Canoeing With A Difference

by Phyllis E. Weston

In all our travels we had never had a river trip in a canoe. This gap in our experiences was to be filled by a journey from Parimaribo in Surinam down the Marowijne River, the border between Dutch and French Guyana. Our craft was a dugout canoe, 40 feet long, made from a locust tree. It was a posh affair with an outboard motor and a canopy with blinds to lower in case of a rainstorm. As the speed was 20 miles an hour and the journey to cover 90 miles, we would spend one night in a rest house on Tamara Island. The trip was a fresh and invigorating experience beyond what we had anticipated. During a rain squall our guide Ramden lowered the blinds. When he raised them, clinging to a strut of the canopy was a tarantula some two and a half inches in size, just a baby, Ramden said. He insisted it wouldn't bother us, was, in fact, just going along for the ride. We however, equally insistent, wanted it removed as it distracted our attention from our novel surroundings. Ramden removed it at the expense of a bitten finger which he sucked ostentatiously from time to time.

Our surroundings were indeed deserving of our undivided attention. We were in the midst of the jungle which comprises 80 percent of the country. From time to time we passed the clearings of Amerindian and Bush Negro villages, the latter being the descendants of escaped slaves. From dense green foliage came the calls of birds and flashes of brilliant color.

Ramden wished to visit a village. Unfortunately access was by way of boulders, between which and our canoe was another canoe. Stella, my sister and traveling companion, offered to tackle these hazards first, she being more athletic, having played basketball in her youth. However, we are not boat people; and as Stella stepped into the second canoe she tried to steady herself by clutching at the canopy of our boat. Our canoe, urged by this gentle shove, moved away, leaving Stella with no support. What followed happened very quickly, although Stella still had time to announce drastically, "I'm going to fall!: And she did -- right into the river. She was fished out and our plan to visit the village was abandoned.

The day's excitement was not yet over. We had been promised a sight of the Armina Falls. These turned out to be rapids, a great expanse of seething water through which the canoe alternately glided and shot It was exciting and pleasurably so, I thought; but Stella, having suffered one immersion, looked askance at the whole proceeding.

The sun was setting in tropical splendor when we arrived at the rest house. The electricity had failed so Ramden hastened to prepare a very good meal of hot soup from a mix and barbecued chicken. The light was gone by the time we were getting ready for bed. I had already investigated the bathroom facilities and reported to Stella that we were lucky to be preparing for bed in the dark; the less we could see the better.

The next morning, after a good breakfast, we were off again. On the return trip we did visit an Amerindian village where we saw the various processes of preparing cassava, a staple of the native diet. Hospitality consisted of passing a communal glass o rum to each member of the group. Stella whispered something about germs. I had already taken one swallow and assured her that that rum would kill any germs within the radius of a city block.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and very relaxing once we had again negotiated the rapids. In retrospect, we considered the trip a great success -- a real adventure and a highlight of our holiday.

Editor's Note: The trip described was one taken by two sixty plus adventuresome Canadian teachers.


Return to Articles Title Page

(c)1995 - Phyllis E. Weston
21st Century Adventures - August 1995