Visiting Apatou, French Guiana, Population of 4500

Visited in April 2016.

While staying with Stef, I met her friend Frantz, who was a teacher in Apatou. He was in Cayenne to fix his car and Stef had invited him for dinner at her place. We decided to cook together and I made my signature chicken soup dish, while her father Jean-Marc made an amazing Caipirinha (it was the best I have had outside of Brazil). During our conversation, Frantz found out that I was heading towards Suriname and in order to cross the river, I had to go to St. Laurent du Maroni first. He was heading back the next day to Apatou, a small village about one hour away from St. Laurent du Maroni. He was happy to give me a ride to St. Laurent (short for the full name), since it was on the way to Apatou. Therefore, we packed our bags, said goodbye to Jean-Marc and Stef and went on the three-hour journey the next day.

On our way to Apatou, Frantz asked me, “Niki, would you be interested in visiting my village? The village has approximately 5000 people and there is not much, but I would like to invite you to my place. Would you be interested?” The first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘where am I going to sleep’ but I ended up saying yes since I could not refuse his offer and it would be interested in seeing how the locals lived there. Besides, I purchased a hammock in Cayenne for the rest of the Caribbean, so I was all covered. In return, I had to cook lunch for Frantz, his girlfriend, and his friends the next day. I was down with that!

We shopped at the supermarket in St. Laurent for lunch, since Apatou only had a few shops. I will write more on my next post on St. Laurent, but this town only had 2 large supermarkets.

We arrived late in the evening in Apatou, so we had a drink at a friend’s bar and went straight to bed. Luckily, I did not have to use the hammock and slept in one of the beds. Thanks Jean.

Apatou

Apatou was 99% black and most people work for the government or commute to St. Laurent. I woke up early the next morning and went for a walk. Firstly, it was a village of around 5000 people. I was raised in Tokyo and could not imagine living in a village like that. It was just sooo different. Imagine living in a village with one school, one bakery, a couple of guesthouses, a handful of restaurants, one small police station and a Chinese family. Believe it or not, there was a little Chinese store and I saw 2 Chinamen with my own eyes. One of the them was looking at the phone constantly, probably playing video games or chatting online…I guess this never changes wherever one goes. But seriously, why do you want to live here? I should have taken a picture to show proof. 🙂

Well, my tour was very quick. I went to the river and I could see Suriname on the other side. Suriname was across the river, but there were no villages immediately across except for a Chinese grocery. The police officer I was talking to told me that the store got robbed a few times, but the Chinese guy is still doing business. I have to give credit to that China man for being brave in opening a store in the middle of nowhere in Suriname of all places, but I wondered… is there enough demand to open a store? Besides, being robbed with weapons a few times did not stop him from closing down. He must have some serious balls!

I walked along the river and ended up at the tourist office. I was surprised to see one, but supposedly, the village was the last stop before going further south to the jungle and they do get tourists. There was a wifi mark at the tourist office, but of course, it did not work. I was told that Apatou does not have wifi connection and only via mobile.

The entire tour of the village took less than 30 minutes and I was back at Frantz’s place. I met his girlfriend, her daughter, her niece and we all went to his friend’s bar to cook. I grilled an entire chicken and served it with veggies and rice for Frantz and his friends. We had a good discussion on French politics and why they keep French Guiana as a territory. Obviously, everything was strategic! I’m not going into details. 🙂

After lunch, we drove back to St. Laurent in order for me to cross over to Suriname by boat.

Next post: Crossing from French Guiana to Suriname

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