03 Kabalebo Nature Resort

Still in Paramaribo at the Guesthouse Twenty4
Tomorrow I leave for my big adventure to Kabalebo, so there were a few things I needed to check on before I leave. One was should I, or shouldn’t I start malaria medication. Hmmm, seems like it should be an easy find, but after visiting the World Health Organization and them telling me I need to talk to Malaria program at Infectious diseases, and them telling me to just ask a pharmacist, and them being really, really, really crowded, I decided to go back to the agency who booked my tour.

“No, no, ” the agent said, “there is no malaria in dat area. At least not right now, ” she added. Feeling pretty confident that I didn’t need to take the retched stuff I headed off to look for a cheap and light bag to carry my clothes. And that is exactly what I got. A real piece of shit duffle bag for only $12US. What did I expect? That the zippers were going to actually work? Silly me! At least it was much lighter than my 24 year old North Face backpack. Did I mention its purple! You see, there is a 10 kilo limit on the small plane. Hell, my camera gear weights that!


Next I wanted to see about doing some more tours when I return. Unfortunately, I got really lost. I didn’t even know there was a Central Market in this area. It was big too. Then it started to rain. First gental, then very hard. I holed up in a woman’s shoe store for as long as I could, then I hailed a cab to take me back to the hotel. I ate salami, cheese and crackers with Tang to wash it down. I’ll figure out where I am going to go next when I return in 7 days.

Did I mention it’s still raining!

Day 1
Kabalebo Resort
Holy makeral, this has been one of the best days that I have had in a very long time. This morning I had to pack up all of the things I was to leave behind and all of the things I had to bring. As usual with me, I was obsessing over the 10 kilo limit for luggage. At the last minute I kept moving things from the “stay” file to the “go” pile until I was not sure if they would let me and my stuff on the plane. In the end, when I got to the Zorg-en-Hoop Airport, that’s the one that flys to remote destinations in Suriname, I could see that there was nothing to worry about. It was about as funky as they come. Planes in the 2 to 8 passenger range were parked where, well I guess, where ever they felt like. It took me a while to find out where we were to leave from. It was little more than a small room with a few chairs. They did in fact weigh my bags and they came in at 10.2 kilos. Glad I spent all of that I’ve worrying.

The plane they told me was to take off at 10am, so of course I got here at 9, and the plane finally took off at around 11:30, but at that point I was just happy to be starting on my new adventure. Eight other people were going with me. All of them were either Dutch or Dutch/Surinamese. Although all of the information was given in Dutch, they all took pity on this American gringo and we’re more than happy to translate whenever they thought that I needed it.


Once on the air we flew low over the city of Paramaribo and with in a few moments we were over pure jungle. Then of course it started to rain and continued on and off for the hour and a half flight. Through the breaks in the clouds I could see the jungle canopy below with dozens of twisting muddy rivers. Now I was going somewhere exotic, I thought. When Kabalebo came into view it was still raining, only harder.

It seemed like we circled the place three or four times before the pilot had the right trajectory giving me multiple views of what was to be my new home for the next week. The airstrip was no more than a wide flat extremely green area. I heard one of the passenger say it looked like a golf course. Next to it were the all of the wooden buildings, and surrounding that was the pure pristine jungle bounded on one side by the wide and muddy Kabalebo River.



It was exciting watching the pilot land in the rain on grass, but you could see that he had done it many times before. Getting off the plane in the pouring rain, I was bummed that I had stowed all of my rain gear in my suitcase, but there was a pretty young woman named Armita waiting for me with an umbrella. The main building, which housed the restaurant and our rooms was just a few hundred meters away. Standing on the porch with its wide overhangs, there was another group of tourists waiting to leave. They seemed relaxed and happy. I took that as a good sign.

So far I am kind of ambivalent about my trip. On the one hand it is so much nicer in everyway than I thought it would be, but on the other it has given me access to experiences I never could have had doing it the funky “Peter” kind of way. For example, after a yummy lunch of meat and coconut soup, we 5 were taken on a private tour through the jungle. The other 3 that arrived with us came for a special world class fishing expedition. Judging by the pictures I saw the next day, I would say it was world class. It was about a 2 hour leisurely stroll where our guide pointed out every ant, mold spore, frog, bird and snake (yes, we almost stepped on a small coiled up fer-de-lance sleeping on the path, and no you don’t want to know what would have happen if it had bitten one of us) that was around. The talk was all in Dutch, but once again my fellow hikers were more than eager to translate the highlights to me.



All in all, I would say it was a very nice day.

Day 2
Kabalebo Resort


Today, after a rousing breakfast of scrambled eggs, hot dogs and bread, we headed of for another guided tour through the rainforest. This time they took us to the other side of the river. We were 5 plus 2 guides. I now had my own English speaking guide Guiermo. This time we walked for about 3 hours, and I am afraid except for a couple of frogs, we saw very little. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a terrific walk, because it was. I mean we were walking through the Suriname rainforest where there was not even and Indian village within ia 4 day boat ride of here. It just means that we saw little wildlife. Our guides were happy to point out a lot about the flora. Such as a wood from a tree that smelled exactly like garlic, and boiled up was used as such, or the thick red flower that you could squeeze like a sponge for a fresh drink of water. Or the sacred tree of the bush negros. It was so large they used to hollow it out and hide in its trunk, that is until their masters found them and killed every last one of them.


One of the highlights was when we hit the swamp. It was about ankle deep or more in spots, and and one young and beautiful girl named Maartje, who was traveling with her dad Prospere, didn’t want to get her sneekers soaked, so Guiermo carried her piggy back across the worst parts. You could tell that from then on he was more infatuated with being next to her than interpreting for me. I had indeed lost my personal guide. From then on all he wanted to talk about when he was next to me was how beautiful she was. I wanted to tell him that he didn’t have a chance, but I didn’t have the heart to.


The trail ended at the river, where surprise surprise, there was a huge 25 foot dugout waiting for us. In we piled, and it took us about 35 minutes to a little beach where we had lunch. Shredded fish in rice, packaged noodles and chicken, and some kind of sponge cake for desert. None of it my favorite, but by then we were all really hungry. After an hours rest we got back in the boat and headed off for an hour and a half up some small tributary until we hit a small set of rapids. Here we were told to get out and go for a swim. I was the first one to put on my European style bathing suit (aka a Speedo). Considering that these WERE Europeans no one laughed at me.The rapids were pretty shallow, but swift so I kept on my shoes and used my walking stick to steady myself until I could find a place to plop myself down in the cool river. The rest of the Dutch tourists waited for me make a fool of myself and took pictures of the over weight American stumbling across the rapids. I didn’t care because it sure felt great. Eventually a couple of them donned their suits and tried it also.


We stayed there about and hour and then got back in the boat and lazily drifted with the current back toward the resort. You would have thought that without the noise of the engine we would have seen a lot of wildlife, but it was not to be. The scenery was, however, spectacular with the jungle closing in around us as the tributary narrowed. Close to our landing, one of our guides spotted a paca on the bank, but I never was able to see him, but all in all, another great day!

Day 3
Kabalebo Resort
I woke up at 6 am. It was still dark and no one else was up except the help who, as usual, had made a fresh pot of coffee. I helped myself and went back the porch in front of my room to enjoy the solitude. I could hear the howler monkeys start to make the huge roar that I have become so accustomed to. As the sky started to lighten I made my plans to try to follow them and maybe even get a photo or two of them. Just as I started down the stairs the rains started. I knew from past experience that the howlers did not like the rain, so they would stop all activity and I would not be able to find them. I refilled my coffe and sat back down on the porch to listen and watch the rain.

By 8:30 the rest of the group were up and ready for breakfast. We had all stayed up late last night telling stories and drinking wine till past 11pm. Breakfast this time consisted of mini-omlettes, ground hamburger meat, cheese and a variety for fruits and vegetables. We ate and discussed what we were to do today, and by unanimous decision we agreed to leave by 9:30, so we had some free time. I went for a walk in the jungle where I had seen a DC-3 that had crashed in 1965. It was mostly intact, but huge trees grew out of it at odd angles. It was fun and creative to be able to take my time and photograph it.


We all met down at the dock along with our two guides and a boatman. As soon as we settled in the motorized dugout it started to rain, but by now I was ready for it. I put my camera in side a waterproof pouch that I had purchased before I left, and covered my pack with a poncho. After a half an hour the rain stopped, the sun came out and it got really hot and steamy, but then mercifully the clouds showed up and things got tolerable again. After an hour on the wide river we turned up a very narrow tributary and went down that for another half an hour. The jungle really closed in on us and you could almost touch both sides of the river. We hit a low set of rapids and the boat pulled over to the side. It looked like we were getting out here, yet the river bank was very steep and muddy. It was almost comical watching everyone try to make it up to flat land. After I made it, with great difficulty, I stood on the top and photographed the others trying to do the same. I called out to our young tour guides to help the others, but only Guiermo reached down to help once again, the pretty young blond girl.

Then we began our trek on a jungle path that followed the river. Our guides pointed out very little, and there were no animals. If I stopped to take a picture of a plant or of mushroom you could see that they were impatient. Another hour walk took up to a beautiful section of rapids and we were told it was time for lunch. We all scrambled out on the rocks looking for a comfortable place to enjoy the view and eat our lunch which consisted of noodles and chicken. Noodles have never been my faborite, so I finished up early and went for a walk further up river. The scenery just kept getting more and more spectacular and I think I got some nice shots?


The walk back and the boatride were the same in reverse. Stunning, but no wild life. Back at camp I was getting bored writting this so I took a walk among the fruit trees to see if I could get some good pictures of the many colorful song birds. Because no one was around, I was barefoot and in my underware, when all of a sudden Arimida, our host, pulled up in her golf cart and said, ” Get in. I want to show you something.” I protested, but she said I didn’t need shoes. Off we went down the grassy runway. Toward the end she got out and showed me all of the red howler monkeys playing in the trees. I had my camera and binoculars so it was a really magical event watching the four huge apes climbing among the branches. Then she said she would go back and get the others, and I should wait here. I felt silly standing in the middle of a field, barefoot and pant less, but the howlers constant antics quickly made me forget.


She returned in about 15 minutes with 3 of the others. They were amazed as was I. I loaned them my binoculars and they passed it around. I could hear the ohs and ahs, which, by the way, sounded the same in Dutch. One member was still missing so Armita went back in her golf car to fetch him. When she returned I could hear the same sounds coming from him. Then she loaded us up the golf cart and drove us through the forest to a set of three cabanas built right on the Kabalebo River. There was even a man made sandy beach. The whole scene looked so inviting I really wanted to stay there. I asked her the price, but I guess if you had to ask, you probably couldn’t afford it, so she told me she would have to look it up.

The howlers had followed us there, high above our heads we could see them clearly for almost an hour. What a treat. After our energetic day of hiking, but not seeing any wildlife, everyone couldn’t thank her enough. It seemed like the rich people’s cabanas were a magnet for wildlife, as we just kept spotting animal, birds, insects and flowers. I thought to myself, right there the whole trip was worth it!

Day 4
Kabalebo Resort
This morning it was foggy, but not rainy, so I thought that I would try to follow the same path we had taken last night. It was a long and beautiful walk, but except for a small aguite, some pretty song birds and butterflies I did not see much.

Today we are going on a kayak trip to the waterfall. It seems that we only have to paddle downstream, as they will pick us up and take us back up stream. I might have missed something in the translation, so I will just have to go with the flow! We arrived at the dock at about 9:30am. A very civilized hour, I thought. They had two kayaks ready for us five. It was decided that I would sit in the middle of the kayak that held three people so I could take pictures and not paddle. I think that I was the only one who ever has paddled a kayak, but that didn’t seem to matter, or somehow got lost in the translation ( that happens a lot lately ). As we were going downstream no one needed to paddle very hard, and the current seemed to keep us going in a fairly straight manner. So all was good. Two lonely boats paddling down the Kabalebo River with not a guide in sight. We continued for about an hour leisurely watching the Surinese jungle pass us by. Then our guides sped ahead of us, pulled over to the bank and waited for us to arrive at one of those landing spots that didn’t look like we could ever make it up the steep slope, but we did.


After walking for about a half and hour threw the forest we came to a great set of waterfalls. Short, but beautiful. There was a nice pool at the bottom that I was really looking foward to getting in and cooling off. I started to take off my shirt when I was told, “You can’t get in der, it’s filled wild caimans. You can swim up der.” after climbing up “der” it was only a foot or so deep so swimming I would not be doing, but I did sit down in one of the small waterfalls while the rest of the tourists took pictures of me.


We arrived back at camp in time for lunch. Afterward I went for another walk to see if I could find the howler monkeys, and I did. That is, I spotted two small ones, until I got distracted by a beautiful red headed woodpecker. When I was done missing getting photos of him, I never was able to find the monkeys again. Ok, I thought, it’s not like it’s a zoo!

So I have the rest of today, all day tomorrow and a half of day the next. How DO I feel about my adventure in Nature Resort Kabalebo. I feel like I am at a transition I my adventure travel. I am too old to continue to rough it with the young backpacker crowd, but I am to young and fit and not wealthy enough to travel with the more elderly and affluent Eco-Resort all inclusive package deal crowd. By in large the majority of people visiting Kabalebo are fairly well off. The have traveled to many resorts like this in all parts of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a warm bed with someone changing the sheets daily, three beautifully cooked meals, and organized tours to visit all that this area place has to offer. Places that if I was doing it the more funky way, I would probably never have been able to see, but there must be something in the middle. I don’t know what it is, but I will keep looking for it. In the mean time this sure is one beautiful and special place. A true dream come true.
Happy 65th Birthday, Peter!

Day 5
Kabalebo Resort
Today being our last full day here Armita, out young Surinese host suggested that since we had had so much rain that climbing Misty Mountain might not be such a good idea. I really didn’t want to do it anyway so l said I couldn’t agree more. Then I asked what she had in mind? “Why not take a 7 hour boat ride on the Kabalebo River. Way past were you have been. There have only been four other trips to that area.”

We quickly agreed, so at 9am we were all ready to pile into our dugout for the day. Again, it was the 5 of us, with 2 boatman, one in front and the other in back and of course our young guide. It started to rain almost as soon as we took off, but it was the misty kind that was more refressing than annoying. We motored for about two hours, hit a small set of rapids and then turned down a much narrower tributary where we cut the motor and then just slowly drifted for another hour or so. Both boatmen amused themselves by fishing using just a stick with a hook on the end of a short string. Each one caught several good sized fish including some piranhas. That was really exciting, and we all too turns taking photos of them with their catch.



The girls decided that they had to pee, so the boat pulled over to the shore. Once again, it was a very precarious spot to try to get out of the boat. I spotted a small flat beachy area just across the river, but again my suggestions fell on deaf ears. Once everyone was relieved and back in the boat, we drifted for maybe just five more minutes when we pulled over again. Only this time it was rocky instead of muddy, and much flatter. This is where we were to have lunch. It was at a junction of two rivers with a nice set of picturesque rapids. What a perfect setting to spend about an hour munching on cold rice and chicken while gazing out at the magnificent view. We all really I joyed our time there and agreed that it was one of the best spots we had seen in Kabalebo.


Coming back the sun was out in full force. So strong that I put on some sunscreen. Almost as soon as I had finished the sky opened up and it continued to rain until we got back to camp. Half way there our front boatsman started to rant. First gently, then later loudly and more violently. He didn’t seem to be yelling at anyone in particular, and I blew it off as best as I could until he picked up his long machete. I was third in line, and I had visions of him cutting off heads to get to me. Fortunetly, he put down the machete, but continued to gesture violently until we reached camp. We all quickly scampered out of the boat lest we be the first headless tourist. The rain continued until we reached our rooms. Then it stopped. Go figure! Still it was quite an send off. I think the rain just added to the adventure.

Here is a picture of “Freddy Kruger” Suriname style returning in the rain with his machete.


And here is a photo of my fellow adventure travelers who were all Dutch, but so graciously included me in on almost all Dutch conversations by constantly translating into English.


Day 6, last day
Kabalebo Resort, then back in Paramaribo
Sitting back in my somewhat dingy room at the Guesthouse Twenty4. The jungle almost seems like a dream. It’s early in the morning and I have some pretty good itching going on. I have enough medicine to start my own pharmacy, but I can remember the decision back in texas to leave the anti-itch creme behind. I think I will go off for a walk, see if I can find a pharmacy, and then maybe some breakfast. After that, change some money, look for an umbrella, and then hopefully off to see if I can find another adventure

Guesthouse Twenty4
Paramaribo, Suriname
Well I did all of the things on my list. As soon as I left the Guesthouse it started to rain, so I was happy to see umbrellas hanging in a little food store. “Five Suriname dollars! How could you go wrong with that?” The only thing made cheaper than the bag I bought is, you guessed it, the umbrella. You should be able to at least get 5 minutes worth of use before it breaks, but oh, no this one comes apart AS you pull it out of it plastic protective case. And I wasnt the only fool who bought one of these. If it hadn’t been raining so hard I would had shot a picture of the crowd struggling to the cover from completely blowing away. Fortunetly, it was not tha windy, so we all pretended like it was doing something to keep us dry.


After that I headed out to STINASU offices to see if I could find another tour. The we’re ver nice and worked with me for over an hour. We almost found something, but. Would have had to leave tomorrow morning, and find somewhere to buy a bottle of rum to give to the chief of some small village we were going to visit. By the way, the agent said, he has been dead for two months so it doesn’t have to be the best rum you can find. As tempting as tha sounded, I thought I might see what my othe options were, so I headed over to the complete opposite end of town to the METS offices. They are the one who booked my trip to Kabalebo. Again, they worked with me for over an hour. I am meeting some guy named Andre, in a bar tonight who will take me on a 4 day trip to a remote place in Suriname. I’ll let you know the details, when I do.

Shit, time to go meet him and it’s raining. Time try to open up the umbrella!

But I noticed on my walk home that the streets were literally littered with broken umbrellas that people had just in disgust thrown into the gutter.


02 Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir

The page was getting a little long so. Thought that I would start a new page. Look for a post when I return to Paramaribo on the 25th. I am looking forward to a good adventure. Here is a picture of the local Parbo bier. It’s pretty tastey!


Day 1
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
How does one even begin to describe a day like today. I guess that I just have to start at the beginning. I packed my small bag this morning and left a few things in the storage locker at the Guest House Twenty4. I took a taxi to the STINASU offices where my ride was to take me along with four others to the park. Yes, I decided to take a charted taxi instead of public transportation. I got there 45 minutes early. Everything was locked up tighter than a drum, but I wasn’t worried–much. To my surprise a 4 wheel drive pickup showed up about 15 minutes early. The driver said get in, and I said where are the other passengers? “They not coming!”, was all he said, so I climbed in the “front seat” for the four hour drive to the park. Lucky me!

After leaving the hectic city behind we hit lowland scrub forrest which just seemed to go on forever. After about two hours we turned onto a red clay road. It got progressively worse as we climbed the mountain and got closer to the park. At one point it seemed like a red muddy sea of a highway filled with huge puddles. We spun our tires furiously trying to get a hold to move foward. Then my driver did something unusual. He let the truck bang into the hig banked muddy wall to our right all the while gunning the motor at top speed. Mud showered the air behind us and I could smell and see our smoking transmission mix with the moist foggy air. Moving the steering wheel violently from side to side we eventually started to move foward. It was really quite exciting.


We pulled into camp where there was a cluster of run downbuildings. The one we stopped in front of was the worst. It had a metal roof and no sides. I could see 3 or 4 hammocks suspended form the rafters. This was to be my home for the next 3 nights. I couldn’t deal with setting up “camp” at that moment so I dropped off my bag and food and took off to explore my new domain.

There were some cabins for rent, but I was happy that I had only spent $10.00 per night as opposed to $100 for one of those. The whole place just had a musty falling down neglected look to it, and the guys that worked there didn’t seem to take any interest in any of the tourists that arrived–including me. I guessed that the weren’t paid very well.

I slowly walked back to the camp and began to try to hang up my hammock. Remember I did not get any rope. I had some very thin, but strong parachute cord. I doubled it over and hung the hammock from them. I was just about to try it out when a group of Surinese/Indians pulled up in a jeep. Out got a whole family who moved over to the other hammocks. When they saw me start to get in, one of them came over and said that they were leaving and would I like one of their ropes. You betcha! I did. As I was hanging the new ropes they asked if I wanted a glass of wine. I looked at my watch, it was almost the exact time when Kim and I would have our wine, pastatio, and music afternoon. As I sipped red wine from a plastic cup I saluted my wife and hoped she was doing the same back in Texas. I inquired if I should hang my mosquito net, but I was told that there were NO mosquitos at night. Many people don’t know this, the elder went on, but because of the extreme cold at night here there are no mosquitos. I silently wondered how I was going to stay warm with a tropical sleeping bag, and no long sleeved shirt. Hey I reasoned, we’re almost on the equator, how cold could it get?

Now it was time to take my first jungle walk. At first I just wondered around camp in circles. What few signs there were, were all marked in Dutch. Each word seemed to have a minimum of 18 letters, with most of them vowels. They had given me one of the poorest maps I have ever see back at the STINASU offices. I assumed I would get a better one at the camp, but when I inquired I was told there are no maps. I headed back to my camp and retrieved the once thought useless map.

Map in hand I headed to Leoval (Leo Falls). The STINASU handout had said that it was 55 minute round trip with a difficulty level of “reasonable, with some steep parts.” seemed like just the perfect place to begin. The first part of the trail followed the red clayroad, which had huge puddles that extended from end to end. Then I saw a small yellow sign that said Leoval. Into the jungle I headed. It was amazing just how many people were on the trail. I had almost forgot that it was Sunday and Chinese New Years to boot. All of them were Dutch and many of them had huge cameras, not unlike mine. As the trail narrowed, and the jungle closed in on me I got my first up and personal look at my surrounding. Huge tall trees swayed in the afternoon breeze. There were hanging llanos making for a natural jungle gym look. The birds were singing, each one with their own beautiful, but repetitious song.. Off in the distance I could hear the growling of some kind of monkey. Oh boy! The trail started to get steep enough that I was glad I had brought my adjustable walking stick. At the top of the stick, I fashioned a mount to steady my camera under the dark jungle canopy.

After walking for about an hour I started to hear the rumble of thunder off in the distance. Hey, I thought its the rain forest. What did I expect. I came to a very steep incline. One that in places I had to sit on my butt in the mud to negotiate. Gingerly I got to the bottom, carefully not to break anything important. And there it was. A small but beautiful waterfall crashing down on the rocks about 100 feet below. I started to take out my camera, but instantly, and I do mean instantly the the tropical down pour started and I had to scramble to get out my semi-waterproof jacket with a hood. Before I could put it on I was soaked. I just stood there watching the jungle around me as heavy rain continued. I thought I would wait it out as I really felt, after all that, that I needed to get a photograph of the waterfall. It took about an hour for it to let up. By then, not only was I soaked, but so was the forrest around me which continued drip long after the rain finished. I think I got some good shots. Even if I didn’t it was a great experience sitting there under a tropical downpour watching the waterfall get progressively larger and larger.


Finally, it was time to head back. When I got back to the road I wasn’t sure of which was to go, so I just used my common sence. That’s never worked for me before, so why should it work now. The road just ended in a huge pile of trees and limbs which covered the road from end to end. I guessed I had made a mistake and walked the other way only to find that it was the way back to town, so I turned around again. Then I heard the chainsaws. Looking at my watch, and seeing that it would get dark in just an hour or so, I frantically waved and shouted at the chainsaw guy. He motioned for me to go around. I looked at the impenetrable jungle and thought no way. Then he showed up with his machete and cleard a path for me. On the otherside there were a line of cars waiting for him to clear the road. Aha, I thought my sence of directions are good after all.

Day 2
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
Well, it really did get quite cold last night. I had on every piece of clothing I brought and still by morning I was damned cold. Despite the temperature, I managed to sleep till 7:30am. There is a little restaurant here. Again, open air on all sides except at the back where the kitchen was, and believe me I use that term loosely. Breakfast was ok, but Rocky, the owner, turned out to be a very nice guy. There were a couple of young French girls there, one was from French Guiana and the other was her friend visiting her from France. The four of us had a very pleasant breakfast with some good conversation, which fortunetly for me had to be in English. While we were eating, Rocky brought out some dried bread and fhen fed some kind of exotic guina looking hens (grey winged strumpit birds) and a bunch of rodent looking animals (agutis) were also there.



After breakfast I went back to camp, took off my dry clothes and put on my wet ones from yesterday’s walk. Of course they hadn’t dried out yet. It was uncomfortable to initially put them on, but in the heat and high humidity, I got used to them pretty quick. This time I decided to hike to the Koemboeval ( Koemboe Falls). The little handout said it was a moderate walk, but that’s not what I would call it. It was a fairly easly walk, until I had to decend down to the falls. Within a few minutes I had fallen twice and was breathing like a man getting ready to have a heat attack. Once I made it there, after walking for almost two hours, the falls were kind of a disappointment. I guess that that was just because there wasn’t much water. However, the surrounding jungle was increadable. I tried to find a flat spot to eat my lunch, but that proved impossible to find. After I ate my lunch, gingerly balancing on on butt cheek, I spotted a way to get to the bottom of the falls. Shit!, I thought I should have saved lunch. By now I smelled so bad the I think I found the answer to why I was hiking all alone.

Day 3
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
Early this morning I was awoken to a deafening roar. It was still dark out, but the lion like roar, which was just overhead, I knew to be howler monkey. Although at 5:00am it was a little early, what an alarm clock!


What a difference a day makes. Today , since it was to be my last full day, I decided to take the longest and most difficult hike; to Wittiekreek (Witti Creek). It was 3.8 kms each way and was almost all downhill. At the end was supposed to be a fabulous place to take a dip, but I had heard that propaganda line before.

Rocky doesn’t start serving breakfast until 8:30 am. I brought my own coffee and truthfully it is still pretty dark in the mountains at 8 anyway. After a hearty round of egg sandwiches for only 17.50 Suri ($5.38 US), Rocky heard baboons as they call them here (really red howler monkeys). They were a little too far away to photograph effectively, but I shot off a few pictures and then watched them as they chased each other through the tree tops. I wondered if it was the same troop I heard this morning?

I packed up my things and headed off downhill. It was an amazing thing that all of the “old man” aches and pains that I had frustratedly felt on all of the other walks just seem to disappear. I mused to myself that I figured I would “really” be sore today. Nice surprise, but my mission wasn’t not to hike, but to photograph. So I took my time descending, stopping to take a photo of what ever interested me. Although there were no animals to photograph, I found plenty else that was interesting. For example there were some huge mold spores that almost looked alien, and gigantic trees that had were split wide open and fell to the jungle floor. There also were trees of massive proportions, and vines that twisted like pretzels into all kinds of unusual shapes.



I was using my camera in totally manual mode, and, whenever I could, I used my makeshift monopod/walking stick to steady the shots under the dark jungle canopy. I guess what I am saying is that after 3 hours I had only gone 3 kms, but remember it was straight downhill and the middle of the day. I had already completely sweated threw my clothing — including my hat! It was time to head home, even if that meant missing the possibility of refreshing dip in the creek that was still over an hour away. Up I went!

The trip up was not nearly as much fun as the one down, but still I got off some pretty good shots. I even posed myself in front of some of the largest trees. Back at camp, I was completely covered in dirt and sweat, but a very happy camper. After I showered and washed out my clothes I sat down in my hammock for a much deserved rest. As I swung back and forth the emotion of just where I was caught up with me. Here I was in the middle of the Surinamese jungle fulfilling a dream that I have had for years. I smiled and thought that I had only been gone 1 week. I still had 3 weeks to go!

Day 4, last day
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
It’s Raining in the Rain Forest
It has been raining steadily since 6pm yesterday. It finally quit at about 6 this morning. What did I expect? I rained so hard last night that I couldn’t make it to Rocky’s Restaurant for breakfast. Good thing I had brought along some salami, cheese and crackers, yum! A little Tang to wash it down, and now that is a complete meal.

Later that same day
And now I am back in downtown Paramaribo. Changed rooms to one with a private bath. It was an extra $7, but what the hey I am worth it. Just picked us a cold Parbo Bier, took a shower and video Skyped Kim. Being in the jungle just seems like a dream, and now, instead of hearing tropical birds signing, I only hear the occasional car speeding up the street. Oh, well, in three more days I will be back in the jungle!


Back in Paramaribo at the Guesthouse Twenty4
Right around the corner from here is the Nas Kip Golden Fried Chicken place. It always seems to be filled with locals, so I thought I might as well take a chance. I was really jungry. When I walked in I could not understand one word on the menu. I thought to myself how hard could it be to get a couple of pieces of chicken in a place that only sold chicken, but I did not have a clue where to start. The pretty young girl behind the counter must have sensed that something was up as she said, “Kan ik u helpen?” Oh no, I thought I am never going to get fried chicken, but instead I replied, in my best non-Dutch, “I just want chicken. Please can you help me, do you have chicken?” It must have worked, because she started pointing out the things on the menu by using her fingers. One finger, two finger, when she got to three I shouted, “Ja!” That seemed to work, because she rang up the order, then stopped and added, “Wil je iets te drinken?” I got the drink part, so like a pro I replied, “Ja Coke.” I knew the bill was going to be under 20 seri dollars, so when she said, “Zestien vijftig, dan kunt u”, I just handed her a 20. Pretty slick, huh?
Back in my room, feeling proud of myself, as I devoured the greasy chicken, surprised I thought, “Hey, it tastes like chicken!”


Almost every afternoon the sky fills up with spectacular storm clouds. Here I am having a Parbo Bier at the sea wall watching the sky become more threatening. That’s all it turned out to be as it never did rain, but what a show!


01 Suriname Here I Come

Suriname Journal

Pipe Creek, TX
This is on one of our wine and pastatio afternoons. We are listening to music. Kim is quietly reading her Kindle on the couch. Each day around 4:00 pm. we do our little ritual.

I am trying to get a handle on just where I am going to go once I leave on my trip, so I have been reading the Lonely Planets Guide to Suriname. There aren’t many pages, just about 10, so although it is an easy read, it is also frustrating tha there is not too much information. I kind of have to read between the pages.

Pipe Creek, TX
Well it is the first of the year and I leave in 2 weeks. Time to get serious! I took my first big step toward my trip today. I got a haircut. Oh, not just any haircut. A buzz cut. Military style. After all I am going off to the South American jungles. I ask you, does anyone really need hair on the equatorial border? It seems like it is just a place for sweat to gather. For bugs to crawl around in. Or even for natives to quizzically tug on when they first meet you. No sir! Not me. You can see my shinny scalp. I am ready for the unknown. I am ready to tussle with the gators, with the boas… Mumm, not really, but hopefully I will be more comfortable? At least it is one less part of my body that I will have to wash. That IS something, isn’t it?

Pipe Creek, Tx
Well this just goes to show that things can change in just a moment in time. First I was burning this huge pile of trees that had accumulated on our property. That was because for the last almost year we have had drought conditions with a perpetual burn ban ineffective. Anywho, I hurt my back pushing and pulling on the top of the gigantic pile. Hey, that will slow you down. By the next day it had worsened so that I was taking multiple tablets of aspirin and now i was was really slowed down. Today, I feel a little better, but still not 100%. Guess I’ll just have to be a couch potato for one more day!

Pipe Creek, TX
I had wanted to lose some weight before my trip, but I now see the error of my ways. I am now down to 195, that’s down from a full 200 almost a month ago. I wanted to get to my jungle fighting weight on a cool 190, but with a little over a week to go it doesn’t look like it is going to happen. I am in pretty good shape despite the extra weight, so that is something, and my haircut makes me look like I am in even better shape than I am. Nice illusion!

Pipe Creek, TX
I have been on a hunt for the perfect day pack. I have one that I have been using for years. I bought it at Walmart for $16.00. Hardly the quality that one should take on a Suriname jungle expedition. I have been in every outdoor shop in San Antonio. I have scoured the travel sites looking for just the perfect pack. Finally, with just a week to go, I had to let it go. There seemed to be something wrong with every pack when I compared it to my Walmart pack. So I just had to say to myself, why not just talk what you already have?

So yesterday I spent the morning stitching on “D” rings to the bottom of my $16 Walmart bag so I could secure my sleeping bag to the bottom of the pack. Fortunately, since it doesn’t actually say Walmart anywhere I the pack, I think my secret will be safe from the Surinese natives.

Pipe Creek, TX
Well, what a difference a day makes. I got in the car yesterday to go to the city to work out at Gold’s Gym and then to return some X-mas presents at Target. I put my Suriname/Walmart, recently modified pack, next to me. There it was. Aw, shit! The zipper was split! Now what was I going to do? And after all that work.

There is some good new in this. I weighed myself at the gym and there it was. 192.5 lbs. Not bad! What was even better, was when I finished swimming and weighed myself naked. I know, I know that that is cheating, but still it said, 188. Can you believe it? I didn’t, but as I made my way though traffic to Target I had just a little hint of a smile on my face. Enough gloating, if i had had any disipline, I thought, I really should be down to 180 by now.

At Target I found the PERFECT daypack. A SwissGear pack with huge zippers. These bad boy are never going to break! Of couse now I needed to remove the “D” rings from my other pack and sew them on my new one, but I reasoned that this was a pack that would last me years and years.


Pipe Creek, TX
I am making the final plans to leave. I’ve got my clothes all picked out and I have a ton of little plastic clear baggies filled with everything I could possibly need while I’m gone. I have yet to try to put everything actually in my pack. I’m going to save that little surprise until tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Pipe Creek, TX
I am up very early this morning. Woke up at 3:30 am and just started thinking about all of the things that I have to do before I leave tomorrow morning. My head was spinning with nonsense, so in the end the mind won and I got up to have a cup of coffee. I guess I am more excited about my adventure than I had thought.

San Antonio Airport
Sitting here waiting to take off on my first leg of the journey I have time to reflect on some words of wisdom given to me by family. The first bit of advise was given to me by my sister, Mary Ellen. When I told her where I was going her first comment was, “Why the hell do you want to do THAT?” But, later, in a much more lengthy email, after she had done some research on Suriname, she said that, “I suggest you pass up the Galabi Nature Reserve as I think you have probably seen enough turtles. Also pass up Mt. Kastikasima. It is WAY too much work. And for a treat for yourself. I would defiantly not pass up the De Waag Restaurant.” Seems to me like all very sound advice and I thank you for it.

Next came my bother Wayne. He called me last night to wish me a bonvoyage, and as we were hanging up, he imparted this little bit of wisdom. “You know that little voice in the back of your head that says, right before you are getting ready to do something, that it might be a really stupid and dangerous thing to do. I hope you listen to it!” As I get older, that little bit of knowledge has become one that I probably should pay more attention to. Thanks Big Brother.

The final words of wisdom came from my lovely wife, who as we were driving into the airport at o’dark thirty this morning suddenly broke the lack of sleep induced hypnotic stare to say, “When ever a dicey situation arises I want you to ask yourself, ‘Is this an OPPURTUNITY or a SIGN?'” I wish you were with me to help give me perspective when such an occurrence happens, but at least I will always have that mantra playing in the back of my mind. I love you dearly


I am on my way to my fourth stop, Trinadad. We got off to a late start. The plane now will get in at about midnight. There, hopefully, a guy named Lionel will meet me. He says he will have a sign with my name on it. I’ll believe it when I see it.

He was supposed to be my taxi driver and proprietor of the hotel where I am going to stay. Yesterday he emailed me to let me know that his establishment was all full up and he would be taking me to another one somewhere else. Again, we shall see what transpires.

I finally got to the hotel of Miss Denise’s around 12:30am last night. It was a much longer trip from the airport to Port of Spain, the capital of Trinadad. I think that was in large part because my taxi driver an Miss Liesel took me on the scenic tour. I thought about asking, but in the end I just went along for the ride as she pointed out all of the cities highlights along the way. ” Oh, look mon, der be da most butipul view ob our city.” I looked out the window to see that we were high up on a winding hillside road with a magnificent view of the city below with all of the lights you could ever want.

When we finally arrived at my new hotel it looked like really nothing more than a home in a residential part of town. The electic gates whirled open and Miss Denise was waiting for us in the short overcrowded driveway even though it was after 1 am. My driver promised to pick me up again tomorrow at 5:30pm. I wanted to know why we needed to leave that early if my flight didn’t leave until 9:30pm, but the only answer I got was, “traffic!”

We walked straight through the front door and into Miss Denise’s dining room where I filled out the card and paid her the $50 US. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that my room looked exactly like a hotel room, complete with motel style pictures on the wall. It was actually a step up from the Motel 6ish that I have grown accustomed to.

The main bummer is that I need to be out of the room by 11 am and Miss Liesel will pick me up at 5:30.

It’s 10 am and I can already feel the morning heat. I just finished my shower, but feel like I should take another one before I take my walk to explore Port of Spain.

Later this day in the same place,
Well, I have walked just about everywhere there is to go in Port of Spain. At least everywhere that was safe to go. Now, I did not travel outside of the city, where I here there is some awesome beachs. I kinda wanted to do a walking tour. Boy am I tired. Probably sunburned too! It’s interesting, in almost 6 hours of walking around I only saw a handful of light skinned people, and I suspect that most of those were Latinos. Yet I drew almost no attention. Not even a sidewise glance.

Port of Spain is really pretty nice. It seems to be caught somewhere between a first and a third world country. A little too sufisticated for my taste. Like a grungy medium sized town the USA, or a really nice Mexican town. Everyone speaks English, and I had no trouble cashing American dollars.

There was one interesting story. I was all of the way downtown with still a few hours to go before I had to return. So I thought that I would go to the zoo. I had read in the Lonely Planet guide book that it was small, but nice. Well, apparently there is only one taxi that went in that direction. All of the others just wanted to take me on an expensive tour? When I found the one taxi, I asked him how much it would be to go to the zoo. He said I could pay him what ever I wanted. When I told him I wouldn’t get in unless he gave me a price, he said four dollars. I said how about two dollars in US. I knew that was more than double what he had asked, but hey, it was two dollars! He said OK, but when I got in the front seat the couple in the back seat started a huge commotion saying that he was a thief and that I should get out. The taxie driver told them to get out and they did. They kept yelling at him from the curb. As we drove off, I asked him what that was all about, and he replied that, “Those people were just trouble makers.”, he added, “What do you expect from Suriamese people.”

I quietly said, almost under my breath, that that was were I was headed later that day. I asked him if he had ever been to Suriname, and did he like it? He said he had and didn’t much care for it. There is really nothing there unless you are into nature. Mmm, maybe everything was going to be alright after all.


On my way to Suriname,
Same day, almost the next
Kim, after reading the last story, said that it was not an omen, but rather it is a sign. A sign that good things are going to come. Boy, I hope that she is right?

There was an interesting mix of people waiting to board the plane for Suriname. Some were unlike any that I have seen in the world. One guy, kinda butted in front of me as we were waiting to board the plane. He had on a cowboy hat, and a yellow suit jacke with blue jeans. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “You go ahead. Anybody that has the nerve to wear a yellow jacket on an international flight SHOULD go first.” he just smiled and moved ahead. I don’t think he got it? Wish I had taken his picture.

Paramaribo, Suriname
I arrived last night. It was almost 1:30 am before my head actually hit the pillow in my motel. An interesting thing happened with my motel reservation. I know that I would be arriving on Thursday, because the plane landed at midnight and it was an hour ride to town. At the time it made sence to make a reservation for Thursday, but, and this is a big but that you probably already know the answer to, technically it is a reservation for WedsDAY. Duh!

When I discovered the mistake I was obsessing about what I would do for a room? What if they were already booked up? The room came with free transportation to town. What if there was nobody to meet me at the airport? Fortunately, we had bought one of those international phones. It literally works everywhere in the word. What it does is it automatically switches to whatever cellular network is available at the time. The service is cheap and expensive athe the same time. There is no monthly charge, no service charge, BUT the per minute charge is fairly pricey. I consider it a very convenient emergency phone, and boy did I have an emergency. When our Carribean Airlines plane landed at the outdated Zanderij International Airport I noticed that my phone, once I turned it on, had switched to Digitel Cellular service. I simply called the motel an made a reservation. Fortunately, the desk clerk even said that there was a van already waiting at the airport to pick up some other guests. Problem solved for only $4.00 per minute!

One more side note. I couldn’t believe how many people arrived on the two planes that landed around midnight. The line to go through customs was huge. After standing in line for fifteen minutes the young man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know there is a special line for seniors?” I looked at the signs above customs counters and one clearly said, airplane personnel and over 60, and there were on two people in that line. I guess it pays to be old in Suriname!

In the morning I got up around 8:00am. I lounged around in bed till 8:30, and them made myself down to the restaurant for my free breakfast. I wasn’t going to miss that free perk, that came with my $69.00US room. It was the standard fair of coffee, scrambled eggs, toast and fried fish cakes. I am not real found of fish cakes for breakfast so I left that one on plate. It was amazing just how many people I heard speeding Dutch. Suriname used to be a colony of the Netherlands, but ofcourse now they have their independence. Still the national language is Dutch, Amsterdam Airlines flies directly here which makes it attractive to Dutch speakers. Fotunetly for me, most people speak at least a little English.

My guess was that most of these people came for the nature tours. We’re these aging well dressed tourists going to be the people I would be going with? Something else to worry about? Back in my room, I washed clothes in the sink. It’s amazing how quickly you can sweat through a wardrobe in the tropics. I couldn’t wait to get out to explore my new world. I have been dreaming and obsessing about this day for a long time.

As soon as I opened the door the heat and humidity hit me like a with wet slap in the face. I thought that I would also be washing out this outfit when I returned. The street in front was a sea of fast moving mini-cars. Getting across the street required patience and care. Hey I wasn’t in a hurry after all it was just the start of my month long vacation. I didn’t want to spend part of it in the emergency room. I wondered if they even had an emergency room.

As luck would have almost directly next door were the offices of STINASU, the second most reputable tour company in the country. I had a hard time actually finding the office as the door wasn’t clearly marked, but once I did I was greeted by a lovely local young lady who spoke perfect English. She ran through all of the tours, slowly one at a time letting me know all of my options on each. She explained that there was a minimum of four people and none were leaving directly, but she said I could always take a self tour to the Brownsberg Nature Park. I would take a bus to the small village at the end of the road and then they would arrange a 4 wheel drive transport for the rest of the way with them. I could stay in my hammock as many days as I wanted to. There were a couple of waterfalls within hiking distance of the Campanella lots of birds and animals to be seen. It sounded perfect. I almost booked it on the spot, but I didn’t. I took all of the information, thanked her and walked out into the heat.

Parbo, as the locals referred to Paramaribo, was everything I had hoped. It’s gritty and rough yet it has enough sofistication to be able to get anything you need done. Change money, buy a pair of socks, or get an interesting local meal, and I did all three. The Suriname River runs right threw downtown. It is wide and muddy and slow moving. They haven’t really made much use of it as a tourist attraction. It is just there. It appears and disappears depending on wether the road runs in front of a buildings or the river does. There is a nice little collections of open air restaurants that are right on the river wall. It was a great spot to stop and sit in the shade and have a local beer aptly called –Parbo.

My next stop was the bank. This would be my first time traveling without travelers checks. Instead I brought my newly acquired ATM card. First I stopped in the bank to change American dollars into Suriname dollars. It’s amazing how many pieces of paper are required just to cash cash for cash. Next I was off to the ATM. It worked like a champ spitting out 400 Surinese dollars. I mentally tried to calculate just how much that was in REAL money, (lets see there are 3.25SD to 1.00US) but after I figured it was over a hundred I lost interest.

By now I had done so much walking the bottom of me feet were starting to burn. Then I saw the mineret from the islamic temple right in front of me, and directly next to it was a Jewish synagogue. I think it is the only place in the world where they sit side by side. “Can’t we all just get a long?” As my eyes followed the souring spires I saw the sign directly accross the street for METS. METS is the number one tour company. I couldn’t let it pass and I hypmatically walked up the stairs and into the office. They young dark skinned girl didn’t speak as good of English as the other lady, but it was good enough to find just the perfect tour for me. Before I knew it I was handing over my credit card for a 6 day all inclusive tour to a place I had never even read about. She said that this was the place for a guy like me who was more interested in nature than visiting and staying in native villages. A bush plane would fly me, along with four others into the jungle to a place called Kabalebo Nature Resort where I would visit waterfalls, hike through the jungle and canoe down the river. SOLD! I was leaving on the 28th of Jan.

The next thing I needed to do was find a cheaper place to live


Paramaribo, Suriname
Guest House Twenty4
Well I found one, and I have indeed moved. Pretty big change from my last place where I had free breakfasts, air conditioning, and my own bathroom. None of these things exist at the Guest House Twenty4 where I have an open window and a floor fan to use any time I want. Of course there is only one outlet in the room so I can either plug in the light or fan. I wonder which I will chose tonight?

This morning I left my hotel to go for a walk. On a whim I stopped by the STINASU (Stitching Naturebehoud Suriname) where I decided to book a self tour. That is where I take a public 3 hour bus ride, they pick me up there and take me to the lodge where I use my own hammock, and take my own walks when and where I want. Three nights, non inclusive of anything ( isn’t that a double negative?) tour to the Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir. Lonely Planet guide book assures me that I will “…marvel at the strange contrast of primate filled forests surronding an endless artificial lake.” Norri my office helper also assured me that, “I would see lots and lots of monkeys.” That is just what I wanted to hear. I leave in just 2 nights.

The rest of the day I walked around town visiting the sites and taking photographs. I got much braver by taking out my camera even in what looked like some dicey situations. Little did I how that my camera card, newly purchased before I came on this trip (bad move), was about to loose some of my precious photos to the netherworld. Bummer, but on the positive side it was only about 25% of them. Probably the best!

After my walk I made it back to my room, packed up my things and took a $10.00 Suriname dollar ($3.00 US) taxi ride to what was going to be my new home, I hoped, for the rest of the month. Just as I got there, settled in on the veranda with a Parbo Bier the torrential rains started. It was quite lovely being protected by the large overhang while the river, which was right under the balconey began to fill up with water.



Later this same day,
It’s really not too bad here, and at a third the price I am a happy camper. Besides I am only here for two nights and them I am in Browsburg for three nights, I return back here for just a few more days and then I leave again for another adventure. This time for eight day! However, tomorrow will be filled up with looking for provisions for this first trip. I have already started a list. A rope to hang the hammock and mosquito net is first, followed by a pocket knife, at gallon of water, and then some food to eat for four days. Do I see a lot of crackers in my future? I think that there is the possibility of some meals there, but I am not sure how expensive it will be, or how plentiful. I have stollen a role of toilet paper from the Eco Motel, so that is taken care of.

When I came back after my walk, I downloaded all of the pictures that I had taken so far to my iPad. I was worried about the 25% that I had lost because of the bad SD card for my camera. It was really closer to 75%! I changed the card and marked it bad. Maybe when I get home I can use some kind of rescue software to get them back? At least it’s early on.

So later on this evening I tried to revisit some of the places I had photographed early in the morning. The light was perfect for picture taking. Huge storm clouds dotted the horizen, but alas it looked like the bad element had hit the streets so that I didn’t feel very safe whenever I took out my large SLR camera. After a while I just left it in the bag and headed home. Tomorrow will be another day.



Still at the Guest House Twenty4
Shopping trip problem 2, 3 and 4 solved, but what happened to number 1? That was rope to hang my hammock. Looks like I will have to brave the central market again looking for rope.
This morning I was determined to try to finish my shopping trip for tomorrows adventure. I had an interesting breakfast at the Guest House, which is probably better if I don’t get into it, but let’s just say that there was fish AND coffee involved.

First I had to hit the ATM. By now, that’s my second visit, I was a champ. The machine just spit out 800 Suriname Dollars without saying a word.

With money burning a whole in my pocket I headed out to the central market, called Waterkant. Today is Saturday, so it was a sea of activity. It didn’t look like a place I should bring out my camera, so I didn’t. Carefully negotiating the cars, peoples, garbage and broken chunks of concrete, I made my way along asking anyone who looked intelligent if the knew where I might buy a pocket knife. Blank stares followed by a lot of pointing. No one spoke English, so that made communicating a little more difficult, but I got good at making a sawing motion with one of my fingers pretending to cut my other wrist. People seemed to understand, but still they were of no help, so I just kept walking in and out of booths and open stores making a sawing motion and asking for a “pocket knife”. Finally, one Indian looking elderly lading dressed in a sari, said, ” Uh, poki neefee!” she directed me to a counter where there were an assortment of cheap table knifes. So although I didn’t buy anything from her, I now knew the word “poki neefee!” i felt impowered! Twenty or so stores later I walked into a bakery, and low and behold there was my ” poki neefee.” It was cheaply made, and cheap. I pointed and told the proprietor what I wanted. Then, just as I was about to pay, out of the corner of my eye, right next to the fishy rolls was an electrical adaptor that would let me plug in my fan AND my iPad at the same time. No more difficult choices for me!

With the difficult purchases made from here on it was just a shopping trip. Except, shit, when I got home i found that I had forgoten the hammock ropes. Please don’t make me go back out there! What, an answer to my prayer. It’s a huge tropical downpour. Noone can go out in that! Think I’ll just try to Skype my wife.