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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apoera & Blanche Maria Waterfalls, Suriname
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
This entry and photo have been deleted for decency.
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.
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!
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?