver on how to find the house.
The house turned out to be in the countryside about 20 minutes from Cayenne. Clearly we would need a rental car so a tired Flemming had to return to the airport with the taxi driver to make the necessary arrangements. Meanwhile I made the acquaintance of our charming hosts, Annie and Jocelyn. They offered me a glass of carambole juice – a polished looking yellow tropical fruit sometimes cut into star-shaped slices in smart French restaurants. Annie showed me the carambole tree growing in their garden right next to a mango tree. I wandered around the garden, taking in the trees and the birds, and discovered a couple of tortoises that turned out to be pets. This peaceful haven was better than Novotel any day!
We enjoyed an excellent gourmet dinner at the Patriarche restaurant in Cayenne. They should have warned me, though, that the red “cherry” decorating my plate was a whole cayenne pepper kernel! My mouth was in flames for a good 20 minutes, until a combination of water and bread finally doused the fire.
The original plan had been to tour the space station at Kourou, about a 40-minute drive north of Cayenne, but we received an email while in Olinda to say that the visit was cancelled because they were preparing for a rocket launch. Sadly we missed the launch too as it was scheduled for 2 days after our departure. But at least we were able to visit the space museum. Actually for me the highlight was the Musée départemental which contained a whole array of different items from trays of dried beetles to the history of French Guyana, the gold rush of the 19th century, and paintings of the convicts in the days when it was a penal colony.

The iridium phone usually gets a good signal when placed near the windshield

This flycatcher was perched outside the airport terminal in Rochambeau

Cayenne has many pretty colonial style buildings like this 'Ecole Maternelle'

Cayenne has an interesting museum

The public visit we had reserved at the space center in Kourou was cancelled due to a launch 2 days later

Jocelyn and Annie had lots of tortoises in their garden

Our charming hosts Jocelyn et Annie LOE-MIE in Matoury near Cayenne

Jocelyn and Annie's house in Matoury near Cayenne

JAlbum 6.0 Copyright: Angela & Flemming PEDERSEN

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