Up the Commenwijne River
Jul 21, 2018
|Up around 7:30 after a good sleep and go down to the hotel breakfast – quite a nice selection and cooked eggs to order.
Met Irwin the guide at 9:00 and drove out to the north dock. The tide was quite low and the mud flats were covered with small crabs – hundreds of the things. Then we boarded the water taxi “Marie” and headed across the river to Fort New Amsterdam – a fortress in use from the 1600s through the second world war!
There were a number of old cannons and mortars near the entrance. As we got near the entrance there was a large WW2 cannon and Irwin gave us a history lesson for Suriname in WW2. At the outbreak of the war the Dutch officials arrested all German citizens in the country. There was a German freighter in the harbor, the Goslar, and the captain opened the shuttle cocks in an attempt to block the port. It was discovered before it could completely sink and was towed to the center of the river – where it still sits today!
Suriname was the major supplier of bauxite for the US and not only produced aluminum but also manufactured a number of parts for US aircraft. The US even built a fighter strip (now the city airport) and based P-51s there. Suriname still produces bauxite but it is a minor producer at best.
On the outskirts of the fort was a display of sugar making equipment. Sugar was the main product of the country for hundreds of years. There were the boiling pots (from very large to about 20% of the size – a lot of water had to be boiled away) and a grinder for crushing the cane to extract the sugar. There was even some sugar cane growing nearby – with saw like leaves. Sugar was very labor intensive and there was a huge demand for slaves – until slavery was abolished in 1863 then there were Indians, Chinese, and Indonesians brought in large numbers.
Into the interior of the fortress we entered the prison complex. The barracks turned into prison cells (now each a museum display). The rooms, about 12x12 feet held 15 prisoners each. Each cell was now a display showing how each of the major Surinamese groups came to the country, and a bit about their traditions and cultures.
On leaving we saw some large water cisterns and noticed they held bats as well. The cisterns were disused (they were for the fort). There was also a display of military hardware and several cannons – from as early as the 1600s to WW2 vintage.
Back on the Marie we continued to sail up the Commenwijne River and Kitty spotted the first of a large pod of dolphins. There were probably 25 of them, all rather small but quite fast – it was really difficult to get a good picture.
Then we landed at the Frederiksdorp Plantation – an old plantation the was abandoned in the 1950s but then bought, the buildings restored, and turned into a resort. After looking around we had a nice lunch of Indonesian soup – shoestring potatoes being the main ingredient, plus a hard boiled egg!
In wandering around we saw a water monitor plus numerous birds and dragonflies. Then we gathered at the main plantation house and were told the history of the place – and how some of the old steam engines were turned into water cisterns. Almost all the cisterns were fed directly from the roof of the buildings they were next to.
Then we had a quiet sail on the Marie back to the dock and a van ride back to the hotel. Once back we decided to take a swim but the pool was really a puddle – very small. So we sat at the bar next to the river and had a drink and cooled off a bit.
Then we decided to walk downtown to see if we could find a camera. We walked to Fort Zeelandia again and continued on. It was hot and the sidewalks weren’t great – but lots of people around. Some very interesting sights as well – war memorials, Coba trees, a couple of rats, and lots of people. After walking about two miles we gave up (most stores had already closed) and took a cab back to the hotel.
We cleaned up from the walk and then walked back down the street just a little ways to an Italian restaurant (and betting parlor). We had to wait almost an hour for our food, but as it was on the street there was lots of entertainment. A Beauty Queen (with 4” heels) walked by. A weeding party drove by as well. The lead vehicle was a sound truck with a huge bank of speakers which were so loud you could feel the sound. It was followed by a car covered in strings of white lights, then 30 to 40 cars beeping their horns and people leaning out the windows.
When the food finally came it was quite good, so we finished up, walked back to the hotel, and settled in for the night.