Virtual Cruise to Surinam

SurinameFlagby Anniel7/25/15
With A Long Stop In Paramaribo  •  Way back in the early days of StubbornThings, the Chief Disrupter and early contributors to the site had a Pub Chat wherein they proposed sponsoring Virtual Cruises to exciting places in our world. The Bear and I have never been on a cruise before, but agreed we would prefer a Windjammer Cruise, accompanied by lots of books. Now, having lost the spryness of youth, we have decided to go someplace even Master Kung Fu may not have been (is such a place possible?).

We would have invited Brad on our tour, but he is still weeding, harvesting or canning his garden produce, and he did mention in the Pub Chat the possibility of getting knighted by the queen, or was that a virtual Knighthood? Hard to tell these days.

You are all welcome to join our virtual cruise. We want you to see what we saw.

Our destination of choice is Surinam, the smallest democratic republic in South America. It is situated on the northeastern coast of South America between Guyana on the north and east, Brazil directly south, and French Guiana due east. This piece of land holding all these countries is part of the jigsaw puzzle that slides across the Atlantic and tucks into the West Coast of Africa. Alfred Wegner used this jigsaw puzzle to propound his theory of continental drift or plate tectonics in the 1960’s. His science was not believed then, but today plate tectonics are accepted science.IMG_0750

Surinam (several spelling variations are available), is the former Dutch Guiana Colony and Dutch remains the official language. The residents claim to speak English, but it is really a form of English based on Creole and any real English speakers have a hard time understanding it. Once in awhile a familiar phrase makes ones ears twitch, and immediately sink back into incomprehension. Unless it’s a threat. Threats come across in any language.

Paramaribo is the capital city of the tropical country, which is only 2 to 5 degrees north of the equator, so for our trip we had to be prepared for heat and humidity. Getting to Paramaribo can be a little tricky because there is no actual harbor and we had to get a small boat to take us up the Paramaribo River and we had to arrive at the wharf well before dark to avoid the criminal element along the river. Oh, the mosquitoes are terrible in Surinam, very tiny, less than 1/4 the size of most varieties. And they can be deadly. Malaria is a concern, as is a new tropical disease called Chikunguya, for which there is no treatment available. The disease occurs in many places around the world, including the entire United States, even in Alaska. Yikes! We had to make sure we took lots of repellent, netting and wore long pants, and long sleeve shirts. Air conditioning also holds the mosquitoes at bay. The poor dears can’t take the cold.

Since Dutch Guiana was settled in the 1700’s there are historic churches and other buildings in Paramaribo to satisfy tourists, and Surinam has large deposits of bauxite supporting its economy today.

We stayed in the only big hotel in Paramaribo, which did have screens and air-conditioning. But we were here to enjoy ourselves, so we began exploring the city. Paramaribo is less than 2% of the land area of Surinam, but 98% of the country’s population of around 500,000 lives in the city. Real adventurers fly small planes into the jungle areas where the rest of the small population is scattered. There are manyTribes in the jungle that have never been visited by Europeans. The country has a few mountains, but they have been climbed by only a few adventurers.IMG_0751

Being more sedate adventurers, we visited a wildlife preservation facility on the outskirts of Paramaribo where we helped bottle-feed a baby giant sloth. We were told that the sloths are hard to keep track of because they move so slowly you forget to watch, and when you get momentarily distracted and look up again, they’re gone. That is absolutely true, they just disappear, pfft.

The facility also had a Giant Anteater. They are huge and galvanized creatures that demolish towering ant and termite hills, logs and whole trees. A few days before we were there a worker at the refuge decided he wanted to eat the “jungle meat” critter and went into its enclosure with a machete. The worker was killed by the Anteater. Sad but true. One learns to keep their distance from such an animal.

One amphibian we wished we could have seen was the reclusive mud colored Surinam Toad. When the female toad hears a male click his hyoid bone, she sinks into the mud at the bottom of her pond and then rises up under the male, as he repeatedly swims over her, each time she releases a few eggs which he fertilizes and shoves into holes on her back. Skin and mud seals the holes and babies until they are big enough to “pop” out and swim away. Not much family commitment for the toads.

The Paramaribo River is home to fresh-water dolphins the government is attempting to increase and preserve. The Dolphins may occasionally swim a short way out to sea, but probably would not survive there very long. The next time we visit we have been invited to go along and help count the dolphins in the river.
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Our disclaimer here. We cannot visit Surinam, nor have these adventures, but our eldest son, the Untermensch, can and did. The stories are his, but we do hope you enjoyed them, even second-hand. • (1556 views)

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16 Responses to Virtual Cruise to Surinam

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Surinam actually played a significant role in American history. During the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th Century, in the end the Dutch traded New York for it.

    Incidentally, it isn’t always hot and humid near the Equator. Robert Heinlein in his travelogue Tramp Royale mentioned that, in heading to Peru by ship, for a while the temperature was good due to a cold ocean current.

    • Anniel says:

      You can tell I’m female, Guyana is to the north and WEST of Surinam. I’ve never figured out how men can step out of an airplane in perfectly flat country in the dark and know which direction is which. Bear once wanted to do something I think was called Automobile Orienteering. I was to be the map reader and he would drive. Then he realized I would undoubtedly lose us in the wilds someplace. So please forgive my misreading the map, or maybe I just mistyped, I have been known to do that, too.

      Timothy is right about tropical countries, but cool weather is a relative thing. If you’re from Florida, Surinam might not seem so hot, particularly in the rainy season, but if you’re from Alaska the heat might be overwhelming. The Dutch traded New York for Surinam but it makes one wonder who got the better end of the deal.

      Also interesting about the tropics is the instantaneous darkness when the sun sets and instant light when it rises. I have wondered how far one has to travel from the Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn before there is a noticeable difference in the hours of light and darkness.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        My sense of direction is poor, partly because of a psychological quirk that causes me sometimes to confuse paired items (which can include left vs. right, east vs. west, or north vs. south in terms of directions). It also doesn’t help that my observational talents are rather limited. A friend of mine and I once drove underneath a road we were looking for without realizing it.

        • Anniel says:

          You’re describing me, Timothy. My friends in Chicago tell me it’s easy to tell directions there because Lake Michigan is to the north. But what if I can’t see the Lake?

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    we have decided to go someplace even Master Kung Fu may not have been (is such a place possible?).

    You have done it! The closest I ever came to Surinam is through the company I once worked for. They had a small gold dredging operation there for a short time. A colleague was down there a few times, but I had no chance to visit.

    The Dutch traded New York for Surinam but it makes one wonder who got the better end of the deal.

    I think Banda in, what became known as the Dutch East Indies, was also one of the assets the British traded for Manhattan. I think I would take Surinam and Banda today, or at least I would sell Manhattan immediately and run.

    Also interesting about the tropics is the instantaneous darkness when the sun sets and instant light when it rises.

    Having lived for 12 years about 90 miles north of the equator, I can tell you that dawn is especially beautiful there. It comes and goes very quickly, but when it is there it is wonderful. I tried to describe something of this in “The Moment”.

    • Anniel says:

      Ah, KFZ, success! Next time you can check on the bauxite deposits. I do remember “The Moment” and the coming of dawn you described. Made me want to see it, too.

      There is one question I have had about the tropics, well, no, about the Southern Hemisphere itself. Are there more stars visible in the skies there? I have heard that there do seem to be more, but have no way of comparison, unless I go to Machu Pichu or someplace to see for myself. I asked a friend who went there, but she said she “never noticed.”

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Are there more stars visible in the skies there?

        As I mainly visited cities, I could not discern any major difference in the number of visible stars between, say Jakarta and Dallas. But, of course, once one gets out of the cities, the skies light up with stars.

        The most impressive palette of stars I have ever seen was either in the high deserts of New Mexico or Nevada. The number of stars can be quite stunning. I recall being alone in the desert one night and looking up into the heavens which appeared to have thousands upon thousands of stars. The thought came to me that there is a good reason that the three revealed religions came out of the desert.

        Next time you can check on the bauxite deposits

        I’ll trade you one visit to the Surinamese bauxite mines to one I visited in Johor, Malaysia back in 1980.

        • Anniel says:

          KFZ, That is an interesting observation about the three revealed religions coming out of the desert. I grew up in desert country and loved it.

          I know a very large Kuwaiti family, most of whom are very devout, and they are careful to go out in the desert once a year on a religious festival where they sleep in tents and commune with God and the heavens. One of the sisters has become more wealthy and secular and told me she no longer goes out. I gather she thinks it is barbaric and she prefers her air-conditioned home. When she finished talking about the festival she frowned at me and very sternly informed me that she had never even seen a camel, either. I hadn’t even asked her a question but she was determined to make sure I knew she was a liberated woman. All I could think was how much she was missing. I love the idea of riding a camel and going to the desert. Probably would not make me a saint like John the Baptist though.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I suspect that the isolation of the desert (which, after all, is the meaning — deserted land) is what makes it easier to commune with nature, God, or whatever.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            One of the sisters has become more wealthy and secular and told me she no longer goes out. I gather she thinks it is barbaric and she prefers her air-conditioned home.

            Many people overreact to their backgrounds.

            It is not uncommon for the most obnoxious atheists to be people who were brought up Christians. They are still controlled by their circumstances yet don’t realize it.

            I have often come across such people who become very upset if a Christian tries to talk to them about Jesus and being saved. They can become nasty in some instances. While they are upset they will say such things as, “who does he think he is?” or “he should mind his own business” or worse. I find such reactions interesting. I have, more than once, told such people that I do not understand their reaction, in fact my thinking is quite the contrary.

            I find it somewhat touching that anyone would be concerned for my welfare, of any sort, and would take the time and trouble to try to help me. How can anyone be angry at someone who is, to their mind, trying to save you from eternal damnation, how ever that may be portrayed?

            • Timothy Lane says:

              One wonders how many of those atheists angry at being proselytized regularly do the same thing for their own irreligion.

              Note that many synoptic media newscasters sprang from small towns in the South or the Midwest. As adults, they obamanate their heritage — just as leftists in general treat their culture and nation.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Of course, the British got the whole of New Netherlands, not just Manhattan (New Amsterdam).

  3. Anniel says:

    My father and mother loved the stars and had taught us all the Northern Constellations.
    We had an old quilt we’d spread on the lawn and go out at night star gazing. That’s the one thing I have missed in Alaska. It’s too light to see stars in Anchorage mostly between April and October, and cold enough the rest of the year that going out is limited. In fact we have what I think the Russians refer to as “White Nights.” It’s never really pitch dark here. And you can tell when it’s snowing because the sky turns a dark rosy black color. It is also possible to hear the Northern Lights if they’re intensely active and you’re away from other noises. Everything can be so beautiful if we open our eyes.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:


    I thought that was one of Mr. Kung’s Japanese chicken dishes.

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