from the Loony Planet travel series
You feel the beckoning of the pampas, the call of the Caribbean. Your seasonal depressive disorder has got you down. Or you've finally seen the movie version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. No matter what, you find that you've got to get to South America. But you don't feel safe cruising Colombia, and you'd rather avoid that brash, populist, anti-American dictator in Venezuela, but you still want to benefit from a short flight from Miami?
You can enjoy the best of South America, a child of the Caribbean and the Andes, with the comfort of the English language, and see the greatest monument ever erected for a suicide cult. Both affordable and exotic, Jonestown, Guyana is where you should lounge during the winter doldrums.
With help from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, not to mention a centrally located airport, and a practically clean bill of malarial health from the World Health Organization, Jonestown has become the new tourist spot, and there are deals, deals deals! You can fly direct from Miami, or any private airstrips owned by currently operating cults.
This little town in northwest Guyana is a combination of expatriate spirit and American know-how. Learn the impressive history of a man who created a religious following and convinced his followers to kill themselves – for no apparent reason!
There are plenty of lodging options, ranging from free to dirt cheap. For you backpackers, there is plenty of space to lay down a tent (don't forget bug repellent and a shotgun). For the upscale ecotourist, there are plenty of platform tents, abandoned by former cult members. Or for a pampered experience you can stay at the Jim Jones mansion, a stately home built by slave labor and the proceeds of tax evasion.
Unlike most of South America, Jonestown is very safe. Due to the mass suicides, the local population is virtually zero, and it is peaceful, unless you count the thousands of chattering monkeys, the susurrus of waterfalls, and the occasional barrage of distant machine gun fire. Once your plane lands in the remote airstrip, you'll be alone, which is why the Guyanese government recommends a very affordable state-certified bodyguard and porter.
Enjoy the new Jonestown Cultural Center. Guyanese troops razed the Peoples' Temple to the ground, in order to remove this terrible blight from their history, but after years of visits from conspiracy theorists and cult suicide buffs, the government has embraced their past, and rebuilt the Temple amidst protests from the nation's large Hindu and Muslim populations. The Jonestown Cultural Center displays local art, and various artifacts belonging to the Peoples' Temple, including an entire banana bunch that reveals the Virgin Mary when peeled.
"Do you drink the Kool-Aid"? Did you know that this expression began here? Enjoy an historic walking tour of this city's remains. Our knowledgeable guides all dress in period clothing – flannel shirts and jeans. You'll feel like you stepped into a time machine and arrived in 1978, along with that US Congressional delegation that was brutally murdered before they could escape.
There's plenty to do in Jonestown – shopping, self-guided tours of the burnt remnants of the original temple, relaxing spas, and hikes through the forest. And don't forget Jimmytown, a fun and exciting playland where you can drop off the kids. The children will learn as they have fun among the termite mounds, and deftly avoid stingrays as they swim the murky rivers.
Sit back for a beer and enjoy the local lore – legend says that the charismatic ghost of the Reverend Jim Jones still keeps the locals in thrall (better make sure you tip heavily!). And who knows, maybe you'll be the one who discovers the hidden pack of Peoples' Temple survivors that lurks in the forest, still waiting for their Messiah to return.
Decide for yourself – was the Jonestown massacre the fault of a sociopath preacher who thought he was the reincarnation of Jesus, or, as countless web sites maintain, a cleanup operation by the US government of a failed mind-control experiment?
But Jonestown is not just for history buffs. Due to recent religious and political strife in the country, countless armed bandits have fled to the jungle, using the outskirts of Jonestown as the base for a futile rebellion. It's the ideal vacation for any rugged adventure traveler who loves avoiding gunshot wounds.
Discover Jonestown – ignore our bloody past and enjoy a Bloody Mary!
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