While not faithfully mirroring true events, the idea came for this story is inspired by certain character moulds that can still be found in Guyana. The characters and events are invented and placed against the backdrop of Guyana’s as yet untamed hinterland. I hope most readers take the intersection between fiction and fact for granted. For those who do not, be warned.
Although I'm not Catholic, I am very pleased to hear that the Vatican has elected a pope from South America. It's long overdue. The continent provides 40% of the world's Catholics, and no one institution has had such an influence over this continent. At one stage (1609-1768), it even presided over a utopian state, here in Paraguay (pictured) managed by the Jesuits.
This is the back of the Stabroek Market, Georgetown (Guyana), which, in the late 18th century, had been a slave market. Here, after many days at sea, the African captives got their first sight of the then-Dutch colony of Demerara.
In a few weeks time, I'll be heading out to Poland to launch 'Wild Coast', the book of my travels in Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. There were several points in my journey where my path crossed with Poles.... Here are three of them. Can you think of other Polish-Guianese connections?
This is New Amesterdam (Guyana), where the Berbice enters the sea. Here is a great, blank estuary, the colour of sharpened knives. I remember thinking how bright it seemed, and how the only shapes were two straggly lines of attenuating mangrove. Out in the glare nothing moved except dolphins, forming soundless hoops of pink and grey, before vanishing in rings.
Today, on World Book Day, we celebrate the best of books, and it's a great occasion for young and old. But part of the fun of books is evaluating them. You'll hear alot about great books today .. but what about the bad ones? Here is my list of the worst travel books:-
For the poor he was a hero, bringing a much-needed redistribution of wealth. For others he was a tyrant, wrecking the economy with populist policies. Either way, he made an indelible impression on his beautiful country, Venezuela (pictured), as a I discovered six years ago.
This is Kapadokya or Cappadocia (in Turkey), where for thousands of years, whole cities have been built undergound. All this burrowing needs some explaining.
Like so much that is beautiful, it began with extraordinary violence. At first, the brutality was geological. About seventy million years ago, Mt Erciyes exploded, along with two other volcanoes. They smothered the land first in shortbread (properly known as ‘tuff’) and then a wafer-thin coating of basalt.