Visiting the maroon tribe in the Amazon Jungle

In French Guiana, the convicts who arrived at the “Bagne” were told that they were welcome to try and run away; if the Amerindians didn’t catch them, the jungle or the sea would get them – and kill them. In Suriname, the slaves had the same problem if they escaped, except that many of them had been used to surviving in nature before they were enslaved. So once they had escaped from slavery, they hid in the swampy and poisonous Amazon forest, making it impossible for the Dutch soldiers to find them again. In time, the runaway slaves in Suriname started their own tribes far into the forest, the Maroons. To this day, the maroons still live in their villages by the jungle rivers, far from the rest of Suriname. Continue reading

Visits to Surinam’s past

The Dutch owned plantations that used to cover the coastal part of Suriname are long gone, and the rain forest has taken back the fields. But if you take at look at Suriname on google maps, the former fields of the plantations are clearly visible as green squares. One of the few plantations that are still run to some extend is Laarwijk, a small place just on the opposite bank of the Surinam River from where we were anchored. There is no way to get to Laarwijk by land, and many times every day we would see the “bus-canoes” sail by Chip-Chip, bringing people to and from the small village – and once even a car… When we went to the swimming pool in the afternoon, we would often meet a colorful Dutch character, now married to a Surinamese women and living in Laarwijk, where he grows oranges and lemons on the old Laarwijk plantation grounds. He would tell us crazy stories about piranhas, caimans and about working in the Amazon forest, and one day we decided to take the short trip across the river in our dinghy to see his place for ourselves. Continue reading

Anchoring in the Suriname River to the sound of howler monkeys

Suriname is such a strange country. It was a Dutch colony until 1975, and the people living there are a strange mix of blacks, Indians, Indonesians, Dutch and more. Already on the trip in on the river, we noticed how this country had a completely different style than French Guyana, which we had just left. The river was basically much more alive. We met plenty of local boats, and on the river banks we passed colorful villages, like the village Nieuw Amsterdam, where the Dutch used to have a fort, controlling who entered the Suriname and Commewijne Rivers. While navigating the 5 knot current, the half submerged wrecks, the local boats and the giant bridge that spans the river, we passed Paramaribo, Surinams capital. The old city of Paramaribo was built by the Dutch, and the white wooden houses are a beautiful sight from the river. Later we realized that on closer inspection, they are awfully run down, and UNESCO even threatened to take away the title of world heritage site because of the lack of upkeep. Continue reading