05 Suriname to Tabago

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02/12/2012
Suriname to Trinidad and onto Tobago,

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It was very strange sleeping alone in this huge water park. There was other people in the park, but I never saw them. I had arranged for a taxi to take me to the airport, with a pickup time of 4am, but I was nervous that no one one would show up, and of course there would be no one to call at that hour. In the end he came on time, but that didn’t stop me from getting up at 1:30am, tossing around till 2:30am, and then just saying what the hell and getting up.

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Sleeping in my own hammock and tropical sleeping bag is a trick that I have not fully mastered. You have to stand up and pull your sleeping up around you, like you were going to do a sack race. Then you flop into you hammock hoping that you don’t miss the narrow opening in the fabric. Once in, you have to wiggle around until you are on a diagonal, and then you have to figure out how to get comfortable, and hopefully you remembered to go to the bathroom!

The air was still and humid. There were lights on in the park and across the water. I could see the shimmering reflections in the water. It was such a beautiful, yet unusual, almost surrealistic finish to my trip to Suriname, and so I had time to reflect on my travels. I couldn’t believe I was there, and I couldn’t believe that I was going. A lot of time when I have been on vacation, toward the end I have been wishing I was home in my own warm bed. This trip hasn’t been like that. Oh, it was hard, and rainy, and hot and humid. I’ve been soaked for hours on end. My butt hurt from long hours of being bumped around on a wooden plank in either a boat or the back of a pickup truck. Thank heavens for my inflatable seat! And I still have some unknown bites on my elbow, knee, and back that itch like crazy even after two weeks. But there was something about this trip. There were also a lot of things that were disappointing, like where the hell ARE the animals?

Suriname is a country of contrasts. There is just about every race and religion living together in harmony. Do you know that Paramaribo is the only place in the world where a mosque sits happily next to a synagogue? Where a white Dutch guy marries a dark skinned bush negro, and Indians from India run tours filled with old white people around the jungle. And these people are proud of their diversity. Rodney King should come here. His infamous saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” can be answered here by, “Yes we can–in Suriname!”

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So I was delighted and disappointed, with my trip. It was a perfect 65th birthday present! Excuse me because I think I am going to cry now! I hope the other passengers on the plane don’t see me?

02/12/2012
Day 1
Kia’s Hotel Across from the Beach
Tobago
Well the hotel IS across from the beach, but you have to walk a half of a block down to be able to get passage to it. Once you get there it is a beautiful blue Caribbean beach, but pretty touristy. Nice for a walk, or a quick swim, maybe some people watching while sipping a Carib Beer, but not the kind that makes you want to spend the whole day.

My room is very nice and clean with a nice patio and a green front yard. In front, right on the main street sits a nice little open air restaurant.

02/13/2012
Day 2
Kia’s Hotel Across from the Beach
Tobago

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Today I rented a car and decided to drive around the island. As soon as I picked up the car, the first thing I noticed is that it is awkward driving on the wrong side of the road. Having the steering wheel on the right should compensate, but I think it makes it even a little bit harder. Fortunately, as I started off down the side street I clipped another car with my passengers side mirror. That let me know that I needed to leave even more room on that side. Lucky lesson.

The second thing I realized, was something that I used to do many years ago, and that is, instead of booking a room when you arrive in a foreign country, just rent a car. Then drive around until you find the perfect spot, get the room and then return the car. I remembered that as I drove around the island and kept saying to myself, ” I’d stay there!” or “There” or , well you get it. Kia’s Hotel was a convenient thing to do when booking from Suriname, but there are oh, so many better choices.

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Anyway, I soon adapted to the driving thing and was amazed just how lush and beautiful the island is. You know, both Suriname and Tobago are lush and green, but Suriname’s green is kind of a dank, and dark and a forbidding scary kind of color green. Whereas Tobago’s green is light and bright and happy. It just makes you smile.

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So I drove from exotic beach to exotic beach for almost the whole day. Some of the beaches you could only see from high above, and others you drove right next to. I stopped at each one and took a few photos. Hopefully I got some good shots? Another thing that amazed me was that I had visions of that perfect beach bar with sandy floor serving local Carib Lager beer. I didn’t find even one place to have a beer. What is it with these people? I picked the one place in a small beach town that had a beer sign out front only to find that he was out of beer. I didn’t get a beer until I returned to the town I started in.

Nice day! Tomorrow I am going to take an all day snorkeling trip to, what I hope to be some pretty spectacular viewing.

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02/14/2012
Day 3, Last day
Kia’s Hotel Across from the Beach
Tobago

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Well, as with all, else the snorkeling trip turned out to be something other than what I had expected. Some good, some bad–just like my trip. Here, as in most places in this part of the work, you contract with one guy, and then you get shuffled around to various other guys/companies. My guy, Evans from Bluewaters Tours, after collecting my $80 US, handed me off to another guy, who drove me to the edge of a mangrove swamp, where a full boat of tourists was waiting for me. I had my doubt that this was going to be a first class snorkeling tour, when I saw that most of the boat was filled with parents with their small children. Unless they were midgets, I reasoned, this was probably not going to be my dream snorkeling trip.

I boarded the boat, and sat in the only space available, in front, which was not under the shade. I didn’t need the shade, because it almost immediately started to rain.. We headed out to sea in a large wooden boat with twin 75hp engines in the rear. We hadn’t gone 100 feet , when he stopped and told us that this is where we were going to return for lunch. I was already beginning to obsess over that fact of another lost opportunity. Trying to calm myself, and just be in the moment, I listened to Steven explain, that we would be stopping at two, maybe three places to snorkel. He started up the boat again, and out to sea we headed. He explained just how lucky we were to have such a beautiful calm day, but the huge swells breaking over the boat instilled fear in a good part of the audience. One lady from Japan was already starting to get sick. Steven just kept pushing on along the coast. After 30 minutes of this punishment we were told that we would be stopping here to snorkel. What, where? “Just jump out of the boat,” he said. I looked at the setup and thought to myself, even though this was an incredibly dangerous situation– there wasn’t even a ladder– perhaps the snorkeling would be great.

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I jumped in to find cloudy seas with some minor coral patches, and a variety of small tropical fish. I couldn’t wait for the rest, as they were taking their time. As I swam away from the boat, I heard, “No way, Dad, I’m not getting in there!” The snorkeling was marginal at best. About half the boat finally got in the water. By that time I was done. Steven had put out a ladder by now and I used it to get back in the boat. Ten minutes later, so was every one else, and we moved out again breaking through the rolling waves.

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About an hour later we hit another spot, this time close to land. Land was a jaggedly outcropping of black boulders plunging into the sea. No beach diving for us. Again, Steven told us to get out and enjoy ourselves. I did, and it was the same, cloudy water, lots of dead coral and a profusion of medium sized tropical fish. I had a pretty good time swimming around in the sea. It felt good to be out there. The water was fairly warm, and it had stopped raining, but it was still cloudy above and below the water line. I could see that more people were now braving entry into the water, and I could hear the shrieks as each person hit the water.

We continued to follow this same senario for the rest of the afternoon, ending up at about 3:30pm on the beach for lunch and drinks. So that was that. Riding in the boar along the coast grave a great view of the island. A completely different view from what I had seen yesterday. Once again nothing was as expected, but somehow it still turned out to be fun. Just like the rest of the trip.

Back at my room I packed, took a shower and got a good evenings rest. I have a 1:30am flight so I had to get up at 11:00pm having slept a good solid 4 hours.

02/15/2012
Pipe Creek, TX 78063
And so, after more than 20 hours of traveling, I find myself in my own bed and in my own wife’s arms. Truly, there is no place like home. As the reality of all of the responsibilities that I have shirked by being gone for a month set in, Suriname and the jungle just seem like they are light years away. Except of course for the intense jungle itching that I still have, and continues to drive me crazy. Mary, my sister, told my wife that she should spray me down with Buy-Gone before letting me back in the house. Fortunately, she didn’t go to that level, but she did show up with a nice tube of Benadryl which seems to be kind of working. Thanks dear, now can you put some on that place between my shoulder blades?

Hopefully, this trip will live on in the photographs that I have brought home. Excuse me, but I need to go download them RIGHT now.

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04 Blanche Marie Waterfalls

02/04/2012
Guesthouse Twenty4
Paramaribo, Suriname

I am getting ready to do a day tour of the city and it’s plantations. One of the very young and inexperienced guides from Kabalebo convinced Prospère, his daughter and I that he could take us on an interesting tour of the city. I have my doubts, but we shall see. By the way he is the one that has a crush on the young and beautiful Dutch girl Maartje. He originally wanted $80.00 US. When he got down to a more reasonable $40. I agreed.

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Here is an interesting blurb, taken from a website on my upcoming trip to Blanche Marie:

“When it comes to waterfalls and rapids The Blanche Marie Vallen tops them all, Blanche Marie vallen is located in the Nickerie river and combines rapids and falls for over 100 meters in length. These waterfalls are the best you can get in Suriname. These waterfalls can be reached best by boat from the west border city Nickerie or you can challenge yourself to an adventure of 14 hours trough the wilderness of west Suriname by car.
Imagine the quietness of the amazon accompanied with the rushing sounds of the Blanche Marie Vallen and the sounds of rainforest birds, and animals blend together is a perfect symphony. This is how best we can describe the Blanche Marie Vallen. But make no mistake describing it is just far under what it really is. You just need to visit it and experience it yourself.”

And so I am. I am leaving on what will be my last Suriname adventure next Wednesday.

02/04/2012
Guesthouse Twenty4
Paramaribo, Suriname

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So I finally go to take a few pictures at the hectic, and I might say somewhat dangerous Paramaribo Saturday Market. I have been there a few times before. That is where I bought my “poki neefe”, but never felt comfortable or safe taking any pictures., but now I was there with a group. The four of us are doing a walking tour of the city. I don’t think any of my pictures we award winners, as I still limited the time of my large SLR out of my bag, but I am happy that I got a few memories.

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Next up was a walking tour of some of the old wooden buildings in the downtown area. It is amazing just how beautiful some of these building are even after hundreds of years. They are doing a great job of slowly restoring them. I learned a lot about the history of Suriname as seen through their buildings, mostly from Prospere, who seems to be a walking dictionary, but true to form I have forgotten more than I remember, but I did get some great shots in the early morning light.

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We then headed of to the river to take a boat across the way to visit the fort in New Amsterdam. Up till now it had had been raining off and on, so what should our boat ride be any exception? Fortunately our boat had a cover and we were able to stay mostly dry on the trip over. New Fort Amsterdam is an interesting historical place, and I guess there was a lot to be learned, but really I just enjoyed the walk and taking pictures of the gigantic lilly pads. Seriously, these are really really large Lilly pads. Prospere suggested that I could probably stand on one, he might have been right, but I wouldn’t do it and neither would he.

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From the fort we headed back to Paramaribo where we all agreed that it was the company more so than the quality of the tour that made the day, but we we more than happy to be Guiermo’s first group, but we were equally happy that we hadn’t paid more than $40.00 for the day.

02/06/2012
Guesthouse Twenty4
Paramaribo, Suriname
It’s complicated! I worked all morning until just a few moments ago trying to put together the last few days of my trip, but believe me when I say it is complicated! Ok, here goes. I hope I don’t get any of it wrong lest I spend an eternity in Suriname.

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I leave here this Wednesday. morning for Blanche Maria for 4 nights. The airport is very far from the center of town, but there just happens to be a resort just a few minutes from the airport. I have to be at the airport at 4am. Why you ask if your plane doesn’t leave until 6:30 am do you need to be there so early. It was explained to me that the Caribbean Airlines check in counter closes at 5am. Apparently, if you are not checked in before they leave you are not going!
My guide has graciously offered to drop me off at “Colakreek Recreatiepark,” sort of a Slitlerbaum Water-park wanna be in the evening on the 11th. The booking agent originally told me it would be $60 US to stay there, but when I got there this morning, after writing and typing for a half an hour she said it would bar over $200 US..
“Wait a minute,” I protested, “I am going to only be there for 7 hours. Don’t you have anything cheaper?” We eventually settled on me in my own hammock with a trip to the airport for 99 SRD ($30 US).

Feeling better I headed off to the largest travel agent I could find. Waldo’s Worldwide Travel Service.” Who told me, after visiting 3 different agents, that they don’t book hotels in Tobago, only Trinidad. And you may ask, why was I even concerned? Because this month is the start of Carnival. One of the largest carnivals in the world. Do people go to Tobago also for Carnival? Or just Trinidad? These are questions I hoped my travel agent could answer. I know, I might be in trouble when I saw her doing a Google search on hotel rooms in Tobago. Eventually one of the young agents came and helped me out. At that point Kia’s Across from the Beach Hotel sounded pretty good. I’ll take it!, i shouted, but not before, I was informed, I had to return to Caribbean Airlines to make another change in my ticket.

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So, I leave that morning at 4am for a flight to Trinidad. Then I leave to go to Tobago where I will spend 3 nights, close to the beach. Then I take a 1:30 am flight back to Trinidad, so I can make my flight back to Miami at 7:30 am.
Simple you might say why didn’t you just book it yourself on the Internet? In which case I would promise to hit you — hard, if I ever saw you again.
Where is my wife Kim when I need her?
But it’s done now. I was going to go to the zoo, but now I am too tired, and I’m wet anyway! Maybe tomorrow?

02/07/2012
Guesthouse Twenty4
Paramaribo, Suriname

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Last night I had diner with the whole gang from the Kabalebo trip. We went to a place called Zus & Zo. It’s a kind of once upon a time hippie hotel that got discovered, so you have an interesting mix of backpackers, ordinary tourists, and businessmen. The food was good, but overpriced. We talked about whether Suriname met our preconceived notion. When it came my turn, I would have to say that number one was the lack of animals. I expected them to be everywhere. Connie said that a guide had told her that there is an unusual low pressure system sitting over Suriname and the animals are hiding. I said I don’t buy it. How can you silently drift down a stream for hours and not even see a turtle purchased an a rock, or an ocasional capybeara feeding along shore.Something else is the answer.

The second thing that I was surprised by was the amount of elderly travelers. Some using walkers to get around. Prospere explained that is a Dutch colony, and there are a lot of Surinamese living in Holland and visa verse in Suriname. Again I said I don’t get it. I expected to see a lot of Dutch backpackers, but not white haired old ladies cruising, if they are lucky, along on the broken stone sidewalks. They do the jungle tours also! Why? It’s incredibly hot and rainy, it’s dirty and dangerous, but still they come in large groups being led around by children guides. Maybe, I proposed it they who are scaring a way the animals? As you can imagine that brought out a few snickers, but nobody challenged the theory.

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Today I finally got a chance to visit the zoo. Rene and Connie, the same Dutch couple from Kabalebo offered to go with me and share a taxi. I had a little bit of a scare this morning when I got a call from Andre, the tour operator. I thought he might be canceling the trip, because he sounded concerned. I had visions of all of my planning going out the window. The thought of trying to do it all again was almost overwhelming, but in the end he just wanted me to know that there had been too much rain, so the road would be impassible. We would have to take a boat from Nikerie to Apura. That was fine with me. A boat ride instead of a car ride– no problem!

So the three of us made it to the zoo a few minutes before it was to open. We were the only ones there. I was thrilled to see that they had a senior rate of $4 SRD, or a little over a dollar. I think you can tell a lot about a city from the quality of their zoo. Paramaribo’s zoo was small, but well maintained. Most of the cages were pretty small, but then toward the end there were some exhibits, especially for the monkeys, that were very professionally done. We later found out that there was a retired zoo designer from Holland who came down every years for a few months to help out. Apparently he wasn’t thrilled with the quality of workmanship from the locals, because he preferred to work alone.

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When we left the zoo it was blazing hot, but we couldn’t find a cab to save our life, so we walked back to town. We wound up back at Zuz & Zo for a sandwich and a beer. They are such a great couple, it was hard to say goodbye to them. I did the Dutch greeting of three alternating cheek kisses that I had learned from the young Maartje, and Connie just gave me a big Texas hug! We promised to visit each other, but we knew that that is probably not going to happen. Still, we really made some great memories together and I wish them well.

Now I am back in my room packing, and making sure I have enough money for my adventure tomorrow.

02/08/2012
Day 1
Apoera, Suriname
What a day we have had today. I was picked up at 8:00am, and driven to a spot outside of town where we met another mini-van and I changed vehicles, but my bags stayed in the other one. Our van was filled with 7 people, but it seemed like more as I was pretty squashed in. It was about a 4 hour driven on some smooth asphalt and then some potted asphalt until we reached the river where there was a very large and funky saw mill. There was mud everywhere so it was hard to walk around, but that was OK because there was really no place to see.

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There was a small open sided hut down by the water, where Andre and his wife served up a picnic lunch of boiled chicken and rice. After that we headed for a small dock where our boat was waiting for us. By now we were 9 plus Andre and his wife and the boatsman. The Corantijn River, that separated Suriname from Guiana was very wide. It was at the point where it emptied into the Atlantic ocean, except we were headed inland. The sea wasn’t rough, but the choppy waves made sure that we all got good and wet for the first 45 minutes. After that we only got wet intermittently. The river was wide and muddy with either mangroves or jungle on either side for mile after mile. It was another two hours before we pulled over to a wide sandy beach on the Guiana side. I asked Andre if he was going to stamp my passport, because we were entering another country, but it seemed to go over his head. Andre had assured me in Paramaribo that there was only four of us going, so speaking English would not be a problem, but with so many Dutch people I just got lost in the mix and very little was translated. After a while I just had to but in and ask what was happening in English, because at that point I had no idea what the program was. He would reluctantly translate, and then lapse right back into Dutch.

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Anyway, we pulled over for a swim and some light refreshments of a thick pasty purple something or other, with bits of corn and peas. At first I thought it might be ice cream, but when I tasted it I was pretty disappointed. After we had taken a swim we piled back in the boat for another hour until we hit a small concrete boat ramp. The sides were surrounded by huge stacks of logs and there was a train just sitting in the dirt on the top of the hill. How it got there is anybody’s guess. Andre might have told us, but I am sure if he did it was in Dutch. There was a very small four wheel drive pickup that we piled all of our bags into. When all of the bags were loaded there was no extra room, but still we were then told to get in. People were hanging on anything the could. I had one foot firmly planted inside the bed. Just as we pulled away it started to rain hard. I felt someone grab onto my shorts. I looked down to see Andre. I told him not to worry I wasn’t going to fall off the truck, but he said he was hanging on for him, so he wouldn’t fall off the truck. Everything that wasn’t wet from the ride, was now wet.

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We reached the little village of Apoera. A collection of wooden houses built on piers off the ground.. Our rooms were in two houses in the middle of all of the others. It was simple to say the least. We dropped off our things and then Andre led us on a tour around town. That was one of the things I didn’t want to do, act as a tourist sightseeing in peoples homes, but these were not Indians, just hard working people who probably didn’t have jobs. Again the lecture was in Dutch, but by now I really didn’t care. I just walked around and took pictures.

After we got back we had a nice dinner of boiled chicken and noodles, with watermelon for desert. The group is sitting around , drinking coffee, and talking and laughing in Dutch, so I just went went back to my room to write. Tomorrow it’s off to Blanche Maria Falls.

02/09/2012
Day 2
Apoera & Blanche Maria Waterfalls, Suriname

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You know that it is a good adventure when major things fall off the truck!
Oye ve, what a day I had today! We started off with a breakfast of bread, cheese and some kind of fish marmalade.. This time I left the fish off, so I had a cheese sandwich for breakfast, but the Sanka coffee WAS hot.. By 8:30 we were piling into the 4 wheel drive Toyota pickup, with nice fat tires. The red clay road was rough from the very beginning. It alternated between a washboard rode, and huge muddy water filled holes. We were sitting in the back of the mini-truck and there were 12 of us–5 pretty old dutch tourists in the cab, and another 7 in the back precariously sitting on two 2×8 wooden planks. I had brought my inflatable seat and believe me when I say I did not hesitate to bring it out. We drove this way for 2 hours, and then turned down a narrow red clay road. This one made the other look like a super highway. We had to constantly brush away low hanging branches and greenery. Some of it was of the catch-and-keep variety, which was filled with tiny thorns that once they went in they didn’t want to come out. The three guys in front screamed like little girls after the fourth of fifth time. The were constantly trying to gingerly remove the stickers from we’re in their arms and necks. Soon our forearms were bloodied. This went on for almost two hours, and then we hit the bridge. I really only use that term because it did span over a river, but that is where the similarity stops. You have to see the pictures. I couldn’t believe it when our driver actually started to cross it. There really wasn’t enough lumber decking to support us. I almost jumped ship, buts I didn’t have to as we got stuck after only a few feet. Andre got out to see what the problem was. He carefully walked from plank to plank until he was able to see under the truck. A-ha, he said and yanked something from under the vehicle. He emerged with the entire exhaust system in his hand. With the obstruction removed our driver gunned the motor and surged forward. Without the exhaust it was very loud. I have no idea what he was driving on. I expected us to plunge though the bridge and into the river below at any minute, which I could now clearly see through the gaping holes in the decking. Why I didn’t jump out I’ll never know. I guess, like the rest, that I was just too stunned.

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The wide tires fell through the planking with every surge, leaving us groaning in unison. How we made it to the other side I really don’t know, but we now merrily were on our way again, splashing through the huge puddles sending red muddy sprays onto us. The plants continued to grab at our skin, and we were all happy to finally pull into the sunshine with a small sign that said “Blancha Marie”. There was a collection of rundown wooden buildings along the shore of a rushing river, but I could not see any falls. After we got out of the truck Andre organized us and we walked through the forest for about a half an hour. We could hear it before we could see it. It had the roar of something big, and it didn’t disappoint. The falls were probably 300 feet across, and they fell about 50 feet or more. They were magnificent and we all stood on the bluff transfixed on the beauty below. We eagerly climbed down. I know i speak for everyone, that I was looking forward to soaking my blood limbs and cooling off in the process.

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Once down at the bottom there was a constant roar, which made it hard to talk. I saw a rope in the water, and judging by the current I was glad to see it. You didn’t have to go too far to feel the tremendous force of the water, so we just hung on the rope for dear life, and sat in the shallow end. After a while I went off to photograph, and the rest just lazed around on the rocks. We all agreed that it was truly worth the effort to get here and I had found a new respect for Andre and his wife.

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After three hours it was time to head back. The trip seemed longer, louder and more exhausting that the ride out. When we got to the bridge EVERYONE got out. We all decided to walk across. It was unbelievable just how little there was in structure. We had a very hard time jumping from plank to plank. Looking at it from this point of view, I still couldn’t figure out how anyone could drive on it and survive, but once again he did. A little further on Andre”s wife saw a snake in the middle of the road so we stopped the car for a water break, and Andre grabbed him by the head. We all started taking pictures of him with the snake. One of the Dutch guys wanted to hold the snake, but Andre told him he couldn’t, because it was poisonous. We all gave him a little more room.

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When we got back to the town of Apoera we all got out in front of our guesthouse. We then noticed that more parts we coming lose on the Toyota. The bumper hung at an odd angle, and the side step-up was almost completely off. I felt sorry for the guy. Andre said he had to go back tomorrow to retrieve the muffler system. Everyone was pretty quiet at dinner. I told Andre that he should change the name of his business from Rainbow Tours to Rainbow Adventure Tours. I think he liked the idea. I offered t give a toast to our hosts and said, “When we lay down to die at the end of our lives this trip might be one of the last memories that we have..” Everyone agreed, or at least I think the did because they smile and said things in Dutch.

02/10/2012
Day 3
Apoera & Beyond up river, and the Trio Indian Village
We all had a leisurely morning. I more so than the others as I got up at 5:30am. I have a roommate and I didn’t want to wake the Bonito from his beauty sleep, so I went out on the porch and typed a little on my iPad. Andre assured me that there would be coffee on, actually water, all night long, but when I looked in the kitchen it wasn’t. I have brought a warming element, and all of the preparations for making my own coffee, but I would have had to rummage around looking for everything, and I decided not to. Can you tell I REALLY like my coffee in the morning?

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Anyway, after everyone woke up and we all had breakfast with EGGS, and warm bread, we pilled in the mini-van to the waters edge where a small motorized dugout was waiting for us. Off we went along the Corantijn River. We slowly motored for about an hour. The sun we in and out of the clouds so it wasn’t too hot. We then turned in to a small tributary where the jungle really closed in on us. At that time of the morning the water, which had turned ebony black from all of the decayed leaves in it, the surface was like a beautiful mirror reflecting the bright green jungle and the cobalt blue sky. It was like had two of everything and you could hear everyone snapping pictures as we rounded each bend. And there were a lot of bends. The lazy river was constantly changing directions. It was like we were in a movie. Our purpose was to see the giant river otters, but we never did find them. Our boatman told Andre that that was because of all of the rain, so they had gone deeper into the swamp looking for food. It didn’t matter, the jungle and the river became the man attraction. Then the sun came out and stayed out and boy did it get hot. That kind of changed everything. For one we all got a lot quieter.

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I was sitting next to Jimmy, an Indonesian-Hollander who had been born in Papua New Guiana, and had a Surinamese wife. He was just a nice guy and we easily conversed in English for the hour and a half trip home. We were supposed to go to some beach and swim, but it was too hot and we had spent too much time slowly looking for otters. That was OK with everyone, who at this point just wanted to get in the shade.

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We came back and rested for a couple of hours and then it was off to the Trio Indian village. We drove only ten minutes and then walked another 5 minutes and we found ourselves right in the middle of the village. This is something I didn’t want to do, but in the end I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Sure enough here was a village with thatched roofs and houses made of sticks, with people cooking on an open fire, and no electricity or running water. In just about every hut there were tiny faces looking back at us– usually smiling. Then we came to a little open air hut and a couple of the girls were selling beaded jewelry. It was packaged and priced fairly low, but not too low. I bought a red beaded bracelet, necklace, and earrings for $40.00 SRI ( $12.30 US). I think everyone bought something by the way the girls were smiling when we left.

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Then we walked further and saw that not everyone was happy to see 11 people walking through their house, but most were. I am guessing that Andre made sure they were taken care of.

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Well that was the highlight and as we made our way back to the car, I thought it probably wasn’t a bad deal for them, this Eco-tourism thing, but I could tell that this was the beginning of the end when I spied a village lady on her cell phone.

02/11/2012
Day 4
Apoera to Colakreek, Suriname
Today started off well enough. I had originally booked with Rainbow Tours to do the driving route through Colakreek, but Andre changed the route to one that followed the coast and went through Nikerie, which was OK with me as we had that fabulous river trip. The problem with that as a return route, is that it would not take me through Colakreek, which I had already set up to camp at. So Andre arranged for a friend of his to take on the original land route.

They arrived at 7:30am. I thought that there was going to be a full load of passengers on the mini-van, but I was pleased to see that there really were only three others. The van blazed over some of the same terrain that we covered on our way to Blanche Maria, minus the “bridge of death.” then the red clay road really smoothed out and we started making good even better time. Everything would have been perfect were it not for the young black kid with the pony tail in charge of the CD player. He played kind of a reggae rap, Carribean style so loud that I thought he would surely break the speakers, but unfortunately, it didn’t. It was about an hours later when the van started losing power on the hills. We had to turn down the music so we could hear the engine. After a couple of trial and errors runs at the steep hill we finally climbed it, but very slowly. After a few more hills the problem seemed to resolve itself, so the music was turned up again. Shit!

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After another hour we came to a long bridge which spanned a large river. There, stuck right in the middle of the bridge, was a very large tractor. In front of it stood a grinning black kid of about 20, with no shoes and no shirt. I assumed he was the driver. Stuck on the other side of the river was another vehicle. I could see that there were several men starting to come toward the tractor. Our mini-van emptied out and we did the same. There was a heated discussion, in which I guessed they told the kid to go get some rope. You could see he didn’t want to, but he finally did. The guys on my van were very quiet. They didn’t talk to me, and they really didn’t talk among themselves, so it was hard to get any concrete information.

After a half an hour the kid returned empty handed. I wasn’t sure where he had looked, because we’re we’re after all in the middle of nowhere, but no one seemed to want to give him an “A” for effort. Just then another pickup showed up, and then they came onto the bridge to check out the situation. They looked like they had a tow rope, and then they pulled the pickup right in front of the tractor. I couldn’t believe that they were going to try and pull the tractor, because it was about 4 times a large as they were. They did, and with tires squeezing the behemoth started to move. Back off the bridge, and we started on our way again. We made good time for the next hour or so.

It seemed like all of a sudden the road changed again. I couldn’t see any difference, but it slowed us to a bumpy crawl. As comfortable as the plush, velour seats were after 4 hours I was going stir crazy. I just couldn’t find a comfortable place anymore. At one point I think I ripped the radio out of the dash, but I guess it was only a hallucination, because the music kept playing on and on. We finally reached Colakreek after 6 1/2 tortured hours.

They dropped me and my bags off in the parking lot and I walked up to the entrance. One of the things that I had been obsessing about was that this water park would be filled with screaming kids, but now I could see into the place and it looked almost abandoned. There were maybe 10 people in the park and it was a Saturday afternoon. I had my reservation, but they looked stunned that I wanted to actually come into the park, let alone camp. Reluctantly Marvin, the manager, showed me to my hut. The girl at METS had said that I was going to get the last camp site, but as far as I could see I was the only one in any of the huts. All of the rest of the people, all ten of them, were swimming in the Cola colored river. If you haven’t gotten it by now the place is call Colakreek because the water is cola colored. All of the tropical leaves fall in the water and color it a chocolate brown.

So I’ll just spread out and made myself comfortable. It was nice having the peace and quiet. Hey, you can actually hear all of the tropical birds singing. Think I’ll go for a swim, and maybe I can get a tan?

03 Kabalebo Nature Resort

01/27/2012
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!

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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!

01/28/2012
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.

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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.

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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.

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

01/29/2012
Day 2
Kabalebo Resort

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

01/30/2012
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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

01/31/2012
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.

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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.

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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!

02/01/2012
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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02/02/2012
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

02/03/2012
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.

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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!

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01/22/2012
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.

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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.

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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.

01/23/2012
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.

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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.

01/24/2012
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!

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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.

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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!

01/25/2012
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!

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01/26/2012
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!”

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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!

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