Brownsberg Park

Suriname Travel Blog

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Hotel: Guesthouse Albergo Alberga, Paramaribo, Suriname, 15 Euro
Early this morning we picked up our rental car from Avis. As we walked through Independence Square, we noticed several people had setup poles with birdcages, today was Sunday and locals hold a 'tweety fest', seeing who has the best songbird. We had noticed people carrying around their birdcages while walking through town yesterday, already this morning there were 20-30 cages setup on the lawn. We would miss the competition though but was interesting to see the setup.

We planned to drive to the Brownsberg park, about 120km south of Paramaribo. Suriname has devoted over 12% of the country to national parks in an attempt to preserve ecodiversity and promote tourism. All roads in Suriname converge on Paramaribo, so it is supposedly difficult to get lost. However only 26% of the roads are paved (and those are badly potholed), also it was rainy season making the roads worse. For this reason we had rented a Tucson 4x4. In Suriname, although it was a former Dutch colony they drive on the left, a remnant of British control. There were two possible roads we could take, the first one via the airport, the second via Paranam. Somehow we missed the turnoff to the airport, and ended up on the secondary road. The road was in pretty good shape until we reached Paranam, where there is a huge bauxite processing plant (SALCOA); this point there weren't any signs and the roads were confusing with plant roads and a dirt road that looked like it went into a junkyard.
This road ended up being the one we needed to take. The soil throughout Suriname and Guyana is sand, so they seal the roads here with bauxite ore. Makes a pretty red color, but when mixed with water it's ugly mud. The road was quite wide (for the mining trucks) but potholed with puddles from the rain. We saw several villagers walking past, including one woman wearing African garb. In the 1800's, slaves (Maroons) escaped into the jungle and continue living a subsistence lifestyle, some of their culture is identical to tribes in Ghana.

Since we were on this road, we decided to go to Jodensavanne, the first Jewish settlement in the New World. Basically in the 1600's the pope gave a group of Portuguese Jews some land 100km in the jungle to get rid of them, this was during the Inquisition.
Suriname visa
The site was on the other side of the river, but both of our maps indicated that there was a bridge. We found the turnoff to Carolina, down another bumpy dirt road, but this was actually in better shape. We passed by several Amerindian villages, thatched huts and Chinese shops. After a half hour we arrived at the river, only to find the bridge was still under construction!! (there had been a bridge but it was a few trestles remaining) There was a ferry, but the engine cover was off and someone was banging on it with a hammer. Not a good sign. There were a few other vehicles there waiting on the ferry so we hung around about 20 minutes, but it was already nearly 11 AM and we didn't want to get stuck on the other side if the ferry broke down again. We decided to cut our losses and and continue onto Brownsberg park.
By this point, our gold-colored SUV was now two-toned, the lower half being caked in bright red mud!

We drove back to the main road, then headed south to Brownsberg, still about 60km away. The land slowly started rising and getting hillier, but the road was still pretty bad. Towns passed by in a blink, there was nothing out here but the road and the forest. Suddenly we heard a thump-thump of a flat tire! I had been driving like a maniac around the potholes, but had still managed to hit a few pretty hard, and had eventually blown out the sidewall. We got out the spare tire only to discover it had a nail in it and a huge bulge in the side. Not too encouraging! We put on the spare anyway and it seemed to hold, we drove gingerly to the Brownsweg town, still some 20kms away.
Finally a town of some size, there was a garage where we were able to get the original tire patched. While we were waiting there, a busload of Dutch girls on a tour pulls up; it's impossible to avoid them here! The repair only cost 25SRD ($9) and we were soon on our way up to the park, still 14kms away. The road started winding up the mountain, through 6" deep puddles (we were glad for the 4x4). We were silently cursing the woman at the tour office though who said it's only 1:30 from Paramaribo to Brownsberg, it had taken us nearly 4 hrs, even without the delay of the flat tire! We continued driving up the mountain then opened up to a gorgeous vista overlooking the surrounding jungle and Brokopondo reservoir. We arrived at the park office around 1:30, passing a group of Dutch girl hikers on their way to Irene falls.
We definitely wished we had been able to spend the night here, since we needed to get the car back by 8PM and it looked like it was going to be another 3-4hr drive back to town. So after all that driving, we only spent about an hour and a half, including eating lunch. We did finally see some wildlife, lots of lizards and salamanders, and an agouti. It's a cross between a rat and a guinea pig, but larger, and good to eat apparently.

The drive back to town was pretty uneventful. This time we finally found the road going via the airport (not marked). This road was really bad right to the airport, where the road was paved all the way into town. Saw the Suriname Airways 747 parked on the tarmac, this flight goes to Amsterdam. Not sure why they have to put the airports so far out (both Guyana and Suriname's airports are 1hr+ from their capitals), it's not like they are lacking space here! Most likely some minister owned the land where the airport ended up.
Started pouring rain on the way, but it still wasn't enough to wash all the mud off the car. We started looking for a car wash, otherwise we would have to pay a hefty cleaning fee (by this point there was mud everywhere, inside and out, floormats, engine, etc). We passed a Shell station, but their car wash person had gone home (it was Sunday). We were driving down the road when we caught out of the corner of our eye a carwash sign; an Indonesian family had converted their garage into a carwash, for only 20SRD ($7.30) they would wash and vacuum out the car! It was a full team effort, with the whole family pitching in to clean the car. They even cleaned and replaced our original tire and spare (we were still running on the spare with the nail in it!) Excellent job and we gave them 25SRD, that probably saved us $20 or more in cleaning the car rental place would have charged.
Brokopondo Reservoir, Suriname
Got back into town and dropped our stuff at the hotel before returing the car just in time at 8PM.
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Suriname visa
Suriname visa
Brokopondo Reservoir, Suriname
Brokopondo Reservoir, Suriname