Slow Progress

It would be easy to underestimate the severity of our situation, imagining that this website is all part of an elaborate movie set designed to grab your attention. If that's the case then todays episode opens with a happy scene. Sore feet, wet clothes and aching muscles doing little to dampen the enthusiasm that the closing moments of yesterday offered; Moses appearing as if from nowhere and the boat drifting eerily across the forest floor.

To recap; we're 200 kilometres up the largely uninhabited Corantyn River travelling towards Kwamalasamutu 300 kilometres up-river. Blocking our way are the Wonotobo Rapids. We're attempting to drag our one-and-a-half tonne canoe three kilometers through the surrounding jungle on an overgrown logging trail, around the rapids. In short, there is no easy way out, if we break the boat we've had it. It isn't a movie...

The first 500 metres seemed to go quite well as we followed close behind watching the boat slew and roll along after the tractor, over rocks and logs. On the first hill the chainsaw and machettes went into action, cutting away obstacles- trees, roots and hanging vines.

In an attempt to protect the underside of the boat we resorted to felling small trees- the powerful chainsaw slicing through the flesh of the wood in a matter of seconds. It wasn't what I had in mind but given the circumstance, we where left with no option. To say progress was slow would be an understatment. It took nearly three hours of intense activity- pushing and pulling, scambering through the jungle searching for pieces of rotten wood to place under the spinning wheels of the tractor as it dug deeper and deeper into the soft mud. This first hill of the day was finally conquered by heavy machinery, levers pullies, sweat, nature and absolute unbreakable determination. For a few precious moments we all felt like champions, cheering triumphantly as the boat made its way over the ridge. This feeling would have lasted longer had it not been for one thing.... The sound of splintering wood! A rock had pierced its way through the underside of the boat..... YES a big whole!

Aweiti, one of our guides and, I discover, a master boat-builder calmed my anxiety with a few "No Bigis!" as the boat pulled away and slid off along the trail.

Brushing aside the implications, I set off after the boat. For about a kilometre I followed close behind running through the undergrowth splashing through thick pools of mud. The corners where the most traumatic: a 45 ft long canoe carved out of a single tree doesn't corner very well ... especially when levered around massive trees by a tractor! Each corner brought with it a deepening sense of dread. Straining under the immense pressure our canoe put up an amazing fight - loud cracking sounds as the sides of the boat bowed and then cracked.

The corners where only part of the problem- huge fallen trees lay in our way, three major hills where we stalled for a couple of hours repeating the events of the earlier obstacles- chainsaws, machettes, rotten wood, swarms of biting insects and mutant ants the size of an elephant!

At one point Jay and I walked on ahead to check the route... more fallen trees (big ones) and a seven foot deep creek with large rotten logs semi-submerged serving as a bridge ... Walking further still we entered into a jungle swamp. We waded waist high through the murky water for about quarter of a kilometer looking for the other side of the falls. It was a scene straight out of a jungle war movie, all we where missing was camouflage, machine guns and an enemy.... I have to give Jay major points for doing it barefoot! Especially after we saw a Sting-Ray (Electric Eel and Anaconda territory).

Now, I know all this may sounds a little bit macho...'chewing bullets an al' - it isn't supposed to. It's just part of our journey to meet with a remote tribal community here in Suriname. Admittedly we could have flown...but then we wouldn't have seen the country from a grass roots level (which is our intention).

In summary..... After 9 hours of the hardest, toughest bone breaking work I have ever done in my life we finally arrived at the edge of the swamp. From here we will hopefully be able to float and drag the boat through to the other side where we can continue the first stage of our journey (check the 'Journey Ahead' section) .

P.S ...I hope Aweti is a master boat builder.... Because not only did we punch a whole through the bottom, but we snapped of the front.... The back and cracked the boat right the way down one side.

Tommorrow has its own set of problems.... We're not out of the woods yet!


Under the Wheels

Man Power

Building the Bridge