In Guyana (Just).

Stop Press: We are currently (2006-10-01) parked by the roadside about 40km north of Santa Elena in Venezuela, waiting for the army to give us permission to drive to the border with Brazil. We are told that there are demonstrations (riots?) in Santa Elena and it is not safe for us to drive thru the town.

The next morning (2006-10-02) we decided to see how "closed" and "riot torn" Santa Elena was. Apart from long queues at the fuel station (which was a shame as we wanted to fill up with cheap Venezuelan fuel) we saw no indications of a "riot" in Santa Elena. No burnt out buildings, no broken windows, no extra police, just a little more litter than when we were there before.

Leaving Venezuela was quick and painless. Entering Brazil was straightforward but the vehicle paperwork was very very slow. We were each given a DSI (Declaracao Simplificada de Importacao). This document is an agreement that if we failed to export the vehicle from Brazil within the specified time (5 days for us) we would pay a substantial penalty. At this border we were also told that because there were no customs facilities on the Brazil-Guyana border at Bonfim, we must "export" our vehicles at the customs office in Bao Vista, 100kms away.

Predictably the customs office in Bao Vista claimed no knowledge of such a procedure. They assured us that there were customs facilities at Bonfim and that they would provide us with the necessary proof that we had exported our vehicles. They were half right.

There is a customs office on the main road at Bonfim (N03.367406 W59.842389), but they would not provide us with an official export document. The best we could do was to get them to stamp a copy of our DSI. We will find out if this is sufficient when we try to re-enter Brazil in a few weeks!

Brazilian immigration, a kilometer down the road, was simple and quick.

Here the good tarmac road stopped, and after a few kilometers of poor dirt road, we reached a fairly rickety ferry to take us to Guyana. The price was an outrageous $20 USA for a very short ride, but there was no alternative. (The half built bridge was abandoned after the contractor allegedly left with the money. It may be finished in five years.)

Once off the ferry, you drive on the left hand side of the dirt track (there are no signs to remind you!) and everybody speaks English (or at least something quite like English). After 200 metres, a small boy rushed out to spray the vehicle's wheels but he did not ask for money. Very odd!

Helpfully, there was a notice saying it was illegal not to report to immigration on arrival in Guyana, but it did not say where the immigration offices were!

After a couple of kilometers, we reached the turning to the thriving metropolis of Lethem (population 7600), a spread-out and laid back town with a Caribbean feel. We were told that immigration formalities take place at the airport, if there is a plane due, otherwise, at the police station.

With some trouble we found the police station (N03.372517 W59.804183), and our passports were stamped into Guyana. We asked for 28 days and are given 21. The police then demanded a "manifest". This turned out to be a document listing the passengers in each vehicle. We hand-wrote a "manifest" for each vehicle, which was reluctantly accepted. Because it was getting late, we asked permission to park overnight opposite the police station. Permission was granted.

The following morning a policeman was assigned to escort us to customs (N03.370245 W59.797640). When we arrived (08:15), customs was having a shower. When customs had finished his shower, we were told that we must first get insurance (which is compulsory). Unfortunately, the only person who could issue insurance was away in Georgetown. After some discussion, it is agreed that we could get our insurance when we get to Georgetown.

Customs then settled down to the two hour task of producing three Certificate of Temporary Import of Motor Vehicles and three Permission to Drive slips. We believe that only 16 foreign (that is not Brazilian or Guyanan) vehicles have crossed this border so far in 2006!

Armed with these documents, and after confirming that we would get insurance in Georgetown, we were free to leave.

But first we changed money and bought Marmite(!) at the excellent Savannah Inn and General Store (N03.372942 W59.795413).

Eventually we headed north on the "all weather" Lethem-Georgetown dirt road.

Stephen Stewart.

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