Crossing The River Material

Our last sight of Spongebob, unloading bags after it failed to fit on the ferry – what was left behind is still there until Brazil’s lockdown eases

IN a trip encompassing an entire continent, thousands of miles, seven months, a string of border crossings and a fair bit of political unrest, a few inches is proving the most significant and most troublesome.

The few inches in difference between the height of our truck and the archway on the back of the stand-in ferry which provides the only way out of Suriname into Guyana.

And the few inches which means we have spent the last few days holed up in Georgetown enjoying the national holiday which is making alternative arrangements – for us and the truck – even harder.

Our home for the night ahead of crunch time. The lack of communication and poses suggests it has WiFi

Sure over the course of the past 23 weeks the entire group has not stared so intently, hopefully and forlornly at anything as we did from behind the ferry terminal fence as Will attempted to get Spongebob on board the once-a-day boat across the Corentyne river.

Sneak through and we were on our way, ready to savour a long weekend in the Guyanese capital as its inhabitants celebrated Mashramani – the party to mark becoming a republic in 1970, four years after independence.

Find our way blocked by the metal arch on the back of the ferry and we were unloading our hastily repacked bags, making our own way to Georgetown and leaving Will with the task of finding an alternative solution.

By far the least bizarre aspect of the meal

All that complicated by the fact he has no visa for French Guiana, the only realistic (if lengthy) option to go over land and meet us in Manaus or, more probably, in Colombia in a few weeks.

At least the truck is stashed full of nuts, handed out free in huge bags with our duty free purchases.

Early pessimism as we camped out overnight at the front of the ferry queue at the South Drain terminal (seriously), moving our tents from the grass to concrete after warnings of venomous snakes, was replaced by a bout of optimism when a lorry came off the arriving boat which appeared roughly Spongebob’s height.

And as Will rolled down the ramp, the roof dipped below the arch and we began to get our hopes up.

In search of dolphins

Right up to the point where he levelled out, rolled up to the arch and reversed away, those few inches too much for deflating the tyres to make a difference.

So as the hunt for alternative arrangements began, we unloaded as little as possible for up to a few weeks without the truck or, for those leaving in Georgetown or Manaus, the entire contents of their lockers.

Lugging rather more bags than packing light would imply, we joined the queue of foot passengers and trudged on to the waiting ferry – passing the stricken normal vessel tied up alongside which the truck could have rolled on and off without a second thought.

And so we headed off slightly into the unknown and swapped Dutch for English on the final leg of our multi-lingual crossing of the Guianas.

The I Love Suriname sign pictured from the correct side (you’d be surprised)

Our crossing of Suriname had also started with a ferry crossing, a pre-dawn departure to get to the front of the queue at St Laurent du Maroni doing the trick once the French immigration officers had got their heads around a British passport still having European Union written on the front.

A brief stop on the other side to load up with breakfast, a packed lunch and duty free and it was a relatively quick run to the capital city of Paramaribo.

It is not the biggest and not necessarily the most beautiful city and has a gritty edge, but it possesses a certain charm – slightly to very worn wooden buildings and an interesting mix of its European heritage, Caribbean neighbours and a touch of Africa.

It is different to anywhere else we have been and that is always a good start to make it stand out.

As well as its sights and history – its president is a former dictator convicted for his role in killing opponents – we explored its bars (one down by the river in particular) and restaurants.

Settling in for a lengthy evening in the bar

One left us perusing the menu for 15 minutes before informing us they only had the set Valentine’s Day meal while one rib restaurant provided a meal which could fill a blog post all of its own.

May be diplomatic to leave that one for a while.

We headed a bit further afield in search of dolphins, finding a few breaking the surface on our sunset boat ride towards the mouth of the Suriname river.

But you cannot head too far afield in Suriname, it just is not big enough and we were back around the capital on our return from a couple of nights even further up the river at a jungle lodge.

Just a horrible spot in the jungle

Wish this post could report on adventures into the jungle and encounters with the local wildlife – some did head out on foot with a guide and mainly learned about the trees which enveloped us – but spent much of the time relaxing and soaking in the surroundings.

While not swimming in the river or doing our best to make dents in the duty free supplies which had made the boat ride up the river with us.

Not that much made the return journey as we worked our way back to Paramaribo and a camp at a yacht club.

Our riverside property for a couple of nights

Or a bar with a car park for our tents next to the river which had a couple of yachts tied up nearby, depending on how you want to look at it.

It did come with the added bonus of the distant orange flame as the satellite launch we had seen being prepared eight days earlier in French Guiana made its way out of our atmosphere.

If only getting the truck free from the gravitational pull of Suriname was as straightforward.

  • At the time of writing, we remain in Georgetown awaiting details of our departure by alternative transport later today. There are worse places to be stuck, but we’ve been here long enough.

    The truck is… somewhere behind us. We know it got on a barge, but with things only just reopening after the holidays, quite when it will catch up is unclear.
Our penultimate cook group – not that we knew it at the time – marked more enthusiastically by some than others
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