Message to the Trio Granman

So a decision has been made ... reluctantly we have decided to use the plane, which was going to fly in to re-supply us, to lift us over the next section instead. It was an agonising decision last night, having put so much blood, sweat and tears into trying to crack the Corantyn.

On the one hand we were desperate to keep going if at all possible, so that we could arrive at the Trio village of Kwamalasamutu by river. We felt that this would give us some respect from the people there, as opposed to arriving, like most other outsiders, at the airstrip. We felt it would give us a more grass roots understanding of life in Kwamala and that we would, after our long journey up-river, be in a better frame of mind to appreciate the culture and nature there. We wanted to see the Upper Corantyn, and the Curuni rivers, and feel them narrrowing from the 20km mouth where we began in Nieuw Nickerie. Also, we had picked up Basha John and one of the six Captains of Kwamalasamutu at the Wonotobo falls. They are Trio people who have been sent to set up a new settlement half way down river from Kwamala as a bridge for the Trio on the Corantyn to the outside world (at present they only have the costly option of the airstrip). We really wanted to take them to their home village, not only to help them, but also because it would have weighed in our favour with the Granman (Paramount Chief). We only have a short time in the village and we want to film life there... we do not take it for granted that we will be allowed to film, and without the Granman's permission it will be impossible. So arriving with Captain and Basha John would have ingratiated us to the Granman and, we felt, improved our prospects. Sadly, since the boat is not going that far, neither is it going to return to Wonotobo where Basha John and Captain live. So they won't fly in with us as they would be unable to return. These were all factors that were making us try to find a way to carry on with our trip. On the other hand there were other factors which won out in the end. It took us a while to work out it was Saturday yesterday. To get a new propeller before Monday was going to be very difficult, and to raise Intertropical airways even more so. We have very little food left, and are surviving on rice with rice topping, plus what we can catch in the river, or what Suresh can shoot from the trees..... he's not a very good shot. In addition, we were already a week or so behind schedule , and as our trip is to continue for a few more weeks, rendezvous-ing with different groups on the way, we were in danger of jeopardising our future plans. We do not have an infinite amount of time, money, tape stock, etc and we could see things becoming very stretched if we waited for two days for the propeller. We also discussed how, over the last days, trying to get up the river, we have supplied a lot of 'action and adventure'. While this was part of the plan, it must always be kept in a balance with the more important issues and reasons for our journey; namely to provide a platform for the remote communities of Suriname to voice their feelings and concerns about the rainforest to the world. Lastly, but not least, we have been receiving e-mails telling us that the border dispute between Suriname and Guyana has intensified and that troops are now active in the area we are in. The last thing we wanted was to find ourselves stumbling into a war-zone!

So we decided to turn back today and make for Amotopo, a small airstrip about 6km downstream. This wasn't going to be as easy as it sounds. We have bust our 40hp engine and were left, on the wrong side of the river, with our half-broken 20hp engine. Going down rapids is trickier than going up them, and yesterday we had got ourselves stuck half way up. So the morning began with Aweiti scouting down through the rapids beneath us, barefoot plumbing the depth with his trusty fishing pole. Meanwhile, his son Marcel set off down a creek armed with a Machete to see if this would provide a safer route to the foot of the rapids. After much discussion it was decided that the boat, minus all essential gear (satellite communicator, cameras, stock etc) would be run down the hard bit of the rapids by Marcel, Oki, and Basha John, while the rest of us would skirt round overland. Well, I say 'overland', but in reality it was over land, through creeks and swamps, carrying the boxes over our heads to keep them dry. It was a wonderful moment when, about an hour later, we reached the bottom of the rapids and minutes later the boat appeared, engine purring, crew whooping, and Marcel shouting in his now customary manner "I am a Runningman!". We knew we had extracted ourselves from a sticky situation.

So now I'm sitting in a small corrugated iron shack by the river peering through the clouds of mosquitoes that seem to like it in this particular spot , and are buzzing on the screen and slowly munching away at my hands as I type. It seems bizarre to think that tomorrow we will actually arrive in Kwamalasamutu, albeit not in the fashion that we intended. Basha John assures me that there are no mosquitoes there which is music to my ears.

Another, final, very positive point that forms today's video entry, is that last night we were talking to Captain and Basha John about how sorry we were that we could not take them all the way but we suggested that we take a video message from them to the Granman. We really can not think of a more positive way of using the technology that we have at our disposal. Captain and Basha John are coming with us after all!



Cutting Through the Current

Thumbnail Spectator

A Message for the Granman