Suriname: New Knickers in Nieuw Nickerie; Barbados: the Good Life in Passing

Surinamese architecture

Surinamese architecture

January 2009

…every mile traveled out means another mile I must travel back- the motto after all IS ‘backpack, don’t backtrack’- since interior roads are few and far between in this undeveloped wilderness.  So I decided I’d maybe just go to the French Guiana border and make an unofficial crossing, withdraw enough Euros from the French ATM’s at a savings good enough to pay for the trip- I need Euros for Cuba- then come back.  But that’s still extra miles and Lonely Planet says the best thing to do in the border town of Albina is leave, which is very uncharacteristic of the usually overly optimistic crew there…

So when the US dollar suddenly gained ground against the Euro and I realized that I could withdraw fairly large amounts of local currency from the Paramaribo ATM’s and buy enough Euros right there in the local cambios, then why make a butt-busting trip just to save a few bucks and cover my future Kountry Kount in the unlikely event that Guyane Francaise might one day secede from the union?  France is not likely to give up the Ariane launchpad at Kourou any time soon I don’t reckon…

Dog's life in Suriname

Dog’s life in Suriname

…so now I’m stuck in Nieuw Nickerie waiting for the ferry back to Guyana… didn’t go today… so I wander the market and nibble the local snacks and play with the dogs… then the bad news comes.  The boat isn’t going tomorrow, and the next day…well, who knows?  …boat isn’t even the problem: it’s the road, a twenty-five mile stretch of pea gravel and sweat, a monument to uncertain ambitions and inherent reticence, as a bastard country enters the modern world walking backwards…

I get a sick feeling, like once when a condom broke and shriveled up into a rubber band much faster than its over-zealous sponsor… time to scramble… contact a travel agent and plan a tentative escape route…

…best laid plans gang aft agley—sounds Dutch.  So I drop back and punt, changing travel plans as fast as I can.  Fortunately Christmas season is over… get my life back for under $300, so it could be worse…

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Suriname market

…go back to Paramaribo to catch a flight out… mini-van driver has 80’s pop-schlock greatest hits playing at a full gigabel all the way back, over and over, grinning like some mongrel cretin from an Asian prison camp, eating noodles while barreling down the road at 130 klicks, dodging potholes the whole way.  It figures, after watching the Indonesian crap MVDO’s that filter over here to nourish the Javanese diaspora…

…wake up in the middle of the night to go to the airport, alternately pissed and glad, check in and pass immigration like ringin’ a bell, then… the damnedest thing happens… plane takes off a half hour early!  …thought I’d seen everything.  So it’s not that the people are slow; they’re just imprecise!  Now I get it.  I feel better.

Barbados by the bar

Barbados by the bar

Barbados is the Caribbean proper again… beaches here sandy not muddy, and the air fairly dry at this time of year… clean and serene, a bedroom community of mostly middle-class residents… a country of religion, the Christian sort… Gospel music here rates equally with reggae and soca and hiphop in popularity and is commonly heard in places where you wouldn’t expect it in, like nearly everywhere… genuine friendliness in the people, not fawning like Jamaica or aggressive like Dakar…

Barbados is prime Leeward Islands acreage, clear turquoise waters… take the bus from Black Rock to Speightstown and see nothing but sandy beach on one side and grassy lawns on the other.  Much of the beach is public, too… small gingerbread cottages line the other side of the road and locals congregate at a myriad of local pubs…

Tourist police...

Tourist police…

…only a couple problems: Barbados is pricey, not just US pricey, but more like Manhattan pricey, no Wi-Fi, either… another problem: I don’t know if they want me here, the government, that is, with independent travelers like me, dropping in and hanging out, and then moving on as the mood strikes…

But I like Barbados and feel cheated at only getting a few days.  It’s better too long…than too short…  That way there are no regrets.  Or maybe I’m right and they don’t want you to think of their azure waters as your waters.  A country of a quarter million people could get overrun by foreign bozos quickly.

So I pass through Immigration bpam bpam bpam (that’s Thai) without a word, so who knows: do they not know that maybe I overstayed by one day?  Do they not care?  I didn’t want to ask for fear of getting the wrong result, so the mystery will remain so, at least until the next time.  Still it’s bothersome.  The last thing a traveler wants to worry about is his Immigration stamp.  But that’s okay, since otherwise I’d feel pampered.

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Back to the beach…

If I admit to having A/C in my room, can I still keep my street cred?  Without it that ceiling fan would have to be a Havilland Dash-8 turboprop to keep the air moving, like the one that kept the air moving beneath me last Thursday on the flight back to Barbados.  Hell, I haven’t been without A/C since Christmas in Guyana.  Most of the places have cold showers, though, I swear, at least not very hot anyway.  The TV really sucked, honest.  Sometimes I disgust myself.

Hey, cut me some slack.  After a few days back in Jamaica I’ll be in Cuba, (almost) last Communist country left standing, waiting in line for bread, and… who knows what?

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