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-- 5th to 17th January 2012--
It feels hot under the palm trees. In the left-driving bus packed with Asians and Indians the radio is playing loud... in Dutch! The sweet sounds of the Low Countries fill the sunny air of Suriname – the former Dutch Guiana, independent since 1975. Coming from the French Guiana next door, we found a similar landscape of jungle hosting a very different population and culture. More green pictures on our page "Pictures" .

Sailed 245 miles
6996 miles since the start
We stopped in : : Hotel Torarica (tried to anchor), Domburg (buoy)
5th to 8th January2012 : Devil’s Islands to Domburg (245M)
And yet the journey had a brilliant start... Leaving the anchorage South from Saint Joseph Island as the sun is setting we meet a nice little breeze outside, 3-4 bft, on the beam. Saltimbanque is happily running at 6 knots on the water. We have to Guyanese current to thank for another 1.5 knot: altogether the GPS indicates 7.5 to 8 knots true speed: not bad!
But around 4am the skies darken up. The squalls arrive, burst into waterfalls, only to leave us in a flat calm... That’s an early start of the day for Nestor who will have to work for nearly 7 hours – the longer motor-day since Dakar! The current is helping less as well and we are pacing at a “slow” 4.8 knots. In the afternoon the wind picks up again to the beam and we resume our run. Several terns will keep us company, not shy at all, standing about everywhere and mainly on the solar panel. One, two, three... we’re being outnumbered and worried about our clean cockpit... we have to take a harsh stance now, physically pushing and knocking them down before they surrender and leave!
OOne tern, before it called its friends to join the board...

That's the perfect squall: first a fringe of strong wind running towards you, then thick showers...
At the end of the second night the same dark and rainy scenario is playing out again. That time the wind doesn’t die out: on the contrary it veers to the South-East by the South – right where we want to go to! Worse even, it feels like it’s coming from an whole angle (and not a single direction) as we find ourselves facing it from the 140 to the 200 – never seen that before! The current is now running against us, we tack and tack but cannot gain any ground! In the calm between the squalls we turn the engine on and sail to a better angle, but soon another cloud is looming, we take the main sail down, turn the engine off and keep only a small surface in the genoa, trying to maintain a route at 30 degrees to the wind, hoping not to lose too much ground.
At 9am the spirits are very low onboard. We have been tacking and tacking and not gained more than a few miles since 3am and are soaked to the bones. Maybe we should just give up that country that doesn’t want to let us in and sail on to Tobago.... Then Camille understands: the current is pushing us to the North East and keeping us out – this is a tidal current, coming down the river even though we are 20 miles offshore. When the tide changes, it should get better.
And indeed around 11am we manage to motor up towards the river at a reasonable 3 knots. Squalls are nicer with us now and pass away. The current gets stronger as we enter in the Suriname River. The mouth of the river is wide and shallow, spreading out of sight into a flat brownish nothingness. We follow the beacons showing the only deep channel in. On the first beacon a group of frigate birds are standing. The second beacon has been squatted by pelicans. The edges are flat and green. From time to time a barge or a small tanker ship passes us by. Further down, there’s a big refinery standing by the water... are we back to Holland already?
The frigate birds and the beacon

Anchorage in front of the Torarica Hotel: central, but very bad holding
Nestor is running well and brings us to the first of the anchorages mentioned in all the sites and guides: in front if the hotel Torarica, a few steps off the city center. Ten other boats are already anchored there, despite the tidal current flowing at 3 knots. We have prepared a longer chain already (added 10 m to our usual 20m). We get closer to the group and try a first time: nose to the current, anchor down, most of the chain down, engine idle to go backwards and spread the chain on the ground and make sure it holds before dropping the rest. We go back, and back, and back... and never stop! We have 20 m chain on the ground and we are not even slowed down a tiny bit!
OK, Laure gets everything back onboard (14kgs anchor + 20m chain) and we try again. Doesn’t work. What’s on that ground – butter???!!! Laure pulls the line back up (14kgs + 20m). We try bit more slowly to allow time for the anchor to sink in the mud, all the 30m chain out this time. We’re stopping, and holding! But as the tide changes... we are sent adrift again! Laure pulls everything back onboard again (14kgs+ 30m). We try closer to the shore following the advice of a sailor used to the place. We’re holding, for a couple of hours. The current picks up and up and up... we’re not holding any longer! Laure gets the chain up again. It’s night now and we give it a last try at another place, further from the hotel but supposedly better. It’s the 5th time – it works... we drop dead on our bed after 2 exhausting nights at sea – but keep an alarm every 45 min to have a look around and check we’re still there...

The "waterkant" in Paramaribo
The anchor holds all through the night – but we have not slept much and are jumping out to look every time we hear the wind blowing. Leaving the boat unattended is out of question. Other sailors tell us that 10 miles up the river there is a buoy free to pick up in the anchorage of Domburg. We wait for the flow and Laure gets the chain back up again. That’s 70kgs of anchor and 130m of chain in the last 12hours... The back is aching a bit as we sail by the “Waterkant” – the seafront of the city. Here we go again... And as bad luck would have it, some stuff floating in the water gets stuck in our propeller! Quick, neutral gear, then backwards, then forwards – it gets off! No time to enjoy: the engine is off and refuses to start again! The wind is irregular so far inland, we have no engine and we cannot anchor – in front of us the bridge is growing bigger, we are pushed by the current against its pillars! After a few tries Nestor starts again – saved! We’re holding our breath during the next 8 miles to Domburg, where we eagerly pick up the last buoy available. Engine out, boat stopped: Saltimbanque is safe at last!

Saltimbanque saved by the buoy in Domburg
Domburg is a quiet little village, except on Sundays, when city folks can show off on their powerful speedboats and noisy jet skis. Here sailors can find all the basic supplies (food, free water, fuel, internet, cash machine etc). Three buoys are free to pick up, but two seem to be permanently occupied – we got lucky! Yet even at the anchor it is said to be a much better place then the Torarica – less current, less waves, better ground... This is fresh water here so far up the river, and we have an unrestricted shower every day! The only drawback is communications: you have to get a bus to go to town: they run more frequently in the morning until 9 and you’d better not miss the last departure back from town at 4.30 pm!
8th to 17th January: visiting Suriname
No sooner had we arrived than we meet Henk, Laure’s colleague back in the Netherlands, spending some holidays in his native country. His friend Ashok and himself insist on showing us around and come pick us up in Domburg to bring us to diner in a good Chinese restaurant in town. It’s been a long time we hadn’t had a meal indoors, with airco even! On the next day Henk we will meet up again to visit the city center – after our entry formalities.

Official clearance to Suriname
Here comes the technical admin part – to the intention of sailors: on the contrary to most countries you don’t have to visit he Customs here, there is no formality relating to the boat itself. You “just” have to get a visa, then a stamp on your passport. To that end we had already bought the “tourist card” visa in Cayenne at the Surinamese embassy (22 euros). Good move: the 10min wait there saved us a trip back to the city center to another administration here! We only needed to go to the Foreign Affairs and present our passports along with 3 copies of the crew-list. With the boat’s stamp. Very important: the official boat stamp! The list may be handwritten on any piece of paper, it has to be stamped by the captain. We heard of skippers being sent back to their boat to fetch their stamp if they didn’t carry it with them! Hence: stamp + “tourist card” = less than 10 minutes later we were done and out.
End of the admin part. We’re standing outside of the immigration building, waiting for Henk who’s coming to pick us up and drive us to... the closest shopping mall! And here we have to talk about history and culture a bit. As a Dutch colony, the Suriname – just as French Guiana – based its development on large plantations manned by slaves. When slavery was abolished, they had to find another source of manpower; instead of importing prisoners, they resorted to “contracted” workforce manly from China, India, Indonesia and Java. This voluntary immigration lasted until the middle of the 20th century. As a result the population is extremely diverse and you see in the same bus or the same village people looking Asian, Indian or African mixing together. Communities respect each other – if they don’t always mix. As for religion, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews are about equally as numerous. The official language is Dutch, written and taught in school. The spoken language is “Sranan tong”, derived from Dutch with many additions of English, Spanish, French and African dialects – developed by the slaves not to be understood by their masters. In addition each community keeps speaking their mother tongue. English is widely spoken as well and seems to be the official advertisement language, as so many signs are written in English. It’s true in the city at least – where about half of the total population lives. The attraction of the city is strong, drawing the countryside empty. It’s the attraction of the American way of life as well: everybody want their big cars (parked anywhere on the sidewalk – where nobody walks anyways), huge commercial lanes are spreading around, blocks of flat houses indicate that there is space enough here... and shopping malls! We have lunch in the mall – easier to park than in the city...


.... Muslims ...

... and Christians, every religion has its place
We can even notice some Caribbean influence – Surinamese identify more with the Caribbean islands than the rest of South America... and that’s the end of our cultural digression. Discussing history and origins, Henk drives us to the city center, where the wooden colonial houses have been nicely painted anew – to Fort Zelandia, the starting point of the colony. Thanks for welcoming and introducing us to this country – couldn’t have better guide!
The next two days are devoted to various works onboard: small reparations and redaction of the article on Guiana, grocery shopping... Life in Domburg is easy: everything happens on the main square overlooking the river, in the shade of majestic trees covered with ghostly-looking lichens. The few shops are open in the morning. This is a “communication hub” for countryside people coming and going in busses and pirogues. On the weekend families come here watch the river and relax. In the week most snackbars are closed. One “eetcafe” is open all the time though: that’s Rita’s, the headquarters of local sailors and other Dutchies, where flags from all around the world hang from the ceiling, and books for exchange are to be found on the shelf. Some (Dutch) sailors live here all year round. They meet at Rita’s with other Dutchies (fishermen, former-sailors-new-owners etc.) every odd day around 5pm, for a beer – or two... There’s always a new cold bottle open on the table before the other ones are poured – but at the end every bottle is empty.
The main square in Domburg
They’re friendly, welcoming and helpful. There are a few characters in the group, all with amazing stories. For example Sofia and Ett landed here 5 years ago – and they wanted more space than their 9.5m boat: they built an island out of 140.000 plastic bottles! Now they have a boat, tied to a quay with a living room and a (floating) garden! Another (much bigger) fishing boat has been sailed over from Holland to Suriname via Liberia by these two Frisian brothers. The boat makes a big nice house, being remodeled before sailing off somewhere else where the sun is shining and there are fishes to catch.

A street in the historic downtown
Thursday we go back to town, hoping to find a new LED-lamp for our navigation light on the mast. From one Chinese workshop to the next Indian ship chandler, we got to know every shop in town and the names of the streets very well – but did not find a light. Well, it can wait until the next stop. The day has not been spent in vain: we enjoyed the free wifi at MacDonald’s on Keizerstraat to update the website, and walked around the historical center.
On the next morning the alarm goes off at 6 (ouch! And some of you think that we are on holidays...). We want to get on the 7 am bus (which comes at 7.30) and be at 8.30 at the bike rental shop behind the Palmtrees Garden. Low saddle, high handlebar... no brake handle: those are authentic Dutch bikes with no gear, you have to paddle backwards to brake! And off we go, highly focused to ride on the left side of the road. We go North out of the city to the end of the road, then cross the river on a pirogue to Nieuw Amsterdam. There starts the Commewijne district, historical colonial and agricultural center. We bike along an old fort, on the dykes by the river (sounds familiar?), in a former plantation where some former rum distillery is still standing in Marienburg, by some dilapidated colonial houses in Alkmaar. Along the road, no large field but a succession of smaller parcels and individual houses, every one surrounded by a little ditch. Dykes, canals and locks... are we back to the “Groene hart” of our beloved Holland?
Bike, river, dyke... and palmtree!

A cow and its bird friend on its back
Well, let’s see: the trees bear mangoes and coconuts, every cow in the fields is followed by a tall white wader bird... More to the South along the river, former plantations are being reconverted into housing parcels. Or trying to: electricity poles are already standing in the middle of the empty fields waiting for the bricks yet. This side of the river has been developed only recently, since the bridge to Paramaribo was built 10 years ago. Today it’s still not clear what it will become. We get back to the city on a pirogue, leave the bikes and run to the bus station just in time for the last departure. What a day! Now we’re longing for rest. But in Domburg the folks are sitting at Rita’s table and calling for us before we reach our dinghy: new sailors have arrived. Birgit and Christian are Austrians and we were neighbors in Mindelo! They just crossed from Brava, Cabo Verde, on their nice 41 feeter “Pitufa” and are starting a no-time-limit trip to the Pacific.
On Saturday we have some rest at last, do some shopping, stop by Pitufa, have diner at Rita’s of course...
And on Sunday we’re up early again. No bus so we hop on a pirogue, not quite sure where to... it brings us to the other side a little bit further down the river, to a plantation still active called Laarwijk. No car on this little piece of land of 2km by 2km. Some 50 houses are spread along a couple of main paths. They stand in the middle of neat fields looking more like orchards or garden, where fruit trees of all kinds grow together. Every path has its little canal alongside, with its little lock at the end. We meet Mister Rambo there, the self-appointed “spokesman” for the village, who insists on walking us to the end of the path, stopping at every other tree, every of his three houses and 15 dogs. Electricity has reached this plantation only 2 years ago. It was not enough to keep the inhabitants there apparently, many houses are empty now, people moved to the city. Yet globally the plantation looks very clean and well-maintained. At the end of the path, we step into the jungle: the forest is dense, the ground turns into a swamp... the contrast with the nice canals and fields makes it more obvious how much they had to work to make something out of that humid and green chaos!
Laarwijk's main harbour
In this country we haven’t seen many mammals, but scores of lizards of all sizes, and many many birds! We were surprised to see so many little grey or dark birds that are walked around everywhere in their cage by proud owners (mostly men above 40): they are contest birds, trained to sing and win big money. Out of any cages you can see yellow-bellied “grietjebie” everywhere (size of a blackbird, so called after its singing), high flying mighty birds of prey, white wading birds in every ditch along the streets – and our little black and white friends, the size of a sparrow, singing on our mast and spanners every morning!

Fishermen on their pirogue, going down the Suriname River
Yet this country cannot be visited further without a car or taking part to an organized tour. On top of that, the weather forecast is showing a window of good winds this week, before increasing in the weekend. Makes us think about setting sails again, already. Last day in town, to check out of the country, buy some food and have a Brazilian lunch. We know the bus lines and the streets, no need of a map to navigate in this city any more, it looks almost familiar now: it’s time to go away, towards a new unknown... On the next day as the tide changes we release our precious buoy, stop alongside friendly fishermen at the fishers’ dock for water, and start on the long descent of the river, to the sea, to the blue water of the Caribbean islands. We leave South America and shall not set a foot on a continent before... Europe! But mainly islands await us in-between...
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Your messages:

CLAUDIE Michel - 29/01/2012 19:19:48
Toujours super. Ne loupez pas le mouillage de Mayreau et la petite église.......Et petit tabac. Des coins de paradis

Camille & Laure - 28/01/2012 22:03:02
Elles sont arrivées! Les photos du Suriname et les dernières de Guyane sont enfin en ligne... à retrouver sur la page "Photos"!
New update: the pictures of Suriname and the last pictures of the French Guiana album are finally online... to check out on our page "Pictures"

Hans en Remco - 28/01/2012 15:05:44
Bedankt voor jullie kaartje, vanavond de verjaardag van Rianne en Sylvia, in februari gaan we met z'n 4én skieen in Oostenrijk, kom je ook??

SuDad - 27/01/2012 18:26:13
Euh dites, une question: les bravos, ça va, vous n'en avez pas marre ? Bon, alors BRAVO, encore une fois. Une nouvelle tranche de connaissance du monde, bien mitonnée. La balade tropicale, c'est goûteux aussi. Les oiseaux arc-en-ciel, lézards, singes, noix de coco,on a peu de chances de rencontrer ça un jour sur nos trottoirs. Alors, suivons le déroulement du rêve que vous nous tricotez si habilement depuis Rotterdam. Ca va Laure, les biceps, après ta muscu sur ancre et chaîne ? Allons voir les photos maintenant. Et rendez-vous pour Tobago. Merci, la french navy's touch.

Marie-Christine - 26/01/2012 09:57:19
C'est super sympa de nous faire profiter de votre voyage ; même par procuration, le dépaysement est là !!! Quand le froid et la pluie sont lá, hop, un patit tour sur le site et le soleil et vos sourires nous remontent le moral.

Dick - 25/01/2012 23:32:37
Veel plezier in Suriname, ik was er 16 jaar geleden en vond het prachtig! No span!

Nadia - 24/01/2012 10:08:13
que de belles photos encore :-))))) on en redemande ! il y plein de bestioles dont je n'avais même pas idée ;-)))la Mautoutou est toute mignonne quand même ;-))))

bonne continuation !!!

Kariine - 23/01/2012 22:40:07
"nous nous « trainons » à 4,8 nœuds"... tiens ça me rapelle quelque chose ! Ils volent pas tes lead-ins Camille? :o)
Félicitations à Rambo-Laure pour ces kilos de chaine et d'ancre! même pas mal? quelle jeunesse !!
Escapades singulières en tout cas que la Guyane et le Surinam. La suite devrait encore nous donner à rêver. A bientôt !

la mamou - 23/01/2012 20:32:09
encore une autre ambiance ...
décidement , l'eau douce , c'est vraiment pas trop mon truc !!les photos sont superbes , mais je n'ai vraiment pas envie d'y mettre les pieds ...
mais le turquoise n'est plus loin !!! ;-)))
à bientot !!

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