Suriname 🇸🇷: Two days in Paramaibo

Our tour of the Guyana’s started in Surinam after a brief stopover in Aruba. Hot, different but a lot of fun looking back at the initial week.

Half a night in the hammock

We arrived shortly after midnight at Paramaribo. To get into the country you need to purchase a tourist pass for EUR35 (single entry). First curiosity was the cash machine. I never had to put my card in horizontally… First signs of a crazy journey?

We opted to sleep in a B&B near the airport, but the reception was closed. So we jumped into the hammocks hanging in the backyard.

Sometime around 3am and just when i fell asleep the owner swung by. A little confused as to his new guests. He put us into a spare room and soon we dozed off.

 

Laura’s comment: On the first day Ronny decided to sleep in hammocks in the middle of nowhere. I was very nervous and only after some time I could relax a little. Suddenly a guy arrived, asked us what we are doing here and after a conversation showed us our accommodation for the night. (This was a very tense moment for me.) Next day we missed our satellite launch in French Guiana and decided to stay in Surinam. Since this moment I can say that Surinam is a country with incredible places and people. 😎 🇸🇷

Fyrelion 🦁 on the bus

Next morning we had to wait for an hour for a bus into town. Pretty packed stuff! The choice of music in the radio pretty accurately reflected the cultural diversity of Suriname… During one hour we got something of a global music crash course with everything on offer – indian, Espanola, afro, Italian (Pavarotti no less!), tango, portuguese – until the news flash in dutch reminded that we are not lost in Spotify, but in this packed Surinamese bus 🚌 headed for Paramaribo city.

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The trip was entertaining beyond the radio for we met no other than Mr. ‘Fyrelion’ – a say 60y ish old rastaman from British Guyana on a five-day business trip for his food export / import business. We had a little icy start for i ‘forgot’ to put down the folding chair for the aisle (how could I!? 🤔), but soon started chatting away… Well he did.

He is clearly into conspiracy stuff (no doubt, me too in many ways) and despises the whole G8 illuminati that suppress developing nations. In his views, they instigated the whole refugee drama – both in Syria and Venezuela. He also believes that refugees get ‘poisoned’ food as food rations include melamine. Being from one the Guyana’s we wanted to visit, we discussed the safety aspect. He said its pretty dangerous right now with the number of Venezuelan refugees almost matching the incumbent population (c800k). Second caution this morning after a Brazilian couple in our B&B. Good luck Fyrelion!

Looking out of the window, while driving on the left like in 🇬🇧, opened up a weird world. Carribean weather, dutch language signs everywhere (bakkerij anyone? Or bushalte?), many hindu temples and blended in a few Chinese supermarkets. Unique!

 

Paramaibo: Some 250000 or almost half of Surinamese people live in the capital. They are also known as Parbo’s as is the local beer that comes in large 1l bottles called Djogo.

Hunting for cash 💵💶

Our initial plan was to connect the same day to French Guiana to witness a Soyuz satellite launch from the European Space Agency. Well, we missed the bus and would not have had enough SRD to pay the ticket anyway.

We must have tried 5 different banks before we finally got cash from republic bank – the only one that accepts international cards. By the way, visa cards also utterly useless here other than af select tour agencies (that charge 5%). Sorted. Time for lunch, accommodation and a little city tour.

Celebrating Divali – the festival of lights

After a quick stroll through town with its unesco world heritage listed city center, we headed for a bar by the Suriname River called E’ Tembe. Here we met Lisette and Sergio who work here part time while living on a nearby theatre ship ‘ship of fools‘.

The latter has an interesting story. It is owned by two guys that have been on tour with the ship for 30y. They usually stop in a place for 6 month before moving on and entertain their host nation with their own theatre creations. Naturally, the boat is a hotspot for all sorts of artistic and at times a little crazy people. We will try to catch the boat in Frederiksdorp next week before it sails to Trinidad & Tobago 🇹🇹 🛳

 

While having parbo beer (well, mango juice for Laura) and a soup made by Sergio from wild black chicken, we had an entertaining conversation with Lisette. Both run a tour company (Optimission on tour) and offered a visit to Brownsberg nature reserve and stay on an island on Brokopondo lake for the coming weekend. We are in!

 

By now it was dark and we headed over to a central park near the presidential palace and the national assembly. The c30% Indian population of Paramaribo was celebrating Divali – the festival of lights. There were many stands with mainly sweet food in all sorts of colours, live musical performances and several places to get a henna… Laura didn’t wait long to get one.

Bank holiday… Taking it easy

For our second day we took it easy – partly by force as the bank holiday (Divali) that meant everything was shut (sadly including all museums), transport very limited and it was hot. We used the time to inform ourselves about tours and booked the Dolphin and sunset river cruise (see here for details).

If have to add here that surinamese general dont have the most liberal working hours with shops usually open 8am to 4pm. Usually the chinese run supermarkets are most reliable.

Other than that… Time to relax in the albergo alberga guesthouse (more specifically its pool), lunch with dutch style pancakes and dinner over some european football.

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Suriname 🇸🇷: Dolphin spotting on Suriname and Commewijne river

On our second afternoon in Paramaibo we decided to see some dolphin’s and booked a boat tour (€27,50 including 3 free drinks 🍻 🍷🥤). The tour leaves from Pier van Leonberg (15min, SRD30 from city center) and takes about 3h.

We first followed the Suriname river, which is probably the widest i have been on and an adventure in itself with nice views of marina’s, water front properties and Fort Nieuw Amsterdam. It is the delta close to the sea and hence carries salt water. Later on we turned into the Commewijne river, which carries sweet water. Where both rivers meet is the place where the delpin’s like to hunt their prey.

Laura’s comment: I have never seen delphins in a river. Very memorable! 🐬 🐬 🐬

In this area live the grey river delphins or Guiana delphins (wikipedia). They grow up to 2.2m long and weigh up to 240kg. Each day a dolphin consumes between 4-9% of their body weight in food… So 11 to 23kg each day. If i had to eat the same i’d be 3-7kg a day!

Very playful animals these little dolphins. They are attracted by clapping and apparently singing. However, it appears the boat of another tour had the better artists on board getting a lot more close up attention from the 🐬 than we did. 🤨

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Half way through the tour we stopped for some surinamese snacks at the local village of Johan & Magaretha – a former plantation. It was predominantly populated by indian people ans as so many other places pretty poor. I ended up talking mostly with fellow travellers from holland about their time in Suriname and got some valuable tips.

We headed back around sunset taking in the vivid colours until it was pitchblack and time for dinner. Nice trip.

Back to Colombia – then the Guyana’s

Two days in London proved loaded with catch ups – cedric, hubert, yash, per, dan, bernd and a few locals. The rest of the time i spent sorting gear & clothing to get ready for the the next trip.

It was almost exactly one year ago that i visited Colombia for the first time. By now my Spanish is not bad and i have a colombian girlfriend. What difference a year can make! I am really looking forward to hang out a bit in Santa Marta and Bogota, hit the beach and meet new faces.

Off to North East South America: The Guyana’s

However, it is also time to explore some other parts of South America. I have picked a somewhat more unusual and not well travelled part – the North East of the continent. It is made up of the three countries and former colonies Guyana (english), Suriname (dutch) and French Guiana (french) followed by a stint on Aruba to learn kite surfing (fingers crossed). So i won’t get to practice Spanish in public too much.

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Why not so well travelled?

Well, there is the big issue of transport. The amazon jungle to the south, (no-go) Venezuela to the west and water on the other sides making plane travel into the region essential. There are, however, only few options such as usually one flight from the former colonial power (say Amsterdam – Paramaribo) & one from Aruba, but no direct flights from hubs like Bogota.

The other issue, partly going hand in hand, is price levels above your typical budget for backpackers. In fact, french guyana is reportedly the most expensive place in SA being effectively part of France / Europe (eg you pay with Euro’s). Many products have to be imported.

Why is it worth going?

Well, we will see but the cultural mix of locals, former runaway slaves, Caribbeans, colonialists, asians etc is truely unique in the world as is the countryside itself that is dominated by the Amazon covering some 4/5th of the surface and provides for a high degree of biodiversity. There is also the chance to spot satélite launches in French Guiana.

Exciting! Let’s see how it goes.