Still in Suriname
Our life here in Suriname is slowly becoming a routine and that definitely wasn't what we intended for our journey. To get out of the rut, we go on a trip every other month. And we have set a date for leaving Suriname: 12 October. We are really looking forward to that. We also try to make the four days we're not working as varied and fun as possible. We do this in the company of other sailors moored here in Domburg, or of Surinamese acquaintances we have met here.
The number of boats moored near us varies. We came here with the "Sepia" and the "Schorpioen", both of which have left already. The "Schorpioen" is back in Europe and the "Sepia" has even returned to the Netherlands. André and Ludy have been here for three years with their three-master "Erna", but they are now thinking of continuing to the San Blas islands near Panama. Along with "Erna", the "Witte Raaf" and the "Torn Too", we are the only ones here at the moment. Jan-Willem and Petra from the "Witte Raaf" are planning on buying a piece of land here and to return on a regular basis. Ingrid and Rob of the "Torn Too" are going back next year after they have visited their children in Brazil. So everyone here has their own plans. Gaston and Britt's "De Rob" is still here as well, while they are visiting the Netherlands. We are looking after their ship. Jacqueline and Wil have also been here for a few weeks with their ship the "Faston". Now it's on shore in Trinidad, while they are in the Netherlands for a while. We had a great time with Gijs and Paula from the "Sortilege" and we have learned a lot from Louis and Joke from the "Archimedes", who are very experienced round-the-world sailors. Eep stayed here for a few weeks with his bilge keeler the "Eos", but he left quite a while ago. From what we've heard, he is now on Isla Margarita in Venezuela.
Our tourist visa has expired after six months. We have to leave the country and return with a new visa, so we can stay for another six months. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises us to go to the neighbouring country of French Guiana. This is a tiny part of Europe in South America, which means we can easily visit it with our passports. On the day of departure we take an early bus into the city. From there, we want to take a Nationaal Vervoer Bedrijf bus to Albina.
The bus leaves at nine, but around eight people are already gathering at the bus station. When the bus arrives, something happens that we didn't expect. All around us, people start running towards the still moving bus and throwing their bags through the open windows. There's a lot of pushing and shoving to get on the bus. Fortunately, Dory manages to secure two seats. There's a bag on one of the seats, but we move it elsewhere. We are fairly comfortable, which we find surprising, until we realise that the back of our seat is slightly tilted backwards, as a result of which the seats behind us are a little cramped.
The ride to Albina takes three hours. We are optimistic when the bus leaves, but as soon as we've rounded the first bend we stop for more than twenty minutes because an old screaming man dragging along lots of luggage is very slowly approaching. Anyway, we're on our way again and after we have crossed the Wijdenbosch bridge, we have reached the East-West connection and jolt along. The scenery is monotonous and the road is so bad we sometimes bounce off our seats. We also understand now why the back of our seat is tilted backwards like that. Slowly we feel it slide down further. Just before we reach Albina it breaks off. Fortunately, the man sitting behind us doesn't get hurt, but he can no longer sit there.
Albina is on the Marowijne river. We have to cross it to reach St Laurent in French Guiana. Even before we get off the bus, we've already made a deal with a nice guy who will take us to the military police to get the necessary and much desired stamps in our passports. Then he takes us in his boat to the French customs on the other side. We receive more stamps in our passports. Finally, he takes us to where the minibuses to Cayenne leave. And all of this for just 30 Surinamese dollars, which is 8.60 euros!
The minibus leaves as soon as it is filled to capacity. When we get on, only four more people are needed, so that won't probably take too long, according to the driver. Unfortunately, it's another four hours before we leave and we arrive in Cayenne after dark. The next day we have a good time, we eat French baguette and French cheese, we drink French wine and notice how the French take good care of their colony. The city looks relatively tidy and well-kept. At the end of the afternoon we enjoy the football madness, because Brazil has beaten Japan. The next day, we speed back to St Laurent in a beautiful minibus equipped with a DVD player over a nice, smooth motorway. From there we visit the turtle island near Yalimapo.
We spend the night in our hammocks, enjoy walks along the beach and get to see the huge, panting colossus arriving on the beach to lay its eggs. They are enormous, impressive animals. We have a wonderful time. At the end of the morning we drive back to St Laurent, receive yet another stamp in our passport and go back home. Because that's what Suriname feels like right now. On the other side, we have nasi (fried rice) and bami (Chinese noodles) again and it's as if we never left.
Once a month, the Dutch embassy shows a film. Anyone can go and watch it, for free. Transport from the city to Domburg in the evening is always a problem for us, because buses only run until five and a taxi is too expensive for us. Fortunately, Ronald and Greet, our Surinamese acquaintances whom we regularly meet, are also going to see the documentary about the atrocious massacres which took place during the internal war. So they take us back to Domburg in the evening. It's rather special to be back on a tiny piece of Dutch territory. The walls are covered in paintings of windmills and cows. Typically Dutch. The audience consists mostly of Dutch people. So we feel like we're spending the evening in the Netherlands.
Apart from this film night we have had a few other outings lately: a film night at Erik and Neeta's; a wedding to which we were invited by an uncle of the bride and where we hardly saw the bride and groom, but were stuffed with food and drink; a visit to the presentation of the diplomas at the local advanced elementary education school; a barbecue, organised by all the sailors and fishermen who often have a drink together in Domburg. And sometimes we spend an evening listening to live music at Café De Punt, in the centre of Paramaribo.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)