Tourists in Suriname (Gunsi)    Click for the chartlet
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Sometimes sailors stay quite a long time in Suriname and we hated saying goodbye to our friends Patricia en Wiebe after 10 months.  But there will always be new friends, sailing or simply by plane. So Caty and Docus came to cheer us up. We know them already a long time, actually since we became members of the sailing club in Den Bommel in 1984 with our then 20 feet little yacht.

We enjoy showing off with “our” great and beautiful Surinam is, so their first dinner was cayman stew and subsequently we showed them all those magnificent spots. First the historical city centre of Paramaribo (world heritage!), of course the fortress of New Amsterdam, the illustrious former cane sugar and rum factory Mariënburg, rural Laarwijk, the botanical garden close to our home and last but not least: the upcountry.
We headed for Gunsi, a few miles south of the Brokopondo lake. To be reached by bus (a 6 hours drive on a bumpy bauxite road) but fortunately also by plane. A little more expensive but lots more comfortable. And landing on a grass airstrip is time and again a special experience. We were lucky because there where just too many passengers for the big scheduled plane to Laduani  (20 seats), so we were sent after it in a Cessna. Docus sat in the front because his photocamera needed to be used all the time. But not on arrival, when he grabbed his camera immediately resulting in a heated protest by the locals who were lined up in front of the picturesque airport office. Marrons do not want to be photographed uncalled. Some say that the camera swallows part of their spirit, but money is also involved because for € 2,50 all objections melt as snow in the sun. But if you remain unnoticed on a distance, it is still possible to make a nice picture.

The great thing about Gunsi is that you don't need a touroperator to get there. You just phone Dennis, the manager on the spot, and he picks you up in a dug-out. Dennis is ea born bo(')sun: lean, skilful, knows every rapid in every water level and navigates them with the greatest ease, making you as a passenger almost forget that one tiny mistake may have disastrous consequences.

In Gunsi we were welcomed by a gracious lady with all of that day's dishes on her head. It was Maria, who surprised us the next five days with her nice meals. But there is more to enjoy in Gunsi, as it is situated on a three-forked stream opposite of an island in the Upper-Surinam-river. A magnificent beauty spot with depending on the water level bigger or smaller rapids. It is nice to sit between the rocks (be careful not to be washed away) and enjoy a  strong back massage.
Gunsi is a transmigration village, which means that the 120 inhabitants were compelled to move from the area where in 1964 the Brokopondo lake was constructed as a power supply for the aluminium production. An important source of income is Tei Wei (“When you are tired”), a simple and very friendly tourist resort, constructed and run bij the villagers. And this is what makes Gunsi unique: that the profits don't end up in the wallet of one person, but the complete community benefits from it. The Tei Wei facilities are also free for the villagers. For example transport of the sick by dug-out to the medical health service upriver; accommodation of volunteers for developing aid organisations, who help the children with their homework, etc.
Some of the one room, traditional thatch roofed huts have a small balcony overlooking the river and every day again we enjoyed the splendid view. There are two seperate buildings for the cooking, eating and chatting. Also with the employees, who are very pleasant people.

The only drawback was that they speak among each other Saramaccan instead of Sranan Tongo. Saramaccan has Spanish influences and the r is pronounced as an l, so iwe couldn't understand a word of it. But fortunately they also speak Dutch.

We visited the largest village in the area: Gujaba (7.000 inhabitants). Many tiny wooden homes, although the stone age seems to have begun. Women were just baking cassave bread and obviously Docus wanted to capture this. A storm of objections of course and the bread baking ladies demanded no less than € 3 for the picture, although we also bought two breads. Still we also managed to take a few shots of the characteristic little homes, decorated with woodcarving and/or defence against evil spirits; sometimes even literally.
And also some secret shots of scenic situations, such as women chatting; child on the hip and dishes on the head. By the way, marrons are famous for the way how they sand their pans: until they shine! May be they are sometimes a little bit colour blind or they just love making jokes, as the only street sign in the village shows sense of humour!

Guided by Otje we tramped through the forest. Around Gunsi there is no real jungle where the trees grow 40 meters high and the sunlight hardly touches the ground, so the flora is quite diversified. Thus we saw not only jungle-like trees with stunning roots formations but also many types of palm trees, small plants and shrubs. Some trees were already familiar (the telephone-tree), but the astray-tree with its weird seedswas new for us and we also never saw flowers of the lianas before.
It was a pity that there hardly any animals and even the hunters returned without catch. So we got the roasted pakira (small forest swine) only upon our return to Domburg on our plates, at Mia's!


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