Day 24 – Fri 1st Mar
Spent the day exploring Paramaribo – a nice Dutch fort (even Tracey liked it; which might explain how I actually got to see it this time!), beautiful wooden cathedral built in 1885 – apparently the biggest wooden structure in the world), plus lots of run down wooden houses… Tracey acted like a Japanese tourist – as Flickr will no doubt show!
At last we have found a place that’s cheap & has a large selection of different types of food due to the racial melting pot that Suriname is (Afro Caribbean/ Hindi/ Amerindians/ Maroons, etc).
Whilst relaxing by the pool later Tracey struck up a conversation with a lovely American lady (Phyllis) who was in Suriname on a Peace Corps job. It turns out we were all off the next day to see the turtles laying their eggs; we joked how funny it would be if our paths crossed on our tours…
I am still a little nervous about safety in Paramaribo, but risked taking the camera out for the gorgeous church, no incidents.
Day 25/ 26 – Sat 2nd / Sun 3rd
Hopped into the transport the next morning fresh for our tour to Galibi to see the turtles & who do we find ourselves sitting next to… Phyllis, with her two friends Kim & Talitha.
Had a great trip up country, a quick boat trip across into French Guiana to St Laurent du Maroni to see the deserted prison there & then up the coast in a motorised dug-out canoe. Felt very ‘Apocalypse now’ sliding past the dense vegetation.
There was a poor example of a zoo at the other end (lots of small wooden prisons) but the zoo keeper & our guide’s (Halley) enthusiasm with the animals was infectious. 3 hand reared monkeys stole the show as the jumped from shoulder, to tree to head constantly bickering & playing with each other out in the open. There were also some cute Ant Bears as well just running around, but you had to keep clear of their sharp claws.
It was fantastic getting so close up & personal with the animals & the village obviously needs the money to survive, but some of the animals were in piteously small cages. Supposedly the money we all donated as an entrance fee is going towards bigger & better facilities for the animals; but time will tell…
Darkness saw us head up river & we managed to see 2 Green (aka Soup or Kepi) turtles laying their eggs. Quite amazing when you consider that these huge (1.35m & 250 Kilos) animals drag themselves up the beach, dig a nest, lay their eggs, cover the nest then build a fake nest next to it before heading back out to sea; a process that can take over 3 hrs! They go into a trance when they start laying & you can go quite close without disturbing them – as long as you don’t use flashes or make a lot of noise. Halley was very protective of them & we spent a minimal amount of time around them.
Funnily enough, having spent all that time going up the estuary to find a turtle, when we got back there was one nesting literally right next to the village!
We’d recommend Halley as a guide to anyone.
I think Tracey loved the female company for the weekend – the girls were often lagging behind talking about things that would generally only get a grunted reply from me!
I know the trip was all about the turtles, but highlight of the trip for me was those pesky Minkeys!!! Even went back to say bye before we left.
Had great fun with the minkeys and our new friends, I even managed to squeeze in a small amount of shopping . The turtle laying it’s eggs was really amazing, I hope the pictures worked, hmm, dark and with no flash…
Day 27/ 28 – Mon 4th / Tue 5th
Highlight of Mon was going to the Paramaribo ‘Hash’ – Scooter boy & Wimpey would have been proud of me. Had a good run around in the heat with Dave (a friend of Talitha), whilst Tracey & Talitha gossiped their way around some way behind us. Whilst I got away without an initiation ceremony as an experienced Norfolk Hasher (Scooter Boy – back me up on this one), the Hash master wasn’t to miss out on his fun as Dave & I had made the unmitigated mistake of coming out in new trainers… so we both drank half a pint out of our sweaty trainers!
We rushed back from that to have a lovely meal with the entire crowd from the Galibi trip – some real friends made there.
Last bit of sight-seeing on Tue… in particular the mosque & the Synagogue sitting right next door to each other & sharing their car parks when required… if only other countries could take note…
In my own inimitable fashion I turned up at the hash in completely unsporty clothing having put everything else into the laundry this morning. Talitha told me we were walking the hash, she lied. Oh well, have now proved that I can run in a dress and sandals…
Day 29/ 30 – Wed 6th / Thu 7th
Trip to Brownsberg nature reserve & Stone Island – a hairy trip up slippery mountain tracks in a front wheel drive Toyota van… I thought that we were going to get stuck at times.
Nice hike, beautiful scenery, animals & waterfall (but no bathing); saw the rainforest in its natural element (i.e. the rain!) & narrowly avoided being bitten by a venomous snake whilst I looked at the frog it was hunting!
We had marked our 3rd anniversary together (even I can remember that one!) , after a bottle of wine in celebration, we went to bed early by the light of fireflies, to awake early the next morning to see sunrise over lake Brokopondo from our lodge steps.
Trip was slightly spoilt by a huge admin cock-up by the organiser which meant that the guide didn’t know we were on a 2 day trek with an overnight stay at Stone island… lots of unhappy calls finally sorted it; a refund when we got back… however the guide (Elton – who was disappointed to find out his namesake’s real name was Reginald Dwight) was really wonderful in helping to sort it.
Met a Canadian that was even higher maintenance than I am on the trip, good to know I am not the only one! Trip and guide was great, food at Stone Island was stone cold (presumably not an intentional comparison), but we made up for it with a bottle of wine . The place is really beautiful, lots of grass covered huts and a lake full of standing bare tree trunks, took a million pictures of the dawn.
An interesting ride back with the driver drinking Parbo beer and watching DVDs on the passenger sunvisor – clearly there are differing views on health & safety here.
Day 31 – Fri 8th
Finally left Paramaribo in Johnny’s taxi’s minibus at 4.30 in the morning. Sorry to see the back of it, the town was fairly run down but the people were friendly & the atmosphere was typically Dutch & relaxed.
I think Johnny is some ‘Hunter S Thompson’ character on a Fear & Loathing road trip… the country flies by in a 150 Km/hr blur, only pausing for occasional speed bumps. We finish the 4hr trip by screeching to a halt at the Ferry to Guyana only narrowly missing a rival minibus that he cut up in the last 15m to the Ferry! Lots of loud arguing & questioning of parenthood go on whilst we wait patiently for the slowest passport queue in Christendom… I’m sure I’ll rue those words later on…
Quick ferry across into Guyana & we pick up Champ taxis at the other side; aka ‘Fatman’ to everyone (HBJ boys – this is where he ran off to after managing the Blue Jays!).
After 5 minutes in the taxi it becomes apparent that Fatman can’t drive… he alternates aggressively between accelerator & brake, honking anything that moves… even imaginary pink elephants that appear before him…. Damn we are back in ‘Hunter S Thompson’ land again – it’s ‘Rum Diaries’ this time.
The man doesn’t seem to have any spatial awareness & seems to take an immense age for his fat cranium to calculate the rel. vel. between vehicles, so we are constantly arriving at the overtaking point as some huge juggernaut meets us coming from the opposite direction.
My suspicions are borne out at our first drop when he attempts a 3 point turn using a wooden bridge behind us (this is not a difficult manoeuvre – even Bignoseo could do it!); only for him to miss the bridge completely with one wheel & drop the minibus onto its shocks…. We are now suspended over a drainage ditch with one back tyre free-wheeling.
Obviously a fast exit ensued, followed by a complete farce as everyone came out to watch as we tried to release the minibus from its impending doom. The Fatman continued to be a complete buffoon ignoring our many explanations & attempts to release his vehicle.
Picture the Keystone Kops scene, another traveller & I are down in the bottom of the ditch using bit of wood to try & jack the minibus up & get wood underneath the back wheel for purchase whilst ‘Fatman’ defeats our every effort by sporadically putting his foot down & jetting this wood off into the small river/ sewer. Eventually, after much gesticulation & foul language from yours truly, he gets the idea that I don’t want him to touch the accelerator, let alone remain on this planet any longer, & I get everyone to push the vehicle back onto firm footing whilst we jack it up from below.
We finished the journey in the same madcap fashion & then the ‘Fatman’ has the audacity to give us his card…?!!! I’m about to explain to him about driving tests, glasses & where he can put his card when he mentions that he knows our new landlady…. Obviously discretion being the better part of valour, I offer him my heartfelt felicitations, suggest he gets the underside of his vehicle checked & assure him that if we need his services again we will call!
Another interesting drive, the highlight of which is my sitting in the middle front (extra high) seat of a minibus with nothing to hold onto while the driver assures me I don’t need the missing seat belt and then proceeds to driver at 120kmh by elbow whilst trying to light his fag, a couple of unprepared birds fall victim to his unrelenting quest for speed… I am fascinated to note the drive gets hairier with Fatman driving us at the other end, but at least the avian casualty rate was lower. Sadly I didn’t get a picture of Keir pushing the van.
Day 32 – Sat 9th
Spent the day seeing all of Georgetown’s sites… so what to do with the afternoon….!
Dragged Keir around the whole of Georgetown in an effort to see everything before it got dark, and rather more edgy. Saw another very nice wooden church, this one apparently the tallest wooden structure, there are some nice wooden houses too, but not much else to see. Went to the big hotel (Pegasus) thinking we could get some decent cocktails, sadly that did not appear to be the case – overpriced drinks with surly service – I think the barman took exception to my questioning the lack of real strawberry juice in the strawberry Margarita… where is Gabriel when you need him?