On the evening of December 23, after twenty-three days at sea, everyone on board was very excited to finally see the shores of Suriname. Despite our difficulties with customs, it was confirmed that on Christmas Day at 0700h we would be able to board our buses and head to where the road ends and head into the Amazon Jungle for a three-day adventure.
After a four-hour bus ride, we boarded long motorized canoes and headed 1.5 hours up the Upper Suriname River to Menimi Eco Lodge. Once we arrived we were able to settle into our rooms and head into the river for an afternoon swim. Later, we ate a typical Surinamese lunch of rice and beans and fresh fruit. In the late afternoon, we divided in to four groups and went for a walk through the jungle with
our local guides. Here we learned about which vines are safe for swinging, the medicinal properties of jungle plants, and identified creatures we came across along the way. We also were shown a “plot” and explained how they work. Each male is expected to clear a small area of land and cultivate it once he has a family. We were shown pumpkin, pineapple, sugar cane, peanut and many other plants being grown on the plot. Once it got dark, half the students reloaded the canoes and went out to try to spot caimans in the river while the others enjoyed a campfire before bed.
On day two, students went for a swim before breakfast then got ready to divide once again into four smaller groups for our visit downstream to Gunzi Maroon Village. Maroons are the descendants of African slaves that escaped into the jungle to find freedom. In these villages, the people still have many African traditions such as ladies carrying laundry/food baskets on their heads and men building dugout canoes for transportation. We were able to visit the village of our main guide Jozef were students were able to choose which task they would participate in for the day. Some went to the plots to help with planting and harvesting, others went to the river to try to catch some
piranhas for our lunch while the other two groups learned to cook traditional dishes to share with the village. During this time students got to spend the entire day working with local Saramaccan people taking turns getting their hair braided (girls and boys), playing with local children, learning to open coconuts and making jewellery from the leaves of plants. We also helped hulling rice and preparing cassava bread. Once all the work was done, we shared the meal we all played a part in creating with the village. After lunch, the Saramaccans did a small performance of local song and dance and we were encouraged to join in. The evening ended with a quick swim together after the game followed by a final goodbye. Before the other half of the students went caiman spotting, we were greeted by Jozef holding a tarantula he had found. Students were all given a chance to
hold it and get photos.
The next morning, students were free to swim and explore and enjoy the lodge before lunch and departure back to the city. Many students can’t wait to return with their parents to show them the beauty they have seen and the friends they have made in the interior.