How plans change
Applying for a visa
On the advice of the Maritime Authority Suriname (MAS) we drop anchor at the Merodia pier, where the "Sweet Merodia" is moored as well. During our first night in Suriname, after 24 nights of three-hour shifts, we sleep through the whole night.
The next day we need to get a visa. This isn't easy, as it turns out. First we need to pick up forms and fill them in. Because of the limited opening hours of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we need to hand them in the next day. But the next day is a Saturday and they are closed on Saturdays.
On Monday morning we hand in the papers and our passports. In the afternoon, we pick up our passports with a visa. Then we have to go to the aliens registration office, which is a long way out of the city, to get a so-called in stamp. We do this the next day and all in all it takes us three days not to be illegal in Suriname.
We enjoy being able to talk to everyone in Dutch. Since we go around on foot, we get to know Paramaribo a little during these days. It's a beautiful city with no high-rise buildings and with mostly wooden houses. It's a pity that many houses are in bad repair. A painter with a pot of paint could do a lot of good work here.
Out of the water
Hans has never been in a tropical rainforest before and we would like to see more of the country. So, after much deliberation, we book a four-day tour into the interior. Then of course the question arises: where to moor our ship while we are away for four days. What is safe? We are still moored at the Merodia pier, but that doesn't feel good. There are no marinas, but there is a shipyard with a crane, so we can put our Happy Monster ashore. Together with the Sepia we go to the yard to see what it looks like. We ask for prices and are still in two minds. But the enormous family of swan mussels under our ship settles it. We agree on when to take the ship out of the water.
The overheated engine again
In the meantime we are still moored with the Sepia, but this time in the centre of Paramaribo, between two posts. Frank and Hans at last repair our engine. The old heat exchanger, including its casing, is replaced. The job is finished within three hours. At last, the troubles with the overheated engine are over, which is quite a relief.
Moving to Domburg
In the centre of Paramaribo there's a restaurant called "Merci". This is where we meet André and Ludi, who tell us that you can safely anchor at Domburg and that there is still a mooring available. We postpone our plans to get the ship out of the water and we sail to Domburg, together with the Sepia and the Schorpioen, which has also arrived in Suriname in the meantime. We leave our ships in Domburg to visit the interior for four days. Other sailors moored there promise to keep an eye on our ships.
Into the interior
The trip into the interior starts with a trip by car. When the paved roads come to an end, we jolt along red-coloured dirt roads. The trip is a difficult one because of the pot-holes and the heavy rainfall of the last few weeks. We are glad when we arrive at the Coppename river after about six hours. After a delicious roti meal, we board a koreaal. These are long, slender boats made of a hollowed-out tree trunk, which can hold about twenty people. There's a huge outboard motor at the back, so we race over the water. It's a great feeling. We move from left to right across the river to avoid shoals. We weren't too happy about the tropical rainstorm we got caught in, but then that's the risk when visiting the rainforest during the rainy season.
We spend the night in a simple lodge and despite the spiders, the stick-insect and the frog in our room we feel safe under our mosquito net. The next day we walk through the jungle with Voltzberg as our final destination. The sensation, the sounds and the smells of the jungle are difficult to describe. It's a very special feeling to walk for hours, drenched by sweat, among huge trees, dense bushes, brightly coloured flowers and strange bird sounds. We are thoroughly enjoying it. We spend the night sleeping in hammocks in a simple cottage at the foot of the Voltzberg. After only a few hours of sleep we get up at five to climb to the top of the bare Voltzberg, which towers above the jungle, to watch the sunrise. When we reach the top, we see how the jungle awakens in the mist. It's like a fairy tale. After we have climbed down again, we have breakfast and we start the journey back. We are worn out by the time we reach the lodge, and some of us are even stumbling. We are served a delicious meal and the monkeys come and get some food as well. These are monkeys which are taken from people who kept them in their homes in Paramaribo and who are now living in freedom again. But they know very well when it's dinnertime in the lodge. The next day we take another beautiful walk to the "Moedervallen". It's more of a rapid than an actual fall, but it was worth seeing nevertheless. In the afternoon we fly back in a small airplane and view the jungle from above. It looks like broccoli or cauliflower stretching to the horizon with rivers twisting through it, trying to find their way out.
We are staying
Back at our ship in Domburg we rest and think about the next stage of our trip. It's the middle of January now and we want to go to Trinidad and Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba and then on to Cuba. But we have to pass through the Panama Canal in mid-March, otherwise we won't arrive in New Zealand in time, due to the hurricanes on the Pacific. Sailing from Aruba to Cuba and back again to Panama takes at least a month and that would leave us only four weeks to visit the other islands on our list. Is that what we want? It sounds like a race against the clock. Thanks to our new contacts here in Domburg, Hans gets the opportunity to earn some extra money building websites. And we've always said that if we like it somewhere, and we do like it here in Suriname, and if we can make some money, then we'll stay for a while. Quite unexpectedly we have found a place like that in Suriname. After all, we make plans only to change them again. We will stay here in Suriname until the end of October.
Mickey is stolen
On Hans' first working day we get up at 5.45 and then Dory discovers that Mini, our dinghy, is no longer with Happy Monster. We are horrified! What has happened?? The lines are still attached to our ship, but nothing is attached to the lines. Mini has been stolen!! After we have gotten over the initial shock we realise that we cannot get ashore. We wait until 7.30, when the first water taxi from Laarwijk passes by. We get a lift to the shore and go to the police office to report the theft. We are quite upset. The police notes everything down and with someone else's boat they come and have a look at our ship to see how the lines were untied. We walk along the river hoping to find our Mini, but unfortunately there's not a trace of our dinghy. We're on a square in Domburg and can't return to our ship and while we are waiting for someone to give us a lift, the Sepia passes by, which is on its way to Tobago. They've heard from fishermen further down that our dinghy is over there. Hans goes with them and sure enough, there is our Mini, half deflated among a few fishing boats. What we already expected turns out to be true: Mickey, our little outboard motor, is missing. Frank and Marijke take Hans and Mini back to our ship with their Sepia, in the pouring rain. Hans inflates Mini and rows to shore to pick up Dory. At least we have our dinghy back, but for the time being we will have to row. Our thoughts are often with Mickey. It was such a great, small, comfortably whirring engine. A Honda 2hp four-stroke engine. A very popular model. We don't expect to ever see it again, despite the police's good intentions.
Back to work
The people here in Suriname are very friendly and open and we get to know a lot of people in a short period of time. Hans has been working for two weeks now and is enjoying it. Dory has found a shop that sells hearing aids and is able to share a lot of experience and knowledge. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we take the 6.30 bus into town together. First we check our mail at the post office, then we have coffee at "Merci" and then we go to work. We have lunch at "Merci" and around four we take the bus back to Domburg.
The centre of Domburg consists of a supermarket, two small restaurants and a market selling vegetables and fruit. There's also a butcher and an internet café. Every afternoon around five a number of people meet at the restaurants. We drink djogos, litre bottles of the Surinamese Parbo beer. A lot of local rum is mixed with the coke. Around eight things get quiet again in the square. Then we row back to Happy Monster, cook some food and go to bed at round ten.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)