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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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
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.