Into the Rainforest:

We started off at 5 in the morning, boarding a bus provided by STINASU, the organisation that manage the Central Reserve. I had that tingling, tense feeling that I have whenever I set off on shoots - have I got everything I need? What have I forgotten? As we left Paramaribo behind us the tenson subsided - what I don't have I won't need!

Out of the window the city gave way to savannah - marsh-land interspersed with pockets palm trees. We finally found that we had arrived when the savannah itself gave way to rainforest and the bus started to bump and roll on the red earth of the road. We peered into the foliage that began to enclose us hoping to catch a glimpse of some animal or other, but really just letting our eyes become accustomed to the tangle of leaves, trunks, and creepers that make up the perpetual foreground that is the rainforest. After months of preparation in a small smoke-filled office in Paddington, London, it is going to take some time to get our eyes in tune.

The road got steadily narrower and bumpier until it was little more than a bus-shaped corridor through which we were travelling, branches scratching across the windscreen and over the roof of the bus. After 4 hours we arrived at Witagron, a Kwinti village where we were going to leave the bus and continue our journey by river. Our guides packed our baggage into the canoe and we were lead into the village to meet the captain of the Kwinti tribe. It is customary when entering into an area to give the captain a gift of rum and cigars, especially if, like us, you wish to film. At this point we got a bit confused. The rum we had brought was packed away on the canoe and we were heading into the village without it. Luckily for us the captain was not around so we escaped embarrasment, and left a message that we would visit him after a few days on our way back. We returned to the canoe and set off up the river.

We are going to spend a lot of time in a canoe on rivers over the next months, and I'm sure we will begin to take for granted the beauty of the river, so its best to describe it here while its fresh. The wide and lazy expanse, glassy smooth in places, in others eddying and turbulent, provides such a strong contrast to the forest. Its flat, and it has a vista, a foreground and a background. At the edges the forest rises up in a solid wall, so much so that I could only wonder what we were going to find behind its tangled fašade. As we travelled up river we hugged the edges where the current was weaker. As we passed the forest buzzed, as if greeting us. Birds swirled out of the tree tops startled by the engine, before resettling after we had passed. Lower down, kingfishers took flight at our approach and raced us parallel for a few seconds, before realising that all they needed to do was to turn back to be rid of the intruders. It felt like a whole new world was opening up in front of us.

It was at this point that I realised how stupid I was to have forgotten my hat. The sun was strong and its reflection off the water even stronger. The cool breeze generated by the movement of the boat did not disguise the fact that I was beginning to fry. The early start, the bumpy bus ride and the intensity of the river were beginning to take their toll, and soon all three of us were asleep, shirts draped over our lolling heads. I was prodded awake and told that we were about to get our first glimpse of the Voltsberg peak, the first of two mountains were we going to climb. We rounded a corner and there it was, grey in the distance, looking prehistoric and awesome. It felt good to be here.

Soon after we arrived at the Raleigh Vallen resort/camp. On this, our first trip, our focus is on the research facilities that STINASU provide, as well as their development of eco-tourism in the cental reserve. I am now sitting by the river, a long day behind us, and we are about to meet the group of tourists that we are going to accompany tomorrow to the Voltsberg. All's well with the world..... we've arrived......


Jungle Bus

Hot Under the Sun

A Peaceful End to the Day

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