Trail-blazing through the Guianas
Our founding directors Chris and Brian were the first tour operators to specialise exclusively in travel to Latin America, so when the company turned 30 this year, pioneering two unique new routes through little-known areas seemed a fitting way to celebrate. These trips - the 'Trail-blazers' - would attempt to recapture the style of our tours when the pair were first leading them back in the early 80s, so Chris chose an adventurous itinerary crossing through Venezuela to the remote Guianas.
We caught up with Chris just after he returned from leading the first of his two trips to find out how it went...
Papagaio: What inspired you to design this trail-blazing tour?
Chris Parrott: Inspired is probably the wrong word. For several years I’ve been trying to convince our Group Tours department that a trip travelling eastwards through the Guianas would be worth doing, especially since one of our tour leaders speaks all five of the languages that are encountered along the way. For the company’s 30th birthday, co-founder Brian Williams and I offered, with a bit of arm-twisting, to run a couple of 'pioneering' trips like we did in the very early days. Clearly, I’d have to put my feet where my mouth was.
P: What is it that you most love about tour leading?
CP: A combination of the unexpected and meeting people who like to travel. On this trip, we almost missed our bus from the Venezuelan border into Brazil because the immigration ladies spent so long looking at the unusual (and in some cases outlandish) visas and stamps in all the passports.
P: Could you tell us about one of your most memorable moments from leading the tour?
CP: It’s an image of the sky as we drove (slightly too fast) from the ferry crossing of the Corentyne river towards Paramaribo, Suriname – on our left was bright blue sky, on our right billowing rainclouds so dark it was like black volcanic ash. There was almost a straight dividing line right above the road.
P: Were there any funny moments?
CP: Yes – most memorable was one of being woken by a scream when we were sleeping in hammocks in the jungle: two nearby German backpackers misinterpreted the colourful profanities to understand that one of our group had been bitten on the bum by a donkey.
P: Were there any challenges leading a tour where very few people visit?
CP: Because it was the first trip, and because Journey Latin America is not well known in the more remote areas that we visited, I was always apprehensive about whether people who had agreed to meet us with transport would actually turn up. They all did.
P: Do you have any top tips for clients about to take the next tour?
CP: Decent lightweight walking shoes or boots.
P: Is there a particular sight or a day of the tour that you’re most looking forward to experiencing on the second round?
CP: The canoe trip upstream from Canaima is great fun, especially when the river narrows and the rainforest closes in: that's when you get your first glimpse of Angel Falls.
P: What’s been your favourite dish from the trip?
CP: I think it was called delicia de tucunare (river fish cooked in cheese) in Boa Vista, Brazil.
P: Would you lead another tour once the Trail-blazers are over?
CP: I already have one in mind. Watch my blog.