Journey to Guyana

Journey to Guyana

Journey to Guyana


Guyana is a land rich in contrasts; it has huge rivers and vast, unexplored rainforests. Inland are craggy mountain ranges and great plateau mountains such as Mount Roraima, over nine thousand feet above sea-level, which inspired Conan Doyle to write The Lost World. Yet the coastal area, where over ninety percent of the population live, is a flat and muddy strip several feet below sea level at high tide.


It was because of the mud, the author explains, that they went to Guyana. The sugar industry was changing and its managers now needed to build a Bulk Sugar Terminal where the sugar from all the estates could be stored and then automatically loaded on to sugar tankers coming up the Demerara river. This required a great deal of heavy building and equipment, apart from the storing of some forty thousand tons of sugar. And this on land in which even a house could sink into the mud. It was a challenge for Civil Engineers to design a floating raft foundation and complete the work in two years.


Out of the experience of those two years in Guyana at the time of Independence, the author gives an informed and vivid picture of the country’s many-sided life: its multi-racial population, industry and amazingly varied terrain. She describes, too, her everyday domestic life in Guyana, setting up a home, making a garden, going to market. She tells of adventures – and some misadventures – into the Interior and of encounters with different races which make up the Guyanese nation. She gives an account of the economy at the time and analyses the problems that confronted it.


The problems were many and grave, including poverty and unemployment, but behind all this she portrays a diverse people, full of resourcefulness, good humour and charm.


On the way to the airport to fly home after two years of very hard work to get the foundations for the sugar terminal completed on time, their driver asked her husband if he was sad to be leaving Guyana. He said that he was. “Then why,” the driver asked with true Guyanese logic, “did you work so hard to get it finished so quick?”



The author has produced a balanced, vivid, often hilarious account of the diverse people and a land still in the formative stage of development.


As she emphasises, the population is multi-racial. Most of the original inhabitants – the Amerindians – live in the Interior. When European settlers needed labour for their sugar plantations, they imported slaves from Africa. With the abolition of slavery in 1833 the Europeans brought indentured labour from the East Indies and India itself. As free men they hoped to return home but few did and soon formed the largest single racial group. Bacon sympathetically analyses the widely dissimilar races. Her expeditions into the Interior, while explaining the nature of the sugar, rice and bauxite industries which were the mainstay of the economy, also give the book the liveliest human passages. Exploration by river, in impossibly small and unstable craft, also holds the menace of quick death by piranha or anaconda. Back in Georgetown she wrote reviews for a local paper which was a mass of misprints and pictures printed upside down. A pompous article by a bishop concluded, “Life, my friends, is not all beer and shittles.”


Margaret Bacon has illuminated by sensitive observation, gentle humour and intelligent interpretation one of the world’s less well known corners. The photographs, her own, enrich the feeling of exploration she so subtly sustains.

The Scotsman


A vivid and affectionate account of the country. The book is intelligent, readable and humorous.

The Times


Humour and honest shine through with the intensity of the Georgetown sun.

Evening News


A great deal more than a travel book…an absorbing study.

Western Morning News


For intelligent sensitivity puts most travel books into the shade…frequently wildly funny. There is nothing to beat a good travel book for painless learning. Added to which, this one is very well written.