Health Wealth & Hollow Rewards

We were amazed to see through a thick forest fog at seven o'clock this morning, that our Wayana friends where still wading in to their Kasiri, passing the huge shiny ladles around that they have been communally drinking from for the last three days. Luckily Kasiri is not very strong or they would all have hangovers as thick as the surrounding fog that we woke to.

Back on the boat today we all welcomed the respite that the river offered from the hectic past few days, but no more so than our guides, the Ma Ye Du crew, who have been idling their time away whilst we've been cramming in the culture of the Wayana or charging around goldmines... an activity that is defiantly not on their usual itinerary of nature, culture and adventure in the heart of Bush Negro country (although an adventure it certainly was!).

Our first stop today was at a place that had been teasing our imagination for days. Maripasula was beckoning with fresh baguettes, cheese and wine! (a very welcome break from the piranha and white lipped pig that we are used to). So we stopped for a continental breakfast in the middle of the jungle! With its concrete quays, cars, public phones and bars with beer on tap! It's a world away from the total lack of amenities a 'stone’s throw' away in Suriname. That is not to say that the colourful plastic wrapped trappings of city life belong in the bush, but the amenities available in French Guyana are sorely missing on the opposite banks of the Lawa river. A well supplied school and functioning health facilities are almost non-existent in the interior here, even on this riverine motorway. To substantiate that fact we stopped on Stoelmans-eiland where the regions largest hospital sits starved of crucial supplies. The poorly maintained and crumbling buildings are all that is available between there and Paramaribo, a bizarre reality considering the amount of frenzied goldmining activity in this area. We asked to see the Doctor, but the reply came back that he was 'too tired to talk'. Too tired physically or too tired to reiterate his needs... we are not sure, but what is sure is being a healer without the means to heal must be intensely frustrating.

Sullenly moving on we paid a visit to one of the many 'Scallion' or gold-mining barges dotted along the river. Much the same process as on land the enormous barges are a dangerous patchwork of welded scrap iron, where teams of galimpieros or locals work eat and sleep with the constant drone of powerful engines that suck the riverbeds for the precious metal, and as we saw further down stream people will go to great lengths to get involved in this work. On a diving pontoon (a smaller more primitive version of the Scallion) Thomas, an N'Duka diver spends five hours a day aiming the pumps hose at the valuable river bed sediment deep down in the foreboding darkness amongst stingray and other unseen hazards for a nominal percentage of the takings. It is blindingly obvious that this is one of the only sources of income and definitely the most profitable in the area... So it is a crying shame to know that the lion's share of the profits are spirited away without having much impact on the most fundamental needs of the people living here... health and education.

To take our minds off another serious day’s findings we charged through the last of the big rapids that we'll encounter on the Morawijne River. Kilimo and Bayango our two powerful boatmen (and brothers in their sixties) had us whooping and cheering our way through huge waves that threatened to engulf us in the Poetrosoegoe falls. We arrived totally invigorated at Loka Loka as the sun went down over a steamy distant jungle top. With every day we find something new, tonight we sleep knowing that tomorrow we'll be meeting a revered Medicine Man (Bush Doctor) and will be delving into the rich culture of the Paramakka peoples..........


Mobile Mining

Manning the Sleuce

Thomas: Coming up for Air

Last of the Angry Rapids...


LINKS - Ma Ye Du- eco tours in the area
LINKS - Profit without plunder
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