|Crippled by the Corantyn
I had thought, waking
up, that a few Mosquito Bites would be the most irritating problem of
the day. After yesterday's good progress through a glorious maze of
river islands we looked really set to overcome the vagaries of nature
and get back on track to Kwamalasamutu ... the mighty Corentyn thought
We broke camp early in the usual good spirits we've become accustomed
to. Sharing jokes in different tongues, greeting the new day and each
other positively, we untied hammocks and packed our belongings. Downing
the last of our coffee we made our way to the water oblivious of the
warning roar coming from the upstream rapids. With a final goodbye to
the almost Mediterranean cove of Arapahu and we were on our way again.
As the bubbling waters ahead came into view they looked docile, almost
inviting in comparison to the Wonotobo Falls, but weaving closer through
the twisting currents the mood soon changed. Aweiti, Basha John and
the Captain cautiously pointed the way as we edged closer to the heart
of the rapids, their stern faces reflecting the need for total concentration.
At first we crept along the banks, skirting the most powerful currents,
to an outcrop of rock that offered the best vantage point. Aweiti waded
in fearlessly to scout the path, but thigh-high in water his 'tree-trunk'
legs could barely take the strain. So the suggestion to follow was quickly
dismissed by our far more cautious Amerindian friends, Captain and Basha
John. At that point the only option was to carry the load overland,
and blast the lighter boat past the problem.
Barely finding the footing with heavy bags hanging off me, I joined
the chain of load carrying up the steep muddy hill as the boat set off
on its latest challenge. Sweating hard we set the bags down on a fallen
tree as the welcome scream of a straining engine approached. Triumphantly
The same process began again with the occasional authoritative and bellowing
command from Await to his son Marcel on the engine. "Slowly ... Slowly...
this way ... that way". The tension increased dramatically as we approached
huge static waves and the three front men began signalling boldly to
each other, (but not in the same direction!), their preferred route.
Suddenly without prompting Marcel stole the moment, with everyone's
fate held firmly in his hands he opened the throttle fully and charged
for the waves. All hell broke loose, as half the boat started crying
out their fears. Waves came at us like a stormy sea, but what seemed
like a lifetime was over in a second and with hearts pumping like crazy
we idled into the banks.
Once more I lumbered into the trees as the boat took off. But this time
after dark glances and stern words Aweti was now at the engine. Half
way back to the remaining baggage I heard the loud crack of metal on
stone and rushed back to the shore. Minutes later the boat floated into
view with running man, Max and the crew clinging for dear life to the
boat, their wide eyes and anguished looks said it all .The propeller
was smashed making a last push for calmer waters, and they 'd spun dangerously
Brave Oky, who calls himself Lion, will no longer be known as 'pussy
cat' (due to his habit of carrying light loads). He instinctively drove
into the wild waters with a rope in hand and swam like a man possessed
to the nearest tree to secure the boat from crashing down the river.
All consumed with a sinking feeling, we wracked our brains to find a
solution to this new emergency. But stuck out here without a spare,
the position was, without a doubt, critical. The look of despair on
Marcel’s face, the sense of defeat in Aweti, the passive submission
in the Captain’s eyes shattered the general optimism of this morning
in an instant.
With only two options available to us, neither of which is perfect.
We broke out the satellite phone and hacked a hasty clearing in the
dense jungle. We drew on all of our resources making a few frantic calls
to Paramaribo, and tried to find the spares needed or any way out of
our predicament. The first call was to Intertropical Airways - the only
company in Suriname with a helicopter capable of finding us out here....engaged.
The second call was to Cyril (Roberto's partner) to ask him if he could
organise a plane to fly into the nearest airstrip (about 25 Kilometres
down stream). This, we might just reach if we are lucky. Without a new
propeller and a helicopter our trip on the Corentyn is over. The whole
crew have fought their way past every obstacle nature has laid in front
of us... We have made camp in the forest by our crippled boat and await
tomorrow and what it might bring ......
Lion to the Rescue