|From Granman to Gold
After yesterdays meeting
with the Granman and his Captains Gazon had sent his private boat driven
by one of the Bashas to ferry us to the Granolo Rapids. Having spent
so long in perocs with small engines I felt a little lost sitting inside
the enormous Granman size barge, with its mighty 65 horsepower engine
driving us through the water at high speed, swerving around bends and
across rapids that previously would have caused some alarm. It's a whole
new experience being on the river in a big boat... the noise of the
engine; the pace of that river life passes you by in a flash.
The rapids themselves would have presented as much of an obstacle as
those we encountered on the Corentyn had we not had a boat waiting for
us on the other side. After hauling our belongings to the other side,
following the over grown railway tracks that used to ferry boats and
cargo past the falls we loaded our new boat and readied ourselves for
the next leg of the journey.... This time under the guidance of Johannes
and his crew from May ye Du (meaning to do something positive!).
Maroons approach navigation of the river in a completely different way
from the Amerindians we have been travelling with just recently....
Power... horsepower, nerves and knowledge see them swiftly from point
Within no time at all we reached the junction of the three main rivers
that serve as life lines for the interior of Suriname and neighbouring
French Guyana- the Tapanahoni, the Lawa and the Marowijne. Turning swiftly
up stream we began our journey along the boarder of French Guyana towards
Bensdorp and goldmining country.
I spent most of the day (7 hours) watching as the world zoomed by at
high speed .... With each mile that passed came subtle changes in the
scenery.... Boats laden with drums of fuel appeared, where before there
had been nothing... We passed six goldmining pontoons, each churning
up huge amounts of sediment from the riverbed and spitting out a murky
mixture of silt and mercury. On the French side of the river settlements,
villages and small towns appeared ...unlike those on the Surinamese
side they looked almost modern... at one I saw the wreckage of a burnt
out car, large houses, flags flying... It all seemed quite strange.
I'm sitting on a oil drum perched on the banks of the Lawa River. It’s
now around 7.30 in the evening .....its pitch black and I can't see
a thing....In the distance I can here the sound of Brazilian voices
... Jay and Max are scrambling in the darkness trying to organise the
equipment for the coming days....
Of all the situations I have found myself in since the beginning of
this trip I think this rates as.....the most uncertain . We have just
arrived in the small goldmining settlement of Bensdorp. I'm squinting
at the computer screen surrounded by darkness, and hungry mosquitoes
... desperately trying to write this diary entry so that I can share
this experience with you. For a long time now, I have wondered what
it would be like arriving in 'Gold Country'.. I'd had visions of gnarly
faced gun-baring goldminers chewing bullets and spitting blood...............
I wasn't far off...
The reception committee, a group fitting the above description stood
on the riverbank and stared blankly at our boat as we pulled in. We
have been invited here to meet with Henk Narrendorp, a key player in
goldmining activities in Suriname, and owner of some of the largest
concessions in the country. We want to ask him a few questions about
his work and the impact it has on the environment and the surrounding
Looking somewhat uncertain Johannes approached a small group standing
on the river bank and explained the reason for our trip... With oil
drums stacked high on the shore, heavy machinery scattered around the
clearing we were led to a small radio hut... Stepping inside was like
stepping into another world... nothing short of the Wild West. Behind
the counter of a small bar made of roughly hewn wood a blankfaced Brazilian
women stood staring transfixed at a television screen.... by her side
a shiny set of gold scales...
Two four-wheel motor bikes have just appeared out of the darkness to
drive us deeper into the forest to the mining site where we will meet
Mr Naranendorp tomorrow... There is a lot of noise ... the lights are
on me... I see guns....got to go...
Thanks for the Ride Granman
A Gold Mining Pontoon
- A Sign of What Lies Ahead
Nature in the Balance