Chasing Rainbows – French Guiana (2 of 3)
The next day I was up and rearing to go at 5:30am for our day of sport fishing. I walked down to the pretty lake to take some pictures and the day seemed full of promise and hope. Kevin staggered out coughing his first cigarette of the day and muttered some obscenities at me which passes as our normal greeting. We drove to the next hotel to meet a bunch of jovial, charismatic, friendly French men – you know, the type that we all want to gate crash our parties and have living next door to us. However, they were out of town so we met up with a bad tempered bunch of xenophobic garlic eaters who viewed me as something less interesting and important than the large amount of poodle shit you find in the average Parisian street.
I love the French, I really do. After studying their language for close to 15 years I have never once been praised. Japanese – speak a few words of Japanese to a Japanese person and they want to have your babies, speak Dutch in Holland and they offer you their daughters, but make one simple little grammatical error and the French give you that ‘pooh’ look and refuse to talk to you for the rest of the day. Which suits me fine!
We arrived at the lovely harbour as the first rays of the sun began to colour the water a lovely shade of claret. The French sneered ‘C’est pas mal‘ and resumed their attempt at the world record for smoking Gitanes before 7am. I sat on the quay with my feet dangling in the water letting the sun warm my travel tired bones. The click click of my camera was the only sound I heard (apart from one of the French guys swearing as he dropped his lighter into the water).
We left after one false start when the engine gave up the ghost just as we pulled away from our moorings which sent me into fits of hysterics as on the boat were 6 ‘top’ engineers and no one had a clue what to do (for the record, I am a scientist). However, this was soon forgotten as we cruised out into the azure waters. The crystal blue sky and choppy seas calmed my nerves and I soon found my sea legs again. Kevin and one of the French guys soon found their stomach contents and rushed towards the front of the boat to commune with nature. I sipped a beer and couldn’t help feeling fine about life.
As we passed the Iles de Salut I realised that few moments in life would come close to this. The rich green foliage, the steep rocky perimeter, the mean looking stone huts which dotted the island and the windswept palms on the lonely beach brought back a long repressed childhood memory. It was most definitely Tracy Island, and I expected Thunderbird 1 to come roaring into land at any moment or Brains to come running down to the beach with a new machine in his hand. No one else seemed amused by this.
We banked around St Joseph’s Island and the sheer pointlessness of the French colonial past hit me. The island, so green and inviting, yet so remote and isolated once formed the corner stone of the French penal system. The baddest of the bad, which for the French must be pretty terrible, were sent here in exile. Drefus and Papillon to name just two of the island’s most notorious inmates. This was exile with a capital “E”, and surpassed even the barbarity of Alcatraz or deportation to Australia. On this hot morning, with a beer in my hand, I had to conclude that it was the work of a twisted mentality to envisage such an exile. One of the French guys wandered over to me to see what I was writing in my diary and waved a smouldering cigarette in the general direction of the island:
“This is ze French paradise,” he sneered at me.
I returned to sit on the back of the boat and let the captain, beer in one hand, cigarette in his mouth, chase the fish with the sonar. I felt like I was in a Duran Duran video as our sleek white boat bounced across the waves in search of fish. Our day of sport fishing was extremely successful, unless you happened to be a large fish that is, in which case the day probably ended when a club wielding French man clubbed your brains out (Kevin and I both nearly puked at this stage – we thought we were going to throw the fish back) and we soon had a goodly collection of fish for the BBQ.
Before lunch we found a calm stretch of water. I was the first to dive into the sea whilst the French looked on in horror.
“I ‘ave heard of zese animals which swim up your privates,”
“Yes, and us French men, we are blessed in that case.”
I eventually managed to get Kevin to come for a swim and we splashed around happily for some time trying not to think of the large fish we had just pulled out of the sea and the revenge their bigger and meaner cousins were planning for us.
Our lunch was somewhat disturbed by Kevin discovering he was covered from head to toe in little sucker-like creatures. I was laughing too much to help him and certainly had to turn down his kind offer to see if they were indeed attacking his privates – I am sure our respective fiancï¿½es would never have believed the stories anyway! I felt wonderfully at peace, but I still couldn’t help shake this nagging doubt at the back of my mind that being in a tropical island paradise with a bunch of French guys was a little risky. I mean, you can never be sure if they are going to drop an atomic bomb on it can you?
Read the whole adventure: