Night in a prison cell

And so when it came to it, I couldn’t face it. Sleeping all night in a former prison cell of France’s infamous ‘bagne’, the prison of the penal colony for which French Guiana was renowned. Our room was a) windowless, b)airless and c) very haunted. There was a huge pit outside in which various caimen and iguana lurked. Alright, there was also a toucan there but even its bright blue feet couldn’t dispel the sure knowledge that all human rights had ended, for sure, right here in the Isles de Salut.Alfred Dreyfus spent five years on the next door island – every time a boat was sighted on the horizon, a prison guard held a gun to his head. What a dreadful place. Imagine checking into a hotel on Robben Island and you sort of get the picture. In fact we actually did a runner. But not before we had LOST Gabriel. I thought he had fallen into the pit along with the toucan, iguana, etc. Actually he just had popped into the museum which had lovely things like iron leg braces on display.

Then when we were at last reunited and waiting for our catamaran to rescue us (well, we have standards), a giant palm branch came crashing down and nearly decapitated us all. Perhaps reminding us that there was even a guillotine here, in former times. Even Gabriel sighting a wonderful leatherback turtle popping its head out of the ocean didn’t dispel the gloom and doom. We leapt aboard the boat and charged back to the mainland amid one of the most terrifying and enormous tropical storms I have ever encountered. Fork lightening, sheet rain, peals of thunder and we had to all get on a tiny dinghy. Its a wonder Lucien wasn’t swept overboard. Yes, another adventure he will be “telling Nursery about”, you see. Hot showers all round and a bad mark on France’s copy book of human rights, I’m afraid. Next stop – Polynesia and Gaugin’s grandson.

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