Travelin' Light - Riding 2up through the Americas

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by csustewy, May 5, 2011.

  1. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Our big goal after Lechería was to make the Brazil border, but that was over 12 hours away, so a couple nights along the road broke it up, as well as a couple of good meals.

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    (the best filled arepa yet - filled with pabellón, the semi-offical national dish of Venezuela with rice, beans, and shredded beef or pork - on our way out of Lechería)

    We spent one night in Puerto Ordaz, a very modern city, with very few hotels that met our criteria (cheap with good parking). Asking at a corner store we were directed to a small guesthouse with 2 rooms for rent. Casa de los Lobos was a fine place to crash, but left us feeling slimy after seeing the older German man who owned the place, along with his 2 young daughters and his too young Venezuelan wife. While there, though, we did have the chance to try hallaca, a traditional Venezuelan dish usually eaten around Christmas time that contains meat and veggies surrounded by cornmeal then wrapped in plaintain leaves and cooked to deliciousness.

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    (Chavez loves creepy looking babies)

    The next day we were shooting for at least Km 88, perhaps Sta Elena, both places where we knew we'd be able to find lodging. The ride was gorgeous and desolate.

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    The front end of the bike was still feeling strange, beyond that of just having a slight twist in the assembly. Checking the front wheel for play, it was clear that one or both bearings were shot, in the middle of nowhere, south of Puerto Ordaz. We limped to the next little town, Guasapati, where we filled up on gas and asked about motorcycle shops. Turns out there was a guy on an ATV at an unmarked blue door just 2 buildings away and that's who we should talk to. He was the right guy. We followed him 2 more blocks to his shop and had new front bearings installed within the half hour.

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    Back on the open road in much better shape than before.

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    (shadows got longer as the day went on)

    Down the road in El Dorado we went to fill up some more cheap gas. Cars were parked for 3 blocks waiting to get gas (common at gas stations out of the big coastal cities). Motorcycles were lined up on the exit side, waiting their turn to get filled between car fillings. The armed guards (common at gas stations) waved us to the moto side, and even waved us in front of the waiting crowd of 15-20 bikes. We filled up for a few cents and hit the road. Most motos don't pay for their gas, only filling up a few liters into their small tanks. We ended up giving 2 Bolívares (US$0.24) to cover gas and a tip on most fillings in Venezuela.

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    When we arrived at Km 88 (that's how the town is even labeled on Venezuelan road maps), we decided to call it a day and find a place to crash. We ended up asking in all the hotels in town, finding each of them to be overpriced for what they offered. Most were 250-300 Bolívares (US$30-35). Even the places labeled as campamentos. There was one campamento that had an airconditioned room for 200 Bs, and secure parking. The town was a bit rough around the edges, we received some tougher stares than other places in Venezuela, but still everyone we talked to was friendly and warm.

    Leaving Km 88 was a tight, winding, mountanious road up into Canaima National Park and to the Gran Sabana. The road takes you up 1500 meters to a gorgeous open expanse that would be a blast to return to and explore. There are some great dual sport options to check out lots of waterfalls (a few 4x4 tours run in the area) and a number of places to camp along the road. Santa Elena would be another good option for a place to stay and take day trips.

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    There was one police checkpoint, where the cop was on a power trip, but was still easy enough to get through. There was one military checkpoint when we were getting closer to Sta Elena. The military guys there were fantastic, asking us a few questions, letting us know a bit of what's ahead, and then sending us on our way. Best of all is that one of them came running out of his office, shouting and waving at us as we had just begun to roll slowly to remind us that we had to turn in our temporary import permit for the bike. Not that we'd forget by now, but still nice of him to think of it and catch us.

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    Santa Elena de Uairen was a very inviting town, not having the usual border town grit. We just traveled on through, but would have easily found food and lodging there, as well as hardware and moto shops. Out of town about 15 km, we made it to the border.

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    (leaving Venezuela. Office at left is both migration (in main doors to right) and SENIAT/customs (in main doors to left))

    The bike was checked out within minutes, after lunch break was over at 1pm. Migration, however, required us to wait for over 2 hours just for the officer to show up to work. There were around 4 groups of people in line ahead of us, and by the time we got stamped out, there were 50 people waiting for one officer. Impressively, a line was actually formed and maintained (with some vocal reminders directed at a few wanderers). We were happy to get out of there when we did, and hoped that the Brasil side would still be open.

    At the Brasilian gate, migration is handled by the federal police office in the first building you will come to on the left (follow the signs). They were friendly and fast, refreshing after our Venezuelan departure. Up ahead about 3 or 4 speed bumps is the customs window. The lady that helped us didn't speak any English or Spanish, and my Portugues includes all of "bom gia" and "obrigado", so the process was slowed some by communication. But worse than that, the officer had seemingly never been through the temporary import process before. There were long stretches of her staring blankly at the computer screen and forms, hoping issues would resolve themselves.

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    (dealing with customs entering Brasil)

    After I got the appropriate copies made (about 2 or 3 blocks down, on the main street to the left, there is a copy shop on the right, directly across from a tourism office and small mall), and a few Bs exchanged, the process still took about 40 minutes. But finally it was done and we were happy to be in Pacaraima, Brasil!
  2. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    By the time we were finally able to wrap up the customs process in Brasil, it was late in the afternoon and there was no chance of us making it to Boa Vista, our planned next stop. Luckily for us, the town on the border, Pacaraima, was nothing like many border towns we have seen that you want to get out of as quickly as possible. Pacaraima was in fact pleasant, somewhere we actually wouldn't mind spending a little bit of time. It even had information for tourists, souvenir shops, lots of dining options, etc. We found the only hotel in town that was not either full (not quite sure how they were full because there were no other tourists in sight, but there is a larger bus terminal in the town so maybe that brought in guests) or had no secure motorcycle parking.

    We walked around the town looking for a place to eat and finally decided on a small restaurant with a very friendly woman owner. She served something like a 3 course meal, complete with salad, steak, rice, beans, coleslaw, etc., for cheap. We loved Brazil so far.

    For the past 6 months, we had been getting by quite well with Mike's Spanish, but it was a different story in Brazil. Mike usually started his conversations in Brazil asking if the person understood Spanish, to which they usually replied no, or they could understand some but not speak it. So, we kept speaking Spanish, which got us by, but we could very rarely figure out what the response was. Perhaps surprisingly, despite the border of English-speaking Guyana being so close, no one spoke English.

    The next morning we got on the road to head to Boa Vista, about a 2 hour drive. The drive was rather monotonous and the savanna continued throughout.

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    We arrived in Boa Vista pretty early in the day, so decided to check out several hostel options. The cheapest one we could find was still $35, which was a little outrageous in our opinion. We had a few things we wanted to buy, but we arrived on a Saturday and despite the fact that the town has over 230,000 people and is the only town of size in the area, hardly anything was open. We tried to exchange money, but that ended up being an impossible task as all the money exchanges and gold buyers were closed, so we ended up having to use an ATM. We were staying right downtown, but it seemed like a ghost town. We had planned on staying in Boa Vista through the weekend, but since we didn't want to pay for another night at the hotel and since nothing was going on anyway, we decided to move on to the border on Sunday and see if we could get to Guyana.

    The drive to the Guyanese border took a couple more hours, also through relatively boring savanna. We were not sure if the border would be open, but it was no problem. Our only holdup at the border was that the woman at customs did not want to give us a copy of the paperwork showing that we checked the motorcycle out of the country. From our small amount of understanding of Portugese it seemed to us she was arguing against her co-workers, who were telling her to make a copy. Finally, we did get the copy, which we ended up needing in Guyana. Despite the hold up, it still only took a few minutes to get cleared out of Brazil.

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    (Mike at the customs building in Brazil, note the engine guard bags replaced by 1 gal of fuel each side)

    From there we were able to drive across the newly constructed bridge from Brazil to Guyana (until this year you had to take a ferry). You can't miss the immigration building, as the road guides you right into the parking lot. Prior to that though, you have to switch over to the left side of the road, as Guyana operates under the British road system.

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    (don't forget to switch to the left side of the road!)

    Immigration into Guyana was very simple, although they do ask several questions and want to know a specific address where you will be staying in the country, at least they are asking in English. Customs for the bike was not quite so easy, because we needed both insurance for Guyana and copies of documents, including the Brazil document, neither of which we had. The woman was also pretty unhappy that Mike interrupted her nap, so was reluctant to even tell him which copies he needed. She did allow us to take the bike into the nearest town, Lethem, to get things worked out. Not surprisingly, very few stores were open on a Sunday in this already sleepy town, so we needed to spend the night and get copies and insurance the next morning from the Savannah grocery store. One of two hotels in town, the Savannah Inn, was owned by the same person, so we stayed there (US$20 for a fan room) with the promise that the owner would be there by 8 am ready to help us.

    (There is another hotel in Lethem that is a ripoff - the Takutu Inn. Our first meal in Guyana was there - country stew. Random bits of white, fatty bush meat and innerds in a bland broth for 850 guyanese dollars (over US$4) each. And internet access there was US$2.50/hour, 3x as much as most places. Go with Savannah Inn.)

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    (almost all offices, lobbies, hotels in the area had out hot water, tea, and coffee all the time. Even Brazilian customs office at the border.)

    By 8:30am, we had our insurance in hand (US$15 for 1 month), along with plenty of copies, and went back to customs where we received 2 important documents this time: temporary vehicle import and a driving permit. Both were free. And both needed a Guyana address, so have a hotel and address in mind if traveling through.
  3. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We knew that the road from Lethem to Georgetown could be hairy, as it is unpaved all the way to Linden, over 300 miles away. So we set out with some food, extra gas, and the expectation to take a couple of days. It did take a couple of days. A couple of long days. But it was suh-weeet!

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    (last bit of pavement for awhile)

    Initially the road is packed fairly well, although there are stretches of bone rattling washboards that you can smooth out with speed, but somehow the stretches change frequency randomly, and the top surface can be a layer of loose red gravel and dust, which just adds to the excitement.

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    ("Caution Bridge Broken Ahead")

    Those washboard sections let up after a few tens of kilometers, transitioning into massively large potholes that had a sneaky way of hiding until the last minute, given the shades of the road bed. Some of those potholes were gi-normous! Big enough to swallow us whole.

    Along the way, we did get to see some amazing natural beauty, including the scenery as it slowly changed from savanna to jungle, as well as a few glimpses of wildlife.

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    (Termite City was not labeled on our map)

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    (termite house within termite city)

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    (Pacaraima mountain range in the distance)

    At 70 miles (on the odometer) from Lethem, there is a small community of a few houses. A large property on the left side of the road sells gas for 380 guyanese dollars per liter (US$1.90 per L). We went ahead and topped up while we had the chance. (It turned out to be 215 miles from the gas station in Lethem to the next gas station with a pump.)

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    (octane rating not provided)

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    (the bridges were in decent shape, but definitely without guardrails)

    We eventually made it to the entrance to the Iwokrama national park, where a police checkpoint just takes down your info, but no fee.

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    By this point the road had smoothed out a good bit, and the potholes were fewer, as the jungle got denser closer to the river.

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    We arrived at the Kurupukari ferry crossing just a few km after the turn off for the Iwokrama eco-lodge and after another police checkpoint (again, just taking information, but you have to go inside each time).

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    (this van, or wagi, is the most common small vehicle on the road. Even more common are the DAF transport trucks)

    The hours of operation showed the ferry running until 6pm. It was 5:15 and not much activity was visible, especially with the ferry on the other side of the river. A DAF truck pulled up around 5:30 or so, and eventually called us over to talk. Dino and Kevin were on the 12-14 hour run up to Georgetown and shared some tangerines with us. They make that run 3-4 times per week, pocketing about 10,000 Guyanese dollars per run (US$50). As we were considering returning to camp at the eco lodge, they informed us that the ferry had to run, since his truck got there before 6. Perfect!

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    (manual ramp on this barge)

    We stopped just on the other side to eat dinner at Dorothy's place, along with Dino and Kevin, and to set up camp. Dorothy was so nice that she charged us a few bucks for dinner, but nothing to set up a tent.

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    (Dorothy, an Amerindian, has been at this spot serving food for decades. Another guest house/restaurant opened up next door to her, but we hope she pulls through)

    The next morning we got an early start on a gorgeous day.

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    (traditional AmerIndian village on the way to Linden)

    Once again we had the chance to see some incredible wildlife. The highlight was the tapir, pictured below. We stopped and watched it for a minute as it lumbered slowly into the jungle. We also had a chance to catch a brief glimpse of some kind of cat like creature (sizewise similar to a golden retriever dog), a couple of jungle beavers (I wish I could tell you what they were really), and one dead monkey on the road.

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    (tapir up ahead. This jungle cow wasn't too bothered by us passing. It's hind quarters were still visible to the side of the road as we passed, but our limited zoom didn't let us get any National Geographic photos.)

    The ride towards Linden provided much different road conditions than what we had seen the day before. At the start, the road was packed, surrounded by dense jungle and easy riding.

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    (the jungle crept in on the sides of the road for most of our ride up to Linden)

    There were a number of sections that were super slippery mud, along with some decent puddles and ruts.

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    (Mike coming through a muddy section)

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    (Jill was the mud scout when the going looked slippery)

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    As we got closer to Linden, there was less mud, but a lot more loose bauxite dust on top of the road. There were some short sections where the bottom absolutely dropped out to soft sand. Even though the TA was a bit sideways at a couple of those transitions, we managed to keep the rubber side down this time. Mike is not convinced he's getting better at dual sport riding, but was just evening out his Venezuelan motorcycle karma.

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    (passing trucks provided a dust bath)

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    (major logging operations along the way, most of their work is out of sight, this evidence was clearly visible. What about that "no logging" sign earlier in the park?)

    There was one last official police checkpoint and one huge Chinese lunch when we left the national park. And then, the sky just opened up on us. We were about 20 km outside of Linden when the downpour began. We kept making slow progress, even though we could hardly tell what the road conditions were going to be - if soft sand was next, or a hard packed rut.

    We finally turned towards town, nearing the pavement of Linden, when we encountered our scariest and most unofficial checkpoint yet. In the downpour, a youngman wearing blue fatigues, purple diamond studded sunglasses, combat boots, and carrying an assault rifle waved us to a stop and pointed to the side of the road. Acting confused in our rain soaked state, we pointed ahead to Linden and asked if we could go there. He didn't like that idea, pointing his rifle at us and insisting that we pull over beside the white van. Inside the van there were about 8 officials wearing uniforms and name tags and were not nearly as trigger-happy as the guy with the rifle, which gave us some relief. They asked to see our passports, copies were handed over. They offered a seat in the van, but we told them we were already wet, no big deal, preferring not to get in with any of them, let alone sit next to the rifle toting crazy. After reviewing our copies, they wished us a safe journey and we were on our way. No trouble at all. But definitely a lot of adrenaline.
  4. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We had lined up couchsurfing in Linden with a Peace Corps volunteer and were able to find his house easily with his directions. But, when we got there, he was nowhere to be found. A nice neighbor let us use his phone to call and we found out that our host had come down with a nasty dengue or malaria like bug that had him in pretty bad shape and in Georgetown unexpectedly. The neighbor recommended a place called George Bat to stay, which we unsuccessfully looked for. We were able to find a few other hotel options, all of which were pretty crappy but costing $30 or more, or decently nice and more than that (Massive Inn at 16,000 for suite). Eventually we tracked down the neighbor again, got the directions again, and found this George Bat place. It ended up having lots of character, which we liked. It was a pay by the hour type, but only for half of the hotel. The other rooms were for the all night type of visitor (4000 = US$20). The ladies working were wonderful and very friendly, even giving us ice out of their personal freezer for the much needed rum we drank in our room.

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    (The Bat Cave, in all of its blacklit glory)

    From Linden, it is only about 60 miles to the city, where we had couchsurfing lined up with our host, Navin. We ended up getting about half way before hunger caused us to stop for some great food - eggplant roti, eggball (a hard boiled egg inside fried cassava), and curried chicken. Then it started rainingy really, really hard. Luckily, there was an internet cafe across the street, so we waited out the rain checking email. After a few hours the rain had finally slowed down enough for us to get to Georgetown where we met Navin at his house in the Kitty region of the city.

    Jill had spent a week in Georgetown in 2005 and at that time it was known for being extremely dangerous and not recommended that you walk anywhere at night. Her group had walked at night and been menacingly followed by a couple of guys. They had also been pulled over while riding in a car that had to go to the police station where we learned that our driver was packing a pistol in his pants with the explaination that everyone has to carry a gun here. She had heard Peace Corps Volunteers' stories of seeing all-out machete fights in the streets. She was a little nervous to be back in Georgetown.

    This time around, though, it seemed like Georgetown had cleaned up quite a bit. We walked around the area a lot and did not feel threatened at night when we would go get something to eat. We looked around the historic downtown area some and it also seemed relatively safe. On our first day in town, Jill needed to go to the Peace Corps office as they had her new passport and visa to get into Suriname. We met a couple of volunteers who invited us to come to a quiz night at a nicer hotel in town. We didn't have anything else to do, so thanks to the smarts of a couple people in our group, we won a bottle of El Dorado rum, one of the smoothest rums we have tasted, with its own claims of being the world's best.

    Navin gave us the keys to his house right away and gave us free reign. He stays with his girlfriend most of the time, so we rarely saw him. When we did, he took us to his favorite restaurants, including one ran by a Rasta out of his wagi.

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    (Navin is on the far right)

    The one bad thing about the house was that it had lots and lots of mosquitos. It didn't help that all our riding gear was wet and stinky and a strong attractant for them. We did have a mosquito net, but it hung very low and any body part that touched the net while we slept was covered in bites in the morning. Jill got the worst of it after taking an uncovered afternoon nap one day.

    We also needed to get Mike's visa for Suriname so we went to the embassy one day and were able to pick up the 5 year visa the next. You can only get the visa Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have to come early in the morning and then come back between 2-2:30 in the afternoon to get it. We were also able to get necessary insurance for the bike for Suriname at the GTM Insurance head office at 27-29 Robb and Hincks Streets, which cost about $15 per month.

    After an oil change and bath to rinse the bauxite off the TA, all our necessary tasks were done, and we were able to explore the city a bit.

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    (there are a lot of dilapidated wooden homes built by the Dutch and English during their colonization)

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    (streets are very narrow with no sidewalks to speak of)

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    (there is open sewage canals everywhere in the city, causing a pungent smell and the need to watch where you step at all times)

    The highlight of Georgetown, though, was going to the Botanical Gardens next to the Zoo (we hear the Zoo is sad, even more so than most, so we didn't go). It is free to enter the gardens and we had heard that manatees lived in the water.

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    We found the lake where they live and after some time they came to the surface across the water. Jill had heard that you can hit the water with a stick and they will come, so she started doing that. A group of East Indian children soon joined her and showed her the correct way to call them, by waving foliage in the water. Manatees eat a massive amount of greenery everyday and the smell of the leaves draws them. We were lucky enough to see 3 manatees up close, feed and pet them. They are very docile, intelligent creatures that act and feel a lot like water elephants.

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    (calling the manatees)

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  5. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    After spending about 5 days in Georgetown, we were ready to go and Jill was anxious to get to Suriname. The drive to the border takes a few hours through several coastal towns. We were again traveling on a Sunday, so hoped that both the ferry and the borders were operating. You must take a ferry at the Guyana/Suriname border to legally enter Suriname. Lots of people illegally enter (backtrack) by taking smaller boats across. The ferry used to only run once a day, but now it runs at both 9:00am and 1:00pm. We lucked out because the ferry runs on Saturday and Sunday now too. It does not run on holidays. We arrived at the ferry at 12:00 with no Guyanese dollars left, just US, hoping to board.

    There were already several people and vehicles waiting for the ferry. We would recommend getting to the ferry no later than 1 hour before it is scheduled to depart. When you arrive, first you park with the other vehicles, then buy a ticket. Tickets cost $10 per person and $10 per bike, but must be paid in either US dollars or Guyanese dollars. (NOTE: you must show both your Suriname visa and proof of Suriname moto insurance to purchase the ticket.) There are plenty of money changers outside the gates, but their rate is not very good for Surinamese dollars. Once you have your ticket, do not lose it and wait for the Immigration to start working. There must have been some kind of silent signal because everyone got up at the same time and approached immigration in mass. Checking ourselves and the bike out of Guyana was straightforward and handled at the same place you buy tickets. Once you are checked out you go to a waiting area that has food and restrooms.

    The ferry is about a 35 minute ride across the Corentyne river.

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    Once to land, the vehicles drive off the ferry and everyone gets in the immigration line for Suriname. After passing immigration, the customs line is right beside it. Unfortunately for us, the maximum time you are allowed into Suriname at that border is 1 month.

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    The closest town is about 30 km away, New Nickerie. It is the 3rd largest city in the country with almost 15,000 people. We stopped at a halal food shop and Jill got to eat her favorite, Saoto soup, again. We were also able to get directions to a really nice hotel that cost us $25. We learned that the cheap hotel in town had burned down about 3 days prior.

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    We walked around town trying to find a place to eat. We happened upon Nancy Land, which we thought was great. It was set up for kids, but had lots of booze too. The food was not bad.

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    New Nickerie also has a large market you can check out. In all, it is a decent place to spend a night or two, but not much more time.

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    Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname is about 200 km from New Nickerie. The 2 lane road has been redone recently, is well signed, and it was a smooth and quick trip to the city.

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    (crop duster plane next to us)

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    (we quickly learned that drempel is Dutch for speed bump - there were lots along the way)

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    (despite driving through many small towns, there were not many food options until we got to Coronie, where we found this typical warung with delicious food)

    As seems to be a recent tradition for us, we got rained on again for the last hour or two of the ride. We rode through the suburbs of Paramaribo for some time in search of downtown. Once Jill found some familiar landmarks we were able to find the hostel she stayed in frequently. Unfortunately, it was completely booked, so we had to stay across the street, which cost us about $27 a night, for a very small room with shared bath.

    We were both excited to be in Paramaribo. The timing was perfect. We needed to be here before December 1, Jill's official start date for her Peace Corps Response position. We hoped to be here before Thanksgiving, as that evening the US ambassador hosts a dinner for all PC volunteers, which would be a great opportunity for Jill to meet some of the people she'll be working with, without having to travel hours to meet them at their site. And we made it on Sunday, with 3 days to spare!
  6. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Since Jill was back in her old stomping grounds of Paramaribo (or Foto) and we had a couple of days to kill in the city, she took Mike on a guided tour of the city, complete with megaphone and a safari hat.

    Starting at Stadtz, the hostel where we stay, we walked towards Saramaccastraat, where we saw the tallest building in Foto, Hakrinbank.

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    Then over to Saramaccastraat for some kousu (the traditional skirt worn by women in the interior of Suriname) shopping at Jerusalem Bazaar.

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    From there we checked out the market.

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    Heading over toward Waterkant we stop at the Ghandi statue to reflect.

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    At Waterkant we checked out the Dutch colonial houses that are still really nice. Waterkant is an area right next to the river that has several permanent food stands that stay open 24/7.

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    And not so nice.

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    Past the Presidential Palace to Fort Zeelandia.

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    And the new I heart SU statue.

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    Then across to the Palm Gardens where over 1,000 palm trees are planted, and on to the statue representing the Indonesian population in Suriname that were brought over as endentured servants, mainly from Java.

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    Following the river brings us to the tourist part of town where the Torarica and EcoLodge hotels are, as well as fancy places to eat. Then we walk back past the presidential palace, up Henck Arronstraat to the largest wooden cathedral in the world, recently renovated.

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    And then over to the Muslim mosque located right next to the Jewish synagoge. The Surinamese are very proud of their diversity and tolerance for all cultures and this personifies it for many people.

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    That rounded out our guided tour of the most touristed spots in Suriname. On the tour Jill discovered that she knows a lot about a very small area of Foto.

    We also happened to be in town for Srefidensi, Independence Day, on November 25th. Suriname declared independence from the Dutch in 1975 and apparantly have been celebrating ever since. There were lots of festivities near the presidential palace, on waterkant, and in the Palm Gardens. Not as many people were dressed up in traditional dress as in the past, but it was a party nonetheless. We spent most of our time on Waterkant, watching people and drinking djugos (liters of beer. Parbo is about the only option, but its good and tastes like beer, more flavor than most light latin options). And trying to stay out of the rain.

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  7. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Jill's Peace Corps Response position was not due to start until December 1st, so we had a few days to spend in the original village that she lived in for 2 years, Drepada. Drepada is a small Saramaccan village located close to Brokopondo. There are usually about 100 mainly women and children living there at any given time.

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    (Welcome back to Drepada, in front of one of the new houses being built)

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    She had not been in much contact with the village since she left in 2006, but was able to get a message out to the village that Mike and her would be there, arranging a house to stay in. The road used to be unpaved and took several hours on a bumpy, red road. It has been paved recently (Chinese interests) and the drive only takes about an hour or so, but the wagi makes several stops along the way, so the ride ends up taking longer. (we had already stored the TA in a secure garage, given that the village where we will live is only accessed by river, so public transportation it is)

    Jill was excited to see everyone again and for Mike to see the place that she talks about so often. She was also anxious to see if she still remembered the language (she does).

    We spent 4 full days in Drepada. Stenda, the woman who runs the only store in town and was one of Jill's good friends, kept us eating well the entire time. As is typical with new people to Saramaccan villages, the kids were at our house all the time. They loved using Mike as a jungle gym, trying to braid Jill's short hair, etc. It was a good reminder of how life will be for the next 6 months here in Suriname.

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    (Jill with Stenda - she was helping me use her sewing machine to sew kousus, the traditional skirt that all the women wear)

    Jill had a few friends from Guyana who work gold in Brokopondo, so we went to Brokopondo one night to see them. Marlon now owns 2 pontoons and is the boss of an 8 man operation. He is doing very well with 2 kids and a new house. It was great to catch up with them again over some djugos (1 liter Parbo beers) at Jack's, what used to be the only store in Brokopondo.

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    (Jill with Marlon in front of his pontoons. The crew works by having one man go to the bottom of the river with a dive mask attached to a tube with oxygen, and sucking the bottom of the river with a long vaccuum like pipe. One pontoon sucks up the gold, which is heavy and sticks to the bottom of the filter on the pontoon. The other pontoon sucks up the gravel on the bottom of the river and is sold to a buyer in Brokopondo. The gravel makes enough to break even. The gold is pure profit.)

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    (The men live on the pontoon)

    Some things have changed in the area, like the addition of several supermarkets, nicer houses, and lots of new kids, but in reality, most has stayed pretty much the same.

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    (Jill's name in the village was Lobimai. The girl sitting next to her was named after her when she was born. Last time Jill saw her she was just able to stand on her own. This time she followed Jill everywhere. Jill was very honored that her parents call her Lobimai in the village and that her school name is Jill.)

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    (kids, kids, kids)

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    (at the river, where everyone used to have to wash dishes, clothes, bathe and drink. Thanks to the Rotary Club in Higginsville (Jill's hometown), Jill was able to do a water project that is functional and supplies clean drinking water to the village. People still go to the river to wash dishes and clothes, but they don't have to drink the polluted water anymore.)

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    (Mike as the human jungle gym)

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    (soccer and slagball are played every afternoon)

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    (Jill with some buddies)

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    (this little critter is not to be touched)

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    (Jill with her former counterpart, Percy)

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    (walking around the village)

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    (talking to Edith in front of my old house)

    The visit to Drepada was a whirlwind, and provided some insight into what our stay in Tutubuka will be like. It will be interesting, fun, challenging, hot, rewarding, and certainly a lot more...
  8. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    With this last burst of 15-20 posts, we will be laying low for awhile here in Suriname. Jill will be trading her swim suit for the traditional kouzu. However, there are many old, native ladies who dress provocatively (without a top, even). I'll see if I can get some shots of them to post...

    Glad to have you along with us still, Eric! Hope you are well and able to get some rides in this winter.

    -Mike & Jill
  9. Eagletalon

    Eagletalon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    412
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Thanks for sharing your travels with us. Glad to hear that you are now able to spend more time in SA which will allow for more thavel opportunities in the future.

    Later
    John
  10. Oldfart123

    Oldfart123 Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 16, 2011
    Oddometer:
    12
    Mike you are evil to suggest sending me pictures of "old native ladies"! Glad you both are safe and yes I'm still ridding every chance I get. I traded my RT for a G1600GTL and have enjoyed breaking it in. My next big trip will be to the Yellowstone area next year.
    Keep the great pictures coming!
    Eric
  11. allroadtoine

    allroadtoine Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    64
    Makes memories alive. I worked and lived from 1982 -1985 in Paramaribo and have been often into the jungle withe a BMW R27 from 1962. Had a good time there. Enjoy your stay.

    Greetings

    Toine
  12. linksIT

    linksIT nOObie

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    272
    Location:
    San Clemente, CA
    Just finish reading your fantastic ride report. Congrats on making it to SA. Best wishes to the both of you in your new setting. Thanks for sharing.
  13. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,217
    Location:
    Banana Republic of Black Gold
    Great updates so far. I'm glad you somehow enjoyed your Venezuela ride even though you didn't have much time to explore.
    Last February I rode to Georgetown with three other friends. Exiting Linden, just past the Bauxite Processing Plant where the road turns sharply to the left, as soon as we made the turn we where faced with several machine gun toting policemen in the middle of the road, pointing the guns to our chests, with fingers on the triggers :eek1 Neddless to say, even though accustomed to our own Police with it's less than orthodox tactics, the adrenaline rush was plenty... They where not friendly at all, but we had been speeding and weaving between cars "Venezuelan Style" trying to beat the sun into Georgetown... I actually got pretty worried after a couple of minutes of yelling and machine gun pointing... Luckily some kind of Top Official came, with a chestful of decorations and sent us on our way.... We didn't speed any more after that :rofl

    Have a safe trip... Please include a few details on where to get insurance for French Guiana if you happen to go there with the bike...
  14. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Toine - I bet those rides were a true adventure! Things around here have changed a lot even in the past 5 years (the Afrobaka highway is now paved to Brokopondo, the other leg is paved all the way to Atjoni (where boats leave for the upper Suriname river) there are tourism agencies scattered throughout Paramaribo, and we see lots of white tourists and ex-pats all over the city). I can only imagine what differences have come to be in the past few decades. We will certainly enjoy our time here, and will get at least a brief posts up now and again while here.


    Don't worry, Eric, I'll keep our ride report out of the basement. Your new ride sounds sweet! And plans to Yellowstone even better. I look forward to a report on that trip!

    linksIT - glad to have you along for the ride! Thanks for the well wishes

    John, thanks for the comments and for continuing to follow along with us. We are looking forward to continued travel in SA, as well!
  15. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,946
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    Great info on these last updates:clap

    Do you know any information about the big jungle loop road in Suriname? I have traced it out on google earth and it looks doable, it's where you cross from Guyana border on the river where you would take a boat and go upstream where the road through the interior deadends at the river. This road then crosses much of the interior and then back down to Paramaribo eventually.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up with the great updates as not much is shared about these countries in the East.

    John
  16. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We hope to make it back to explore Venezuela more in the future, and will give you a shout if we can. Sounds like you had a helluva adrenaline rush with those gun toting policeman in Guyana! Even though speeding tickets can be expensive, I think I still prefer that risk much more than the risk that comes with machine guns. But you're right, machine guns can be very effective at slowing you down...

    We will let you know how the French Guiana insurance shakes out. A few hundred euros for a year's worth of coverage just ain't gonna happen. We've got some time to work on it and will keep you posted.
  17. Tall Mike

    Tall Mike TAT Rookie (planning!)

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    542
    Location:
    Northeast Oregon
    Great RR!! Thanks so much for all the detail on trials with the bike...:cry...(not what you'd like to have to do, but a necessary evil!)
    Potters for Peace looks like a wonderful project! Thanks for the link!
    I am subscribed! Best wishes with the continuing adventure! :clap:dg:beer
  18. Aprilius

    Aprilius n00b

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Oddometer:
    5
    greetings from chile!
  19. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Tall Mike - thanks for followig along with our ride! I'm glad you were interested in that Potters for Peace link. I think it's a really cool program. Sorry that we've been incommunicado for awhile, but following is a brief update from our last couple of months here in Suriname (with more detail available on our blog, if interested).

    Aprilius - greetings to you as well! We will eventually make it to Chile, I swear.
  20. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    So, it's been a few months but we are finally getting updates posted from our time in Suriname so far. Mostly, we've been living the village life in Tutubuka with short, few day trips into Paramaribo for resupply and meetings. Overall, Jill's been enjoying her return to Saramacca, boosted by the great group of women she most closely works with, and Mike has also been having a good time while attempting to learn Saramaccan.

    Following are some observations from our time here in Suriname, mostly from Mike's rookie perspective. If anyone wants to see more of what we've been up to, feel free to check out our blog.

    Daily Life in Tutubuka

    We lucked out and have a nice, well-constructed (= fewer critters inside), rather tall (= less crouching), 2 room house to live in. Pretty simple, pretty comfortable.

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    After the first week of walking across town to use a latrine (sometimes 5 minutes can be too far...), we now even have a new pit latrine right out our back door.

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    (it's the little things in life that can make a big difference)

    Our daily routine generally consists of waking up around daybreak (give or take an hour), working out, eating some sort of simple breakfast (often involving peanut butter), then going to the creek to wash dishes, clothes, and ourselves.

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    (the rocks are useful for washing clothes, setting down dishes, and for the random kid rock jump. It's only a few feet deep so we don't do too much jumping)

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    (looking the other way down the creek)

    Traditionally, women carry heavy loads on their heads, a skill that Jill picked up while living here previously. She's still got it!

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    Back at the house, it's usually time to start cooking lunch (and dinner, cooking enough at once to get 2 meals out of it). Most of the time rice with veggies are in store, assuming we have some from the city (stay good around 1 week) or have earned some by going to ground to work the fields with some ladies. Jill is much better about earning veggies than Mike. She likes weeding and loves to get out into the jungle. I don't mind labor, but weeding is just not my thing (especially in a jungle, where pulling weeds seems incredibly futile). That attitude (of me trying to get out of important labor) fits with the usual gender roles within Saramaccan culture. That's about the only gender role that fits so well...

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    (the trail back to Resida's ground)

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    (an overview of her area to be worked/planted)


    [​IMG] (Resida pickin' the goods)

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    (it was watermelon season during January, and when it's watermelon season, it's WATERMELON season. There is an excess of watermelons everywhere with a surprising lack of variety of other fruit/veggies available at the time. For the jungle being so conducive to plant growth, not many fruit/veggie options at any given time)

    Saramaccans find it hysterical that Mike helps with dish/clothes washing chores. A few women at the creek have positive comments regarding me helping out, but usually people are perplexed by why the man of the relationship would do such a thing. And when Bai's father found out that Mike cooked breaded fish that he tried, he laughed out loud for a good 10 minutes. It really doesn't help Mike's case that he goes to the jungle without a gun, helps out at ground, washes dishes/clothes, etc. Men don't do any of that. Men go to the jungle to hunt for meat. And sometimes they're successful.

    In the past few months there have been 3 tapirs killed by people in Tjaicondre (neighboring village) and Tutubuka. There are some traditions/rituals practiced at the kill site, but then the animal is brought back to the village to be parted out to all (or mostly all). The hunter and his family receive a large portion and then other pieces are doled out.

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    (the hunter taking his portion of bofo, or tapir, back to his family. Most they will eat, some of it they will sell to other people around town who didn't get their own portion)

    [​IMG] (the butchering and parting in progress)

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    (the only evidence remaining after less than 2 hours!)

    Saramaccans generally share their food within the community. As mentioned, food is a common form of payment for helping out. Also, "living well" with the community often means that you cook up a dish and share portions with your friends and neighbors. (However, some friends and neighbors are better than others at keeping that a 2-way street.) It is also completely acceptable to ask for food from anyone eating. Often times people eating something as we are walking past will offer us a spoonful to try.

    Along a similar line of sharing, Saramaccans are very used to sharing their space. Private space is minimal. Everyone's door is open as soon as they wake up, only closing when they are away from home or sleeping. Sometimes that can be fantastic, sometimes very overwhelming. It's usually the more calm times that we're able to get a couple of pictures.

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    Some other Highlights of Daily Life:
    Electricity generally comes on daily from 7pm to 11pm. Otherwise it's really dark and hard for both Jill and me to read by candlelight.
    Soccer games on Sunday - teams come from neighboring villages on the river to play soccer, complete with jerseys, refs, and cold beer for the spectators.

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    Towels are acceptable attire - usually only in the "neighborhood" around your own house, but how great is that?!?

    FUTURE PLANS:

    We now have some parts ready to prep the ol' TA for the next leg of our ride - new bars, bearings, and fork seals. That work will take place in April/May as we have spare days in Paramaribo. We still expect to roll out of Suriname in early June, likely headed through French Guiana towards Belem, Brazil, then back west to Peru. We are excited to get back on the road again!

    But for now, we will mostly be kicking back in Tutubuka.

    More eventually...