Liz and John's South American Grand Cruise 2014 travel blog

Devil's Island

Devil's Island

Masquerade night on sea Day

Thursday 6 March

Day 63 - Devil's Island, French Guiana

We docked at seven and we could see all three Islands in the Salvation Group.

We were actually going to Isle Royale but is generally known as Isle du Diable because that is where the French Penal Colony was situated. It is situated seven miles off the coast of French Guiana. The penal colony was formed by the Government of Emperor Napoleon 111 in 1852 and it became the home for the worst criminals, political and military prisoners as well as repeat offenders. It was originally called Bagne de Cayenne but the prisoners called it Devil's Island because of the harsh conditions, isolation and disease. Of 80,000 prisoners sent there, most were never heard of again. The remoteness and surrounding sea was effective in preventing escapes and only two made it. The first was Clemont Duval in 1901 and found sanctuary in the US and the second was Henri Charriere in 1941 (a film Papillion was made describing his exploits). In 1938 France stopped sending Prisoners there and in 1952 it was closed.

The responsibility of the Islands was then transferred to the newly founded Guiana Space Centre on the mainland in 1965. On the Island there is a church, the overgrown ruins of the former prison cells, the old administration centre and home of the Prison Governor which is now a museum. There is also a dirt track which goes around the whole island (about an hour's walk). However there is now a small hotel and cafe with some of the cells converted into overnight accommodation (basically a hammock and mosquito net). It is apparently quite popular with the locals and tourists alike!

John caught the tender across at nine and enjoyed his walk around the Island. He said it must have been a pretty bleak place if you were a prisoner there, but on a warm sunny day, it looked like a little piece of paradise. He took lots of photos again including a couple of the bright green iguana that is well known in this part of the world, and the agouti, a large rodent which is also very common. Other passengers saw Macaws and two different types of monkeys. John said it was quite hard work walking around the island, especially in the heat so I probably wouldn't have been able to manage it, but as always I'm sorry I can't get to all these places.

The ship was only at anchor for six hours as we had quite a long sail to Barbados, our next stop. We continue to play trivia (really enjoyable because of the entertaining compere and the team are with) and have amassed a total of over $400 Dam Cruise Dollars but we can purchase a few useful things before we leave.

I swim every day and John walks and does his Pilates as well as doing all the sporty things. While he does that I'm doing the musical stuff and Robyn, the great Musical Director, is gradually whipping us into shape. I have really enjoyed it and it's renewed my interest in getting involved with my music again (singing, piano or flute). I've played the ukelele a bit and feel more comfortable with the instrument. We'll see when we get home!

We were really disciplined for the first fifty days or so with our eating and drinking but it's slipped the past couple of weeks so there will have to be some serious dieting when we get home. However it's only a couple of kilos for both of us which isn't bad. But we still have a week to go and it's easy to be tempted! The food has been wonderful and it's so hard to say no all the time!

The shows every evening have been great and we have hardly missed any. In fact this cruise has been glorious. I'll only be sending news a couple of times more until we get home but we still have three stops in the Caribbean so will send some news after that!

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