After the anticipation and fun of crossing the equator, it was all a bit flat the next couple of days getting us into French Guiana’s Salvation Islands. Although, there was a rocket launch from the Space Station there due on the 14th and we wanted to see it! We knew if it went ahead, and we were there on time, we would have to go into Kourou and would not be able to anchor at the islands (enforced by the Police for safety).
Meanwhile, the squalls continued, so there were no smelly boys on the boat which was excellent. They had figured out a great shower system with the water that collected in the sail bag making an excellent full on shower when tipped toward the waiting recipient. Hair was washed and all was well.
As we headed further north the amount of sargassum seaweed we had started seeing, increased until at times we could hardly see the water for as far as the eye could see. This is a phenomenon I hadn’t realised the size and scale of.
On the 13th we were disappointed to find out the rocket launch was postponed, and we had a rough day at sea to boot. Very rocky rolly trying to get dinner ready! However, it was a stunning night with amazing phosphorous and led us into a beautiful calm day for our arrival at the Iles de Salut - the three islands of the French penal colony made famous by the book and movie Papillon (noting it was loosely based on these islands).
This was another highlight for me - after Namibia, St Helena and Ascension, I thought I would be hard to please, but I love it here! It is beautiful and horrifying all in one. We arrived and anchored in the bay of the middle island, Royal Island, beautifully lined with dense palms that looked so green despite the grey day. The sea was now a browny-green colour with the outwash from the Amazon, but it was very inviting and the first thing we did was jump in and cool off. We soon were in the tender to shore and walking around Royal Island - the one with accommodation and a (not very good) restaurant! Walking around we were struck by the rock walls and pathways the prisoners had been forced to build as well as the amount of coconuts - ripe for the picking as well!
There were beautiful views to neighbouring Devil’s Island, where unfortunately landing was prohibited. Monkeys, agoutis, lizards and birds darted around as we walked the full circuit of the island, and we were fascinated by a trail of leaf cutter ants carrying pieces of leaf twenty times their size. We didn’t leave the island until dark, at which time we had a chorus of toads escorting us off the island. Sleep came easy and was wonderful that night!
Today saw us back exploring more of the island and its old prison buildings and little museum, and then visiting the third island, Ile Saint-Jospeh. This island hit deep and hard - after walking around the beautiful island, visiting the cemetery for the staff and families en route, we arrived at a small swimming cove where we cooled off a little. Then we headed inland to the prison on top of the hill. It was hauntingly eerie - mother nature had woven her way through the old buildings, walls, and cells, but we could see how horrific it must have been. The solitary confinement cells - a concrete square hellhole with no light. Mother nature keep weaving your way through this with your beauty.
So beautiful. So haunting.