Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's a beauuuutiful day todayyy

Caribbean breakfast with saltfish at Dominica

Couple of islands visited after St. Lucia. Dominica was one of the best experiences I have had on this trip. Locals call the island as "nature island" and it is really green and eco-tourism friendly. Great place to visit. I need to come back some other time to spend more time at this beautiful Caribbean jem.

Company @Pointe Baptiste

Antigua is smaller than earlier islands, but well developed. I have a hint for everybody visiting this island. Please book an island safari tour from Tropical Adventures and ask to have Kenrick as your guide. I  guarantee you will have a tour you never forget in your life!!!! (This morning he had forgotten to take his medication :) ) I had combined Island safari and kayaking & snorkeling tour. What I learned from Antigua was that there are 14 traffic lights on the island, lemongrass was planted to the island in the hope it would have prevent erosion, but i turned out it was doing opposite. There are quite a many celebrities having properties on Antigua, like Eric Clapton, Sylvester Stallone, Oprah Winfrey and Larry Flynt. Frigatebird is Antigua's national bird and there are world's biggest Frigate bird colony at Barbuda (approx. 8000 birds). We even saw Antigua's biggest cock on the way :)))) Do you know that signal from the first visit to the moon, when Neil Armstrong said his famous words "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" was received at Antigua and then transferred to elsewhere on the world. This was another beautiful day with great people. If you want to know much much more about Antigua, take this tour and you won't be disappointed.

After couple of fruit punches :) (BTW Eric Clapton's modest property is just off the photo on the right hand, it didn't fit to this beautiful photo at all, notice my great Brazil T-shirt!)

After the island safari at Antigua with 4WD Jeep we headed to Stingray City, where we had kayaking and boat transportation to Bird Island for snorkeling and swimming. Water was extremely warm and visibility at coral reef for snorkeling was excellent.

The beach on bird island. Our swimming and snorkeling spot.

Day by day the trip is getting closer to it's end. I have still few countries to be visited. I'll be continuing to Jamaica tomorrow. It's a beeeaaauuuutiful day todayyyy (as Kenrick reminded us frequently))

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pleasant islands St. Vincent and St. Lucia

Sunset at Reduit beach, St. Lucia

St. Vincent and St. Lucia islands has been pleasant places to visit. Continuous +30 degrees and sunshine, excellent hotels, good beaches, friendly people... These small east caribbean islands are even having the same currency "East Caribbean Dollar", which makes it easy to change the island. The same currency is official currency as well at least in Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis.

Canopy at rainforest at St. Lucia

There are lots of activities to choose from. I did canopy tour by zipping through the tree tops in the middle of the tropical rainforest up to 45 meters above the forest floor. The longest of the total of 11 zip lines were nearly 250 meters "fly" over the rainforest.

Coco Palm hotel at St. Lucia

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Caribbean cruise ship at Grenada

Grenada was the next stop after Barbados. Barbados is more developed than Grenada. Some six years back hurricane Ivan destroyed Grenada and it has been slowly recovering since that. It is more laid-back and quiet than Barbados. There is abandoned airport "Pearls", which still has couple of airplanes next to runway. One Cuban airplane and one Russian (Aeroflot).

Cuban aircraft on Pearls airport

Grenada has few smaller islands a bit of north from the main island. These islands are next to Grenadines, which has some privately owned islands, which are meant for celebrities and for the people, who want some privacy. As an example Mick Jagger and Elton John owns a property on one of these islands "Mustique". I visited Petit Martinique, which is just next to one of those privately owned paradises, in this case "Petit St Vincent". Check the link and reserve your next holiday from there.

Privately owned Petit St. Vincent island seen from Mt Piton at Petit Martinique island

Petit Martinique island is a small and colourful island. Approximately 1000 habitants, but what a characters there were...

Welcome to Petit Martinique

When I walked around the island via the only street (which covers only the western part of the island) there were guy smoking hash and he was walking the street from zig-zagging from left to right, at the same time there were lot's of missionary ladys with long skirts and nuns with their white dresses. When I passed the church there were funerals ongoing and the harmonic music was heard outside when people were sitting quietly on the church. The view from the terrace of the church was superb.

The view from the terrace of the church towards Union and Petit St. Vincent islands

Friday, February 19, 2010

Swimming, snorkeling, white sand beaches, palm trees, warmth = Caribbean


3 weeks in the Caribbean. Dream vacation? That's what I have to confront right now :) My three weeks just started with appetizers at Barbados. I got the first glimp of white sand beaches, Caribbean hospitality, sunshine and warm water of Caribbean sea. If the rest of the islands provide similar welcome and experience then I have to apologize Caribbean, because I had prejudices against Caribbean islands. Caribbean, prove me I was wrong! I'm looking forward coming days...

Barbados is the biggest of the islands I'm going to visit until Jamaica and Dominican Republic. It is part of Lesser Antilles.  It was pleasure to realize the level and quality of public transportation on this island. Bus network is extensive and bus rides cheap. Haven't need to use taxis at all here.

Greater Antilles together with Lesser Antilles form Antilles. Antilles together with Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands form West Indies.

The airport of Bridgetown at Barbados was together with New York only airports in western hemisphere to be served by British Airways regular Concorde flights. Retired Concorde (only 4 places in the world) will be seen at aviation museum at the airport, when the construction work is completed for the museum. The trial is currently ongoing regarding the only crash of Concorde airplane.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Goodbye South America for awhile

Carnaval at the streets of Port of Spain

After Paramaribo, Suriname I took the flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The visit to Trninidad was hellish experience, I never ever return to that country anymore! Immigration of Trinidad didn't give me permit to enter the country, because I didn't had any return flight booked. Also the officer didn't understood how on earth I can travel without having a) accomodation booked before hand and b) return flight booked beforehand. I had to buy a onward flight from Trinidad to Guyana before they let me enter the country. Ridiculous!!!! Secondly it was carnaval time in Trinidad and all hotels, guesthouses, etc.. were already booked for two days festival, which is the second biggest after Rio's carnaval (at least locals stated so). The city of Port of Spain is ugly, noisy, unclean, etc... The music was played from huge loudspeakers and it was like a midsummer festival in Finland. All shops, restauramts, etc... were closed. All the officers were not polite, but more or less arrogant. I'm feeling soooo happy I'm out of this country and don't need to visit it anymore. Trinidad & Tobago is not worth of visiting at all...

Carnaval time

On the monday morning I was flying to Georgetown, Guyana. As I thought earlier this is more or less like UK with Caribbean flavours. English is spoken, traffic is left hand sided, buildings are like from UK and the culture somewhat British. Staying here couple of days before saying goodbye to South America and continuing to Caribbean islands. The rest of my travel itinerary looks today like this: Guyana -> Barbados -> Grenada -> St. Vincent -> St. Lucia -> Dominica -> Antigua -> Jamaica -> St. Kitts -> Dominican Republic -> Haiti (if possible) -> Bahamas -> Venezuela -> Suriname -> Back at home.

Thus I'll be returning to South America and Suriname, because KLM has Promo Awards for it's Flying Blue members to fly back to Europe either from Panama City or Paramaribo until the end of March with 50% of award miles. I'll select Parbo, because it's much more pleasent city than Panama. Therefore I'll have a chance to taste still bushwacker drink and enjoy the dutch friendliness. Meanwhile my passport starts to look like a huge collection of visas and stamps and some officials on the immigration has said already to me that. Hopefully they can still find free space to place their stamps, I wouldn't like to involve process of acquiring a new passport during this trip...

Inca trail (and Machu Picchu) stamps at passport

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dutch friendliness

Marowijne river between French Guiana and Suriname (and the ferry)

I'm happy to get out from French Guiana, it's nightmare for the traveller without car rental. Practically public transportation is non-existent and I had massive difficulties to get my passport from Suriname embassy at Cayenne. I was staying night at Kourou nearby space center and Papillon prison islands, when I had to fetch my passport from Cayenne 60 kms from Kourou. I couldn't get any kind of transportation except taxi, which was bloody expensive. Then the transportation from Cayenne to Suriname border was longish and nightmarish excperience as well. Now I'm happily at Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. French Guiana is the worst country to travel, if you don't speak French and have rented car.

Waiting border river crossing with dug-out canoes

When the French Guianese guy was telling me that end of the world is French Guiana, I don't think it is...
When I crossed the border with dugout canoe and took a collective taxi to Paramaribo, the drive was full of life. The driver was driving 130 kms/hour on a road, which had half meter deep holes! Even in Finland at the best highways the speed limit is 120 km/h and the difference of road conditions are astronomical. Lonely Planet book states the distance of the border and Paramaribo as 4 hours and we did it in 2 hours! Reggae music was played at full volume during the whole drive and when the driver got phone call, he didn't lower the voice of the music but instead was shouting to the phone as loud as possible over the music. That's life if anything.

What changed when the country changed. Well, lot's of things.

1) Cars changed from Renaults, Citroens and Peugeots to Toyotas, Hondas, Mitsubishis and Nissans
2) Traffic changed from right hand side to left hand side
3) Language changed from French to Dutch and English (I'm sooooo pleased, now I'm able to communicate with the locals)
4) Music changed to Reggae
5) Money changed from Euros to Surinamese Dollars
6) The attitude and athmosphere changed a lot :) If you know the difference between French and Dutch then you know the difference. People are more relaxed and helpful on this side of the border.
7) People are more and more black than white here. Getting closer and closer to Caribbean.

However the hot and humid weather stayed at the same :)

At the same time I started to think if Finland would have had colonies like France, Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Portugal, etc...

What kind of country there would be. French Guiana looks like France, Suriname is a bit like Netherlands and I suppose Guyana will be like UK. If there would be fourth small country next to these 3 small countries, let it be "Finnish Guiana".

Definitely there would be saunas everywhere, but I'm not sure if locals would be delighted. Finlandia Vodka would be drink instead of rum & whiskey. On December, January & February thousands of Finnish would fly to worship sun and you could get ordinary Finnish foods in the restaurants. You could hear Eppu Normaali band playing the songs like "Murheellisten laulujen maa". It would be interesting to see how these Finnish melancholy songs would be evolved with Caribbean rhytms, and cheerful people. It would not be anymore "Murheellisten laulujen maa", but something else. Would it be paradise for other than Finns? Maybe not, you could hear "tankero" english everywhere, see drunk Finnish travellers, etc... Maybe it's good Finland hasn't been a great power in the past.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Papillon & European space agency

Ile du Diable (Papillon prison island) from Ile Royale island

Getting Suriname visa took two days, and meanwhile I had some time to visit couple of interesting places.
Leaving the application to Suriname embassy at Cayenne took 3 hours, it was quite a show with lots of people, lots of talk, some desperate people trying to get visa, lots of heat, loud voices and one person calmly taking applications and handling them sloooowly behind the desk.

Jails in Ile Royale island

On thursday I spent whole day at "Iles du Salut" islands, which is famous for Papillon autobiography of Henri Charriere. He spent 9 years in prison in these islands. Ile du Diable island is nowadays closed and I walked around the main island Ile Royale. Islands were penal colony even for 2000 prisoners and used until 1946. There are strong currents around the islands, which made the escapes nearly impossible. There is only one bay at main island, where swimming is allowed and even in that bay the current is pretty strong. I had difficulties to swim there, from time to time waves throwed me unexpectedly.

Punch at restaurant's terrace

Friday morning I visited Guiana Space Center, which is used by ESA to launch satellites onto the space. The location is ideal for launches due to its proximity to equator, which gives launches roughly 17% savings compared to other space centers. Earth's rotation is fastest at the equator and therefore launchs will need less energy than launches elsewhere.

The engine of the rocket

I'm trying to get to the border of French Guiana and Suriname today and take the ferry across the river to the Suriname tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back at Europe and northern hemisphere

Empty beach "Pocitos" after rain

There were thunderstorm on sunday at Montevideo and it rained heavily. I took the opportunity of taking photos on the empty beach after the rain, when beach was empty and light was excellent for photographing.

The next day I was supposed to fly to Belem, Brazil. Belem is a city on the banks of the Amazon river. Unfortunately there were thick fog on the morning and airport was closed and flights delayed over 2 hours. Therefore I missed my connection flight from Sao Paolo to Belem and had to wait for the next one quite for awhile. I got to the Belem 8 hours later than scheduled at 21:30. Took a hotel near the airport and slept for few hours.

Plane, which brought me safely to Cayenne

The next flight I had on the morning from Belem to Cayenne, French Guiana with Air Caraibes airline. Well, again a bit of unlucky. There were technical problems with airplane and I was waiting three hours at Belem airport for boarding. Finally we were able to take-off and landed happily at Cayenne airport this afternoon. At the Belem airport local French Guianese guy was telling me that Air Caraibes planes have never took off on time and he is flying frequently between Cayenne and Belem. In addition of this he mentioned that Cayenne and French Guiana are the end of the world. Behind them starts the wilderness outside of the world. Let's see if I can get to the out of the world to Suriname and Guyana. I'll try to apply visa to Suriname from the embassy of Suriname here at Cayenne...

Flying over the Amazon river

Amazon river was amazing wide, it looked like a ocean when flying over it for a long time.

On the street of Cayenne

French Guiana is part of France and thus Europe. Currency is naturally euro and the language spoken French or French Guianese with local languages like Creole, etc... It's hard to get things sorted out here, when the communication is nearly impossible for a person, who can't speak French. Nobody is speaking Spanish and very few only some words of English. I really don't understand French government, when they are promoting French and abondoning English totally. French are crazy ! (And arrogant too, no willingness to help and provide services at all, sorry for all French people who might read this blog)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Montevideo city full of charm

At Isla de Flores street

It's time to say goodbye to Montevideo and Uruguay. I'm going to miss this city, people and the athmosphere. What a great surprise this was for me! Yesterday evening I was packed with tens of thousands other people on the street of "Isla de Flores" (Flower Island), where schools of Candombes / Tambores / Samba were having a Carnaval show. The parades of the schools were imposing.


Montevideo is strange mix of new and antiquity, joyfulness and melancholy, hope and despair. This is controversial city and full of unrevealed mystery. While eating with my family we usually listened old records of famous tango singers with 50 years old record player! Those were moments unforgettable...

50 years old record player

Old cars still in use and horses pulling the wagons to collect rubbish during the nighttime.

Rubbish collection

On sunday morning I was jogging first time since I left Finland and it was extremely hard to start running again after such long break. But the scenery was awesome when running on the rambla next to the sea, with palm streets and the city silhoutte behind.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Now I have been swimming on both of the oceans (Pacific and Atlantic Ocean) during this trip. The water was warm and the beaches are ideal for swimming. In addition of Atlantic ocean I have dipped into water on Caribbean sea, which is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean. Most probably will be swimming on the Caribbean still many times :)

I just heard from the teacher that I'm the second Finnish person, who is attending spanish courses in this school in Montevideo during 8 years! There are not too many us travelling in Latin America. So far I have met only 2 finns in two and a half months.

Offerings at the beach

On tuesday we went to Playa Ramirez to see the local festival "Imanja", where descendants of Africans (Afro-Brasilians) celebrate the goddess of Imanja or Yemanja. The people will gather on the beaches with dances, offerings, etc... Typically offerings are sent to the sea with the small boat.

People sending offerings to the sea at sunset

Spanish lessons are demanding for me and I'm struggling time to time, but as it says "No pain, no gain". Learning a new language is not too easy. There are lots of Americans and Brasilians on the school. One German and one Dutch in addition of me from Europe.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Studying spanish at Montevideo, Uruguay

Calle J. de Salterain

Now I have reached the southernmost point of my trip and I'm at half-way on my journey (17 countries visited and 16 still to go). The distance from the starting point of Cancun, Mexico to Montevideo, Uruguay is 7028 kilometers. It feels awkward I'm trying to kayak 3600 km at summer, half of this distance! After this week I'll start my return trip back to northern hemisphere, still two months to go before Finland...

I arrived to Montevideo yesterday and started spanish lessons today at local school Herredura. The school is located just three blocks away from the house of the family, where I'm staying at. The house is nice with small patio and asado (barbecue) area (asado is famous barbecue food allover Argentina and Uruguay). Family has open fireplace, where do the cooking and the barbecue. The school is small, cozy and teachers friendly. I like this much more than Buenos Aires school, it was too big. The bigger doesn't mean better!

Playa Ramirez at Montevideo

Montevideo is a beautiful city with influence of French architecture and marvellous buildings. In addition of beautiful calles it has plenty of beaches "playas" to enjoy the sun and swimming. I really do like this city as much as Buenos Aires. It is smaller, but has even more to offer.


Montevideo and especially Uruguay has had lot's of old cars in the streets and in the use still today (like in Havanna, Cuba). In recent years most of those unique cars have been bought by the dealers and delivered to car collectors all over the world. Still there are some beauties left...

One of the old beauties next to my family's house