|Loading Up and Letting
Today marks the start
of our twelve day trip up the Corantyne River to Kwamalasamutu. The
day began with a drive to Nieuw Nickerie to pick up a last few vital
items before our departure. I've heard of compulsive shopping but this
was different. As my eyes scanned the shelves, garments that I wouldn't
normally give a second thought to became things that ... yes ... I'm
sure I'll need ... in fact I'm sure I can't do without: extra shorts,
a backup pair of flip flops, a plastic immitation pair of Ray Bans,
a flannel to dry the camera ... How could I have ever got by without
these fundamental additions to my pack?
We then made our way to the boat which came to meet us at a Hindustani
saw-mill near the mouth of the river. It seemed ironic that our trip
to Kwamalasamutu should begin at such an inauspicious location. We're
on our way to find a Trio shamen and to express the importance of his
knowledge to a world-wide audience, and yet here we were stepping through
the sawdust, with the whining background noise of the band-saws slicing
their way through huge trunks of trees delivered to them by loggers
from the rainforest. Perhaps the most symbolic image in my mind is of
a magnificent trunk, gnarled and irregular with knots and undulations,
being reduced to a perfect square in preparation for the next stage
of the process where it is sliced into planks. We humans have a weird
talent for reducing the quirks of nature to straight lines and managable
As we sat on the side of the river, twenty kilometers wide at its mouth,
it was clear that the last few days on the Maratakka were little more
than a warm up for what is to come. It is weird to think that at the
end of our journey this huge river will be just thirty meters wide ...
That's if we make it...
After a few hours on the wide wide river we had a decision to make -
plough on into the darkness, or stop at Orealla on the Guyanese side
of the river. Orealla is perched on sandy cliffs overlooking the waters.
As we passed the guides made the decision for us and we pulled in for
the night. Perhaps this was due to the fact that in Suriname this border
town is famous for being home to beautiful Arawak women. On arrival
we had the obligatory visit to the pastal-coloured police station perched
on the river bank. With a swagger demonstrating his immense importance
the policeman took down our names addresses and dates of birth before
giving us permission to stay. We thanked him earnestly before setting
off in the twilight rainstorm to visit the councellor (or captain as
they are know in Suriname) of the village to ask his more significant
permission. This was duely granted, with a lot less fuss - a strong
Arawak face peering out of the darkness, wishing us well and welcoming
us to the village. Smiles and good intentions will get you a long way
but here and it is a brief relief to be able to speak English in this
former British colony. It's odd too that a river can form a language
barrier as well as a natural one.
I can't wait to wake up in the morning to see this place in daylight.
Its just another one of those places that awakens the curiosity.
PS. The dog at the place we are staying at is called Tarzan.