Loading Up and Letting Go

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 symmetries.

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.


Loading Up

Straight Lines

Letting Go

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