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!
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
How does one even begin to describe a day like today. I guess that I just have to start at the beginning. I packed my small bag this morning and left a few things in the storage locker at the Guest House Twenty4. I took a taxi to the STINASU offices where my ride was to take me along with four others to the park. Yes, I decided to take a charted taxi instead of public transportation. I got there 45 minutes early. Everything was locked up tighter than a drum, but I wasn’t worried–much. To my surprise a 4 wheel drive pickup showed up about 15 minutes early. The driver said get in, and I said where are the other passengers? “They not coming!”, was all he said, so I climbed in the “front seat” for the four hour drive to the park. Lucky me!
After leaving the hectic city behind we hit lowland scrub forrest which just seemed to go on forever. After about two hours we turned onto a red clay road. It got progressively worse as we climbed the mountain and got closer to the park. At one point it seemed like a red muddy sea of a highway filled with huge puddles. We spun our tires furiously trying to get a hold to move foward. Then my driver did something unusual. He let the truck bang into the hig banked muddy wall to our right all the while gunning the motor at top speed. Mud showered the air behind us and I could smell and see our smoking transmission mix with the moist foggy air. Moving the steering wheel violently from side to side we eventually started to move foward. It was really quite exciting.
We pulled into camp where there was a cluster of run downbuildings. The one we stopped in front of was the worst. It had a metal roof and no sides. I could see 3 or 4 hammocks suspended form the rafters. This was to be my home for the next 3 nights. I couldn’t deal with setting up “camp” at that moment so I dropped off my bag and food and took off to explore my new domain.
There were some cabins for rent, but I was happy that I had only spent $10.00 per night as opposed to $100 for one of those. The whole place just had a musty falling down neglected look to it, and the guys that worked there didn’t seem to take any interest in any of the tourists that arrived–including me. I guessed that the weren’t paid very well.
I slowly walked back to the camp and began to try to hang up my hammock. Remember I did not get any rope. I had some very thin, but strong parachute cord. I doubled it over and hung the hammock from them. I was just about to try it out when a group of Surinese/Indians pulled up in a jeep. Out got a whole family who moved over to the other hammocks. When they saw me start to get in, one of them came over and said that they were leaving and would I like one of their ropes. You betcha! I did. As I was hanging the new ropes they asked if I wanted a glass of wine. I looked at my watch, it was almost the exact time when Kim and I would have our wine, pastatio, and music afternoon. As I sipped red wine from a plastic cup I saluted my wife and hoped she was doing the same back in Texas. I inquired if I should hang my mosquito net, but I was told that there were NO mosquitos at night. Many people don’t know this, the elder went on, but because of the extreme cold at night here there are no mosquitos. I silently wondered how I was going to stay warm with a tropical sleeping bag, and no long sleeved shirt. Hey I reasoned, we’re almost on the equator, how cold could it get?
Now it was time to take my first jungle walk. At first I just wondered around camp in circles. What few signs there were, were all marked in Dutch. Each word seemed to have a minimum of 18 letters, with most of them vowels. They had given me one of the poorest maps I have ever see back at the STINASU offices. I assumed I would get a better one at the camp, but when I inquired I was told there are no maps. I headed back to my camp and retrieved the once thought useless map.
Map in hand I headed to Leoval (Leo Falls). The STINASU handout had said that it was 55 minute round trip with a difficulty level of “reasonable, with some steep parts.” seemed like just the perfect place to begin. The first part of the trail followed the red clayroad, which had huge puddles that extended from end to end. Then I saw a small yellow sign that said Leoval. Into the jungle I headed. It was amazing just how many people were on the trail. I had almost forgot that it was Sunday and Chinese New Years to boot. All of them were Dutch and many of them had huge cameras, not unlike mine. As the trail narrowed, and the jungle closed in on me I got my first up and personal look at my surrounding. Huge tall trees swayed in the afternoon breeze. There were hanging llanos making for a natural jungle gym look. The birds were singing, each one with their own beautiful, but repetitious song.. Off in the distance I could hear the growling of some kind of monkey. Oh boy! The trail started to get steep enough that I was glad I had brought my adjustable walking stick. At the top of the stick, I fashioned a mount to steady my camera under the dark jungle canopy.
After walking for about an hour I started to hear the rumble of thunder off in the distance. Hey, I thought its the rain forest. What did I expect. I came to a very steep incline. One that in places I had to sit on my butt in the mud to negotiate. Gingerly I got to the bottom, carefully not to break anything important. And there it was. A small but beautiful waterfall crashing down on the rocks about 100 feet below. I started to take out my camera, but instantly, and I do mean instantly the the tropical down pour started and I had to scramble to get out my semi-waterproof jacket with a hood. Before I could put it on I was soaked. I just stood there watching the jungle around me as heavy rain continued. I thought I would wait it out as I really felt, after all that, that I needed to get a photograph of the waterfall. It took about an hour for it to let up. By then, not only was I soaked, but so was the forrest around me which continued drip long after the rain finished. I think I got some good shots. Even if I didn’t it was a great experience sitting there under a tropical downpour watching the waterfall get progressively larger and larger.
Finally, it was time to head back. When I got back to the road I wasn’t sure of which was to go, so I just used my common sence. That’s never worked for me before, so why should it work now. The road just ended in a huge pile of trees and limbs which covered the road from end to end. I guessed I had made a mistake and walked the other way only to find that it was the way back to town, so I turned around again. Then I heard the chainsaws. Looking at my watch, and seeing that it would get dark in just an hour or so, I frantically waved and shouted at the chainsaw guy. He motioned for me to go around. I looked at the impenetrable jungle and thought no way. Then he showed up with his machete and cleard a path for me. On the otherside there were a line of cars waiting for him to clear the road. Aha, I thought my sence of directions are good after all.
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
Well, it really did get quite cold last night. I had on every piece of clothing I brought and still by morning I was damned cold. Despite the temperature, I managed to sleep till 7:30am. There is a little restaurant here. Again, open air on all sides except at the back where the kitchen was, and believe me I use that term loosely. Breakfast was ok, but Rocky, the owner, turned out to be a very nice guy. There were a couple of young French girls there, one was from French Guiana and the other was her friend visiting her from France. The four of us had a very pleasant breakfast with some good conversation, which fortunetly for me had to be in English. While we were eating, Rocky brought out some dried bread and fhen fed some kind of exotic guina looking hens (grey winged strumpit birds) and a bunch of rodent looking animals (agutis) were also there.
After breakfast I went back to camp, took off my dry clothes and put on my wet ones from yesterday’s walk. Of course they hadn’t dried out yet. It was uncomfortable to initially put them on, but in the heat and high humidity, I got used to them pretty quick. This time I decided to hike to the Koemboeval ( Koemboe Falls). The little handout said it was a moderate walk, but that’s not what I would call it. It was a fairly easly walk, until I had to decend down to the falls. Within a few minutes I had fallen twice and was breathing like a man getting ready to have a heat attack. Once I made it there, after walking for almost two hours, the falls were kind of a disappointment. I guess that that was just because there wasn’t much water. However, the surrounding jungle was increadable. I tried to find a flat spot to eat my lunch, but that proved impossible to find. After I ate my lunch, gingerly balancing on on butt cheek, I spotted a way to get to the bottom of the falls. Shit!, I thought I should have saved lunch. By now I smelled so bad the I think I found the answer to why I was hiking all alone.
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
Early this morning I was awoken to a deafening roar. It was still dark out, but the lion like roar, which was just overhead, I knew to be howler monkey. Although at 5:00am it was a little early, what an alarm clock!
What a difference a day makes. Today , since it was to be my last full day, I decided to take the longest and most difficult hike; to Wittiekreek (Witti Creek). It was 3.8 kms each way and was almost all downhill. At the end was supposed to be a fabulous place to take a dip, but I had heard that propaganda line before.
Rocky doesn’t start serving breakfast until 8:30 am. I brought my own coffee and truthfully it is still pretty dark in the mountains at 8 anyway. After a hearty round of egg sandwiches for only 17.50 Suri ($5.38 US), Rocky heard baboons as they call them here (really red howler monkeys). They were a little too far away to photograph effectively, but I shot off a few pictures and then watched them as they chased each other through the tree tops. I wondered if it was the same troop I heard this morning?
I packed up my things and headed off downhill. It was an amazing thing that all of the “old man” aches and pains that I had frustratedly felt on all of the other walks just seem to disappear. I mused to myself that I figured I would “really” be sore today. Nice surprise, but my mission wasn’t not to hike, but to photograph. So I took my time descending, stopping to take a photo of what ever interested me. Although there were no animals to photograph, I found plenty else that was interesting. For example there were some huge mold spores that almost looked alien, and gigantic trees that had were split wide open and fell to the jungle floor. There also were trees of massive proportions, and vines that twisted like pretzels into all kinds of unusual shapes.
I was using my camera in totally manual mode, and, whenever I could, I used my makeshift monopod/walking stick to steady the shots under the dark jungle canopy. I guess what I am saying is that after 3 hours I had only gone 3 kms, but remember it was straight downhill and the middle of the day. I had already completely sweated threw my clothing — including my hat! It was time to head home, even if that meant missing the possibility of refreshing dip in the creek that was still over an hour away. Up I went!
The trip up was not nearly as much fun as the one down, but still I got off some pretty good shots. I even posed myself in front of some of the largest trees. Back at camp, I was completely covered in dirt and sweat, but a very happy camper. After I showered and washed out my clothes I sat down in my hammock for a much deserved rest. As I swung back and forth the emotion of just where I was caught up with me. Here I was in the middle of the Surinamese jungle fulfilling a dream that I have had for years. I smiled and thought that I had only been gone 1 week. I still had 3 weeks to go!
Day 4, last day
Brownsburg and Brokopondo Reservoir
It’s Raining in the Rain Forest
It has been raining steadily since 6pm yesterday. It finally quit at about 6 this morning. What did I expect? I rained so hard last night that I couldn’t make it to Rocky’s Restaurant for breakfast. Good thing I had brought along some salami, cheese and crackers, yum! A little Tang to wash it down, and now that is a complete meal.
Later that same day
And now I am back in downtown Paramaribo. Changed rooms to one with a private bath. It was an extra $7, but what the hey I am worth it. Just picked us a cold Parbo Bier, took a shower and video Skyped Kim. Being in the jungle just seems like a dream, and now, instead of hearing tropical birds signing, I only hear the occasional car speeding up the street. Oh, well, in three more days I will be back in the jungle!
Back in Paramaribo at the Guesthouse Twenty4
Right around the corner from here is the Nas Kip Golden Fried Chicken place. It always seems to be filled with locals, so I thought I might as well take a chance. I was really jungry. When I walked in I could not understand one word on the menu. I thought to myself how hard could it be to get a couple of pieces of chicken in a place that only sold chicken, but I did not have a clue where to start. The pretty young girl behind the counter must have sensed that something was up as she said, “Kan ik u helpen?” Oh no, I thought I am never going to get fried chicken, but instead I replied, in my best non-Dutch, “I just want chicken. Please can you help me, do you have chicken?” It must have worked, because she started pointing out the things on the menu by using her fingers. One finger, two finger, when she got to three I shouted, “Ja!” That seemed to work, because she rang up the order, then stopped and added, “Wil je iets te drinken?” I got the drink part, so like a pro I replied, “Ja Coke.” I knew the bill was going to be under 20 seri dollars, so when she said, “Zestien vijftig, dan kunt u”, I just handed her a 20. Pretty slick, huh?
Back in my room, feeling proud of myself, as I devoured the greasy chicken, surprised I thought, “Hey, it tastes like chicken!”
Almost every afternoon the sky fills up with spectacular storm clouds. Here I am having a Parbo Bier at the sea wall watching the sky become more threatening. That’s all it turned out to be as it never did rain, but what a show!