Sep 162012
 

I’d arranged with my taxi driver the night before who dropped me off at the Hilton to pick me up in the morning at 5am for my 7am flight, despite the Caribbean Airlines people assuring me the night before when I’d tried to check in that I “had” to be there no later than 5am – hmmm, yeah, I’ve heard that story before.   The day’s drama began when I tried to take the elevator to the lobby to check out.  See, the Hilton Port-of-Spain is built into a hill, and you actually check in on the top floor…all the floors are down from there, and I was a good 6-7 floors below the lobby.  Press the button for the elevator…nothing.  Press again.  Nothing.  Used the house phone next to the elevator to call the front desk, yes, they would send someone.  It took “someone” (who turned out to be the night manager) three calls to come, and finally he arrived with a maintenance guy who showed me just down the hall to the service elevator so I could get going.  They had no idea what the malfunction was.  Checked out, and finally on my way around 5:15 am for the 30 minute drive to the airport.

Check-in line was empty when I got there about 5:45, and I was plenty early.  For some reason row 1 (the exit row, aka legroom) was still “blocked” so I was told to ask at the gate.  There’s no exit immigration in Trinidad, so I decided to grab a quick coffee before hitting security, which had no line.  Still got to the gate more than 45 minutes in advance, yes, row one was open, and I could even have  seat next to me open.  Score!

Caribbean Airlines Flight 300
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS) to Caracas, Venezuela (CCS)
Depart 7:00, Arrive 8:15, Flight Time 1:45
ATR-72, Registration 9Y-TTA, Manufactured 2011, Seat 1A

The irony of being on this flight is that almost exactly a year prior, I’d flown this exact same flight the only other time I’d been to Caracas – quite a funny coincidence I was now using it at the last minute to fly around hurricane drama.  The last time they’d “informed” me when I arrived in Caracas that oops, my luggage was still back in Trinidad, so this time I insisted on wheeling it to the gate myself and gate-checking it.  Hopefully this would solve the problem.  Plane loaded up, maybe five free seats total including the one next to me, and we were off.  There was a small snack box offered, but it looked far less than appetizing so I settled for a glass of water and an uneventful flight.

When we were about 10-15 minutes out from landing, it started to get really bumpy.  Prop planes aren’t fun on the best of days, but the modern ones really aren’t too bad.  We were getting blown side to side quite a bit, and there was some serious chop, which got worse the closer to landing we got.  It doesn’t help that the runway in Caracas runs parallel to the water, and the approach is low over a very residential area.  What looked to be less than 50 feet off the ground the pilot gunned the engines, and it was obvious we were starting to climb again.  After about 5 minutes, he came on to let us know the wind was too bad and he didn’t feel able to land safely.  We’d wait ten minutes and try again.

Circle around, and on approach, the same very windy, very bumpy conditions.  Pilot came on to tell us that “air traffic control” had told us that the winds had died down significantly and it was ok to land now.  We didn’t even make it as close this time, and we could see the start of the runway, but at around 100 feet off the ground the engines were gunned again, and we started to climb.

Captain came on again after a few minutes, and was obviously quite peeved with the airport.  The winds clearly hadn’t died down, and it was pretty clear he was unhappy he’d had to try a rather scary and unsafe approach again.  There would be no third try, we were off to our alternate at Curacao…where, after I asked the flight attendant, it was confirmed there was no Caribbean Airlines operation, so we’d just sit in the plane for an hour or two and wait for winds to die down.  There goes my connection!  ARGH!

That lasted all of about 3-4 minutes.  Unfortunately, the pilot was now “more confident” about the landing in Caracas than he was about going to Curacao with our remaining fuel.  Um, when your pilot says something like “of the possible options at this stage, the safest appears to be a landing in Caracas.  I will ask the flight attendant to demonstrate the brace position” that’s when you get more than a little nervous.  The “all the possible options” part seriously had me thinking he was considering ditching at sea, though, I’m sure that wasn’t an option.  So, the brace position was demonstrated, we were told that after the flight attendant announced “BRACE BRACE” over the speaker we were to do it.  The bad part is that she clearly didn’t speak Spanish, and the vast majority of the passengers appeared to not speak English, so the other passengers were having to translate.  It was more than a little tense.

The approach seemed to be a little bit smoother this time, but we were still pretty all over the place, getting bumped around and blown side to side on the way in.  Around 100-200 feet off the ground, the BRACE BRACE command was given, and head between the knees time it was.  I have no idea how tall people would manage that anywhere other than the first row…and yes, that was my first thought.  We slammed into the ground pretty hard…..but made it.  I think it seriously took me at least ten minutes to stop shaking after we taxied in.  It was definitely the scariest landing I’ve ever had by far.

Now, the question was, would I have a bag, and would I make the connection?  I’d only had 1:40 originally, and now with the three approaches that was down to 55 minutes.  Fortunately, the American agents in Trinidad had been at the counter rebooking people who hadn’t learnt of the cancelation in advance, so I managed to get them to print out and check me in for my Caracas to Dallas flight.  Hopefully that would help!  Bag showed up after a couple of minutes, and it was a quick walk/dash into the terminal.  I found no English-speaking staff, but there was a sign for “international connections” so I decided to give it a try.  Walking past the immigration counters, there was a desk for transfers…but nobody working it!

There was a security checkpoint that appeared to lead back into the departures area, so I showed my boarding pass to the military security guy and attempted to explain to him in Spanish what I was doing.  Found out the couple in front of me had been trying to explain to him for 15 minutes with no luck, however, they didn’t have boarding passes.  My explanation seemed good enough for him after he paged through every page of my passport looking at stamps, and he let me through.  Once through security I was indeed in the departures area…but the American flight to Dallas wasn’t on the monitors!

Found the AAdmirals Club, and it was just a technology glitch.  Was pointed to the right gate where boarding still hadn’t started.  Score, it looked like everything would work out well after all!

American Airlines Flight 2108
Caracas, Venezuela (CCS) to Dallas (DFW)
Depart 9:55, Arrive 15:00, Flight Time 5:05
Boeing 757, Registration N656AA, Manufactured 1991, Seat 1E

Pretty uneventful flight.  The only two interesting things were my seatmate and the breakfast.  The seatmate was unusual because she hadn’t been seated two seconds before she was paging the flight attendant with the call button and asking for a Baileys.  She spoke no English at all, but the flight attendant did understand “Baileys por favor.”   I had to translate for her on the ground that there was no Baileys on the plane, so she wanted white wine.  Flight attendant got that for her, and she was happy.   Less than 10 minutes into the flight she was pressing the button again “white wine!” followed 10 minutes later by “mas!”  Hahahah the flight attendants didn’t know whether to be amused or annoyed at her, but after somewhere around 5-6 pressings of the call button she passed out and slept the remainder of the flight.

The breakfast wasn’t interesting per se, just different than you normally see on American, so I thought I’d post a picture.

Immigration in Dallas was a breeze, took the AirTrain over to the C terminal, and they were just getting ready to board the flight to Washington.

American Airlines Flight 2442
Dallas (DFW) to Washington National (DCA)
Depart  16:55, Arrive 20:35, Flight Time 2:40
Boeing 737-800, Registration N813NN, Manufactured 2009, Seat 4E

Nothing at all unusual about this flight.  Standard mid-con dinner service, decent crew, and kept entertained using GoGo Internet.  Although things aren’t perfect on American, I can’t remember why I ever bothered with United.  Yes, the international nonstops out of Dulles Airport were nice, but the combination of often surly staff, old planes with no WiFi, and frequent delays have me questioning it.  I’m close enough to million miler that I’ll make sure I get that and requalify for 1K this year, but after that, it might be time to do some rethinking!

Sep 152012
 

…or, otherwise known as, the travel day where almost nothing went right, but in the end, most everything ended up ok.

But, I owe a bit of back story from the night before. Got to my hotel, which I’d chosen based on location (walkable to most major attractions in Fort-de-France for the morning) and on TripAdvisor reviews. I was staying at  l’Hôtel Impératrice, which was a very French-feeling small hotel with maybe 20 or so rooms.  I’d paid a little extra for the “chambre prestige” and was quite happy with it.  Plenty of space to walk around, and what looked like a nice balcony.

It was still pretty early, and again, based on TripAdvisor reviews, I decided to hit Lili’s Beach Bar, which was located in the next town over called Schœlcher, about a 10-15 euro and 15 minute taxi ride.  It was located in the Hôtel Batelière down on the beach, and was really more of a bar than a restaurant.  I’d gotten there about 8, and there were still plenty of people eating so it was fine.  By the time I finished at 9:30, however, it had gone full bar mode and as the reviews note was completely packed with people buying expensive drinks and “paying to be seen.”  Food was decent – not stellar, but pretty good.  Ended up having a conch pizza which was pretty tasty, along with a Planteur Rum Punch.  They were around 10 Euros per drink, but decently tasty.

Back to the hotel and crashed so I could get up and walk around a bit in the morning.  Got up in the morning, and went straight out onto my balcony to take in the view.  Not bad!

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Sep 142012
 

Woke up at oh-dark-thirty, aka 5:15 after not getting to bed the night before until after 11 thanks to the very long trip in the share taxi from Suriname. Considered going back to sleep since I knew my chances of making this trip work were small, but decided I only had part of a day here so was going to try and make the most of it…even if I didn’t manage to make it to the Space Centre. Was out the door by 5:45, and on my way to the shared taxi rank…which I only had a vague idea of its location.

I wandered around, and the local produce market was setting up for business, and after asking a few vendors still had absolutely no idea where the taxi rank was…so I just kept wandering. After about ten minutes I saw lots of minivans pulling in, people getting on, and heading off, so I asked some people and it appeared I’d accidentally found it.  On the way, while waiting, there was an amazing sunrise:

The goal was to head to the European Space Centre aka the Centre Spatiale Guyanais where I’d arranged a free tour that started at 8:00am.  It’s near the town of Kourou, about 5km outside of town.  However, the shared taxis from Cayenne only go to Kourou, and not to the Space Centre.  A taxi to Kourou pulled up finally, but it was only me and one other passenger.  This was looking like a repeat of the previous day where I might wait hours to fill up.  Not good since the tour started in 90 minutes and it was a 55km drive just to Kourou.  I chatted with the driver, and he said it was 10 euros a person to Kourou.  I asked him, for 20 euros will you leave now with just the two of us, and drop me directly at the Centre?  He sized up the other passenger, she offered him 15 euro to leave now, and he decided 35 euro was good enough for a trip and we were off.  SCORE!  I’d made it work!

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Sep 132012
 

This was definitely the leg of this trip that I was most excited about, and most nervous about. Both for the same reason. Traveling overland by public transport definitely holds a romantic realness about it. You’re often traveling with locals, getting an insight on how local people get from place to place, and if you’re fortunate you get a good chance to interact with them as well. I can only remember one time that I did the shared car/taxi thing, and that was several years ago when I took a shared bus/taxi service from Moldova to Transdniester. That was a large bus, however, but I’ll still count it since it left from the shared transport bus station.

In this case, everything I’d read online said that in order to be assured your share taxi would leave within an hour, you really had to be there before 7am, because after that time there were very few passengers leaving Paramaribo and you could be stuck waiting for hours for your taxi to fill up unless you wanted to buy all the spots up. Everything I’d read online told me to expect about 70 SRD for one of five seats in a share taxi (about $22) for the three hour ride to the border. With that in mind, I asked the hotel concierge to call around and see what options he could find.

He first came back with 500 SRD for a private car (about $155) which was absolutely ridiculous. In theory, I could show up at the share taxi rank and buy out all five seats for only 350. He then called “some friends” one of whom was willing to not only pick me up at my hotel the next morning, but would agree to come at 9am (yay sleeping in) and only charge 80 SRD. I figured for this price I’d be doing some sharing, but for the convenience of hotel pick-up, a “known” driver, and sleeping in it sounded great.

Fast forward to 9am…no sign of the driver. 9:15. Nothing. Hotel calls him and he answers…”stuck in traffic.” Finally, around 9:45, he shows up with his sister and her small child already in the car. Great, at least we’re off! No seatbelts, but wouldn’t really expect that in a bush taxi. Of course, where do we go? You guessed it, the share taxi rank! Fortunately, it was just to meet three of his “friends” he’d agreed to pick up and drive to the border, so the wait was only another 10 minutes or so. Doing the math, I was probably subsidizing the others a bit, but it was what it was.

He was a relatively safe driver, although once again the entire conversation was in Dutch. We attempted both French and English, but they couldn’t really keep up in either, so we spoke what Dutch we could and the rest of the time they all conversed in Creole. We did need to make one “ganja stop” along the way for the other passengers to smoke, and then we made another stop maybe 30 minutes from the border in order to…buy watermelons. All the passengers bought watermelons from the roadside, as well as buying huge slices of watermelon to eat. The driver offered “I buy you, you eat!” but I wasn’t in the mood for suspicious roadside fruits with another 4-5 hours in shaky taxis to go. This is where things got strange. He confirmed I needed to go to the immigration building (the locals don’t bother, and just take a water taxi across the river), since he knew it was important for foreigners to get the exit and entry stamps. “No problem, no extra.”

After we started up again, the driver’s English suddenly improved a bit. “You have girlfriend?” “Uh, no, too busy, too much travel.” “Oh too bad. I have 3 girlfriend. You have boyfriend? I have two boyfriend!” “Uhhhh…” This was definitely getting very very weird. Little more small talk and he gave up, until we pulled up to the border. The local boat tout across the river swarmed the taxi, grabbing at my luggage. Driver assured me “It’s ok, he my friend, he take you across river.” Ok, that’s fare. Saves me negotiating with the touts, and we confirmed the price was the same 20 SRD I’d seen online. Then, it got really weird. “You pay 80 SRD. If you no want pay, my friend have house down the street.” Now, I’m pretty sure he was suggesting trading the ride for, um, “adult activities” and I quickly gave him his 80 SRD and walked into the immigration hut.

You can see above the tout hurrying to the building along with my bag.  Once inside, there were about 100 people milling about, most of them with French passports.  I chatted with a few, and they were all from French Guiana.  Seems it was important for them to get stamps too, to document just how long they’d been out of the E.U.  It seemed to just be the local Surinamese who didn’t care.  Of course, why the line?  It was just before 1pm, and the immigration person was on lunch!  I had to wait about 30 minutes, and finally he showed up.  I’d obviously been in the region long enough by now, because when the shoving started I held my ground and was near the beginning out of the line.

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Sep 122012
 

My guide/driver picked me up right on time the next morning for the roughly two hour drive into the interior of Suriname (around 120-150 km or so) and into the edges of the Amazon Rainforest. My company for the day was a Dutch lady who had been born in Suriname and her two young sons. The plan was to stop along the way to get lunch at a small roadside Surinamees/Indonesian snack joint and then head into the park where we’d lunch before starting a several hour hike into the park.

The drive to the park wasn’t too bad, except for the last 20km or so, which took well over an hour to cover. It was a nasty potholed dirt road, and when I say potholes, we’re talking 1-2 feet deep and filled with mud and water most of the time! However, we made it to the park just fine and were ready for lunch.

I still don’t remember the name of what I ordered for lunch, but it was a soup with pulled chicken in it along with lots of spices and a bag of rice and other condiments…including a hard boiled egg, to mix in. Quite tasty! While eating at some tables in the park, we were rewarded with some fantastic views.

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Sep 112012
 

Up early, and off to the smaller “domestic” Ogle Airport for the flight with Gum Air to Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo, Suriname. Both of are the “smaller” airports that are “downtown” and when they say small they mean small! Unlike the charter flight to the falls the previous day, this one was actually pretty serious with security/immigration/etc, but they paid absolutely no attention to the baggage allowance. It was advertise at only 15 kg per person, but I was closer to 19-20 and they didn’t say a word. It was only like $2/kg extra anyways, so…

I had bought my tickets with TransGuyana Airlines, but showed up to find out the flight was operated by Gum Air. Seems they codeshare on this route, with TransGuyana offering one flight, and GumAir the other. Since my ticket was just a computer printout, I had no way of knowing in advance. No big deal, I was glad to see, however, it was the same plane type as the day before.

Georgetown, Guyana, Ogle Airport (OGL) to Zorg en Hoop Airport, Paramaribo, Suriname (ORG)
GumAir Flight 42
Departure 8:30, Arrival 10:45, Flight Time approximately 1:15 minutes
Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, Registration PZ-TBT
Seat “5A” alone in the back of the plane

Flight was completely full, but no luck this time in getting the pilot to let me sit in the copilot seat So, I took the seat way in the back so I could watch. This plane has seen better days:

A couple of aerial shots from during the flight.  We were at a max altitude of 12,000 feet, which I thought was pretty unusual for an unpressurized plane.

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Sep 052012
 

After juggling around the trip a bit, and deciding to fly the next leg to Suriname instead of take a share taxi, I was left with a full day to wander around Georgetown. I’d been told by several people there wasn’t a ton to see, and after just getting four hours sleep the prior night I decided to sleep in a bit.

Got down to the hotel breakfast (literally right down a staircase from my room – a 15 second walk) just as it was supposedly closing, only to find absolutely nobody around. There was bread and coffee sitting out from toast, and that was more than enough for me. Around 10 or 11, I finally made it out to start my very hot and humid stroll of the city. Even though it was hot and humid out, I wanted to walk around and see as much of the city as I could before the heat got to me.

Headed out of my hotel, the Herdmanston Lodge, through the nice courtyard:

I walked about 20-30 minutes through the city side streets of Georgetown:

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Aug 312012
 

For several weeks before this trip, I’d been struggling to book a trip to Kaieteur Falls, Guyana.  I wasn’t completely thrilled with the communication I was getting from the agencies I was in touch with, and I also had American Express Concierge and my hotel in Guyana working on it.  In the end, Wonderland Tours informed me they had a tour on the Sunday I got in leaving at 9am (remember I landed at 1:30am, in the hotel and bed just before 3) so this looked to be the best option.

On top of it, it was a tour to not just Kaieteur Falls, but to Orinduik Falls as well.  Sounded like a great deal.  This post is going to be mostly pictures, but just wanted to share a few details for people considering a similar trip.  In the end, Wonderland came to my hotel just before the tour started to get me to sign the credit card receipt.  They’d charged my card a week before, so they obviously just wanted a signature.  When I got picked up at the hotel, it was by one of the other tour companies I’d been looking at – Evergreen Adventures.  It seems they bundle people to get a trip together, so you might consider the lowest-price option.  That said, service and booking from Wonderland was great, so take that for what it’s worth.

I’d read online that Wonderland’s trips depart from Cheddi Jagan International Airport – the international airport 30+ minutes out of town that I’d arrived at the night before and that they used Roraima Airlines.  Well, Evergreen picked me up at my hotel, we only drove 10 minutes to Ogle Airport (near town) and flew with Trans Guyana Airways.  So again, I think with any company you’re taking some chances since they bundle.  That said, every aspect of my trip went perfectly.

Now, onto the trip!  Check-in at Ogle was painless, a quick run through the metal detector, and we were waiting in the tiny departure lounge.  Soon, it was time to board our Cessna Grand Caravan.

Georgetown, Guyana, Ogle Airport (OGL) to Kaieteur Falls, Guyana (KAI)
Departure 10:30, Arrival 11:15, Flight Time approximately 45 minutes
Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, Registration 8R-GAB
Seat “1A” Directly behind the pilot

Flight was actually quite smooth! A few pictures right after takeoff:

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Aug 292012
 

Originally, this trip was prompted by a sale that Delta was having to Georgetown.  Sale + country I haven’t been to = instant interest to me.  However, when I discovered the Delta flight was a redeye in both directions, combined with the fact I have little interest in accumulating more Delta miles, meant I wasn’t as interested.  However, I had the Guyana-bug now, and started looking for options.  American had a fantastic discount business fare into the country next door of Trinidad and Tobago, so after a little exploring and figuring it out, I booked it.  I would also help me towards the 55,000 elite qualifying points I would need to requalify for American Executive Platinum for 2013, so it was a no brainer.  Flights booked, I was set.

Morning came way too early (I know DCA is only 2 miles from home, but seriously, why do I keep booking these 7am flights in 2012?  I know I’m trying to conserve leave time, but really….) and I was off to DCA with plenty of time to spare.  After only three visits so far, the AAdmirals Club agent recognized me, which I was pretty impressed with.  At the new United, you’re lucky to get a grunt as they let you in, the American agents have genuinely thanked me for my business, and truly seemed appreciative.  I know I’m always saying the airlines are all the same, but honestly, American seems to be making a real effort to thank customers.  It’s not going unnoticed!

So, before you ask about the routing – yeah, the point of Dallas was to maximize miles.  Fare was only a few dollars more, and the cost of 3-4 hours of sleep, but with only 4 months left to earn elite points, I needed the extra routing.  Figured I could always sleep on the plane if needed.

American Airlines Flight 467
Washington National (DCA) to Dallas (DFW)
Depart 7:10, Arrive 9:15, Flight Time 3:05
Boeing 737-800, Registration N845NN, Manufactured 2010, Seat 5E

Great flight, decent crew, first meal choice.  Other than that, there’s not too much to say.  Flight had GoGo Wifi, but chose not to use it and slept most of the flight.  Also the first time in eons that I actually had an airline breakfast that I chose to not only eat…but almost enjoyed.  It was quite tasty!  Mmmm….biscuits!

Landing was about 15 minutes late due to ATC, no excitement, and a short walk from one end of the D-terminal to the other, and I reached my gate just as boarding had started.  I know some people think DFW is like MSP in that your walk can be FOREVER if you get unlucky, but fortunately on this occasion mine was short, and there was zero drama.

American Airlines Flight 2074
Dallas (DFW) to Miami (MIA)
Depart 10:20, Arrive 14:10, Flight Time 2:50
Boeing 757-200, Registration N635AA, Manufactured 1990, Seat 2E

Relatively short flight without too much to say.  This was a lunch flight, and it was another excellent crew.  Arrival was on time, got first meal choice, and really that’s all there is to say!

I know some folks feel the need to be “wined and dined” when they fly first, but I actually appreciate American’s relatively light lunch salads.  Just enough to fill you up without making you feel gross.

I had about four hours to kill in Miami, so I did some e-mail and work in the lounge, and then decided since I was in Miami that I needed to have a bit of Cuban…so it was off to La Carretta for lunch.  Delicious Cuban Sandwich (I can see this becoming a regular obsession in the future when I fly through MIA) and soon it was time to board the flight to Port of Spain.

American Airlines Flight 1819
Miami (MIA) to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS)
Depart 18:05, Arrive 21:50, Flight Time 3:45
Boeing 757-200, Registration N652AA, Manufactured 1991,  Seat 4E

I don’t remember why, but decided not to take any meal photos.  It was a generic mid-con type domestic meal, a generic chicken or pasta choice…and the chicken was actually quite tasty.  Also on offer were fresh cookies before landing.  Requested (and got) the “big boy” glass of red wine, which the excellent crew kept well-filled until landing in Trinidad.  Killed most of the flight catching up on tv on my iPad – one of the best things I ever did was get rid of cable and just start subscribing to tv series that I like on iTunes.  This way, I never waste evenings waiting for shows to come on, and I can just watch them when flying and I’d be doing nothing else anyways.

Transit airside is not possible in Port of Spain, so had to wait in a 5 minute queue for immigration, cleared with no drama, and then did the short walk to the departures area to check in for my flight with Caribbean.  Had plenty of time, absolutely no drama whatsoever, and soon was in the security line to get back into the departures hall.  A few notes:  1)  Port of Spain has two terminals/wings, each with their own security.  There was a 20 minute wait for security in the terminal I needed to go into, but zero in the other.  Go figure.  2)  Trinidad and Tobago has very strict laws against wearing camoflage clothing of all colours.  Don’t even try it or customs will nail you.  3)  Don’t count on lounge access.  One of the two wings has a Caribbean Airlines lounge you can use if you’re in their business class or an elite in their frequent flier program, the other has a Priority Pass lounge….yeah, I was in the wrong one, and wasn’t going to pay $200+ more for business class on a 1 hour flight at 1am that I would likely crash on anyways.

Caribbean Airlines Flight 525
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS) to Georgetown, Guyana (GEO)
Depart 00:25, Arrive 1:35, Flight Time 1:10
Boeing 737-800, Registration 9Y-JMA, Manufactured 2002, Seat 5C

That said, time went by quickly, I managed to get a bulkhead aisle seat, and all was good.  Beverage service was offered, and a beer was just what the doctor ordered.  Landed on time in Guyana, and little to say here again.  Immigration and customs were quite quick and efficient, I was one of the first through, and was out into the taxi queue in less than 10 minutes.  Had a bit of a hard time finding the driver the hotel had sent (yeah, they said he would have a sign, but he didn’t….and he had no interest in searching me out.  I was literally walking up to random people asking if they were him…and that’s how I eventually found him.)

But even then…he wasn’t going to drive me.  He was “maybe waiting for someone else” so he pawned me off on some friend of his.  Now, I’m going to be politically incorrect a second, but I was a bit nervous about the minivan he put me into.  My driver was a spitting sterotypical image of Aunt Jemima, right down to the big flowing dress and mile-high do-rag.  I was once told in DC that “do-rag” is an offensive term, but when wandering Guyana the next day I actually saw a vendor with a sign that said “DO RAGS $400” – so, I figure it’s at least the local term in Guyana!  She was driving the minivan with her mid-teens friend/son/etc, and they refused to acknowledge that they spoke English, speaking in a very rapid creole.

All was fine, however, and 30-40 minutes later I was at my hotel, the Herdmanston Lodge.  The night manager was waiting for me, quickly walked me to my room, got me bottled water, and left me alone – just what I needed at 2am!  It was time to crash, and sleep a few hours to enjoy the very early morning daytrip I had booked the next day.