14 June 2007

End of the journey: 27-30 May 2007

Comparison of our journey with that of La Condamine & Maldonado

Visit to Paris (27 May 2007)

"Batiment Perrault" of the "Bibliothèque de l'Observatoire de Paris"

On the 27th of May 2007 I had the opportunity to go to Paris, where I visited the Necker Institute of the Université Descartes. What an easy journey! I needed my passport once for an air ticket and, after a few hours flying, paid my dinner in a parisian restaurant with euro’s.
When La Condamine and Maldonado arrived in Para (Belem), the latter could go on a Portugese ship to Lisboa, where he arrived after 3 months in February 1744. Because of the political situation in Europe, La Condamine could not join him and had to find a crew of rowers that would bring him to Cayenne, where he arrived on 26 February 1744.

(From his journal one of the rare emotional remarks: “Je m’embarquai enfin la nuit du 29 au 30 Décembre 1743. Neuf ans d’absence de ma patrie, & l’espoir de trouver bien-tôt des nouvelles de ma famille & de mes amis, me donnoient la même impatience d’arriver a Cayenne, que si cette colonie eût été la France même.” )

When, via Paramaribo, he finally arrived in Amsterdam he had to wait 4 months before he obtained the necessary passport papers for travelling to Paris!

The library in the batiment Perrault; at left Mme. Simone Dumont

In Paris I visited the Bibliothèque de l’Observatoire de Paris (61, avenue de l’Observatoire) founded in 1667! Saying that I had been travelling in the footsteps of La Condamine and that I wanted to see his journals was sufficient to be admitted and to obtain the original book of the “Journal du Voyage fait par ordre du Roi....” (Imprimerie royale, Paris, 1751).

Copy of the front page of the book:
"Journal du Voyage fait par ordre du Roi, A l'Equateur, servant d'Introduction Historique a la Mesure des Trois Premiers Degrees du Meridien. Par M. De La Condamine.
(Oppofuit Natura Alpemque nivemque. Juven. Sat. X.)
A Paris, de l'Imprimerie Royale.

I was thrilled! From the Préface I cite: “Nous partimes de France, M. Godin, M. Bougueur & moi, en 1735, envoyés par ordre du Roi dans l’Amérique espagnole, & chargés par l’Académie de faire aux environs de l’Equateur, des observations de divers genres, & sur-tout celles qu’on jugeoit les plus propres à déterminr la Figure de la Terre.”

With the help of a visiting astronomer (Madame Simone Dumont, Meudon; see photograph) I also obtained a volume of the “Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Sciences”, Année M.DCCXLV. A Paris de l’imprimerie royale volume M.DCCXLIX (cote 2163), with on page 391 an article by La Condamine entitled “Relation abrégée d’un voyage fait dans l’interieur de l’Amérique méridionale depuis la côte de la mer du Sud jusqu'au côtes du Brésil et de la Guyane, en descendant la rivière des Amazones, lue à l'assemblée publique de l'Académie des sciences, le 28 avril 1745, par M. de La Condamine”.

At its end (page 492) the article contained a drawing (Pl.IX) of the Marañon river between Sant Iago and Borja (see copy and an image of Google Earth), entitled: “Carte du detroit appellé Pongo de Mansériché dans Le Maragnon ou la Rivière des Amazones entre Sant-Iago et Borja où le lit du Fleuve se retrécit de 250 Toises à 25 Toises” , (i.e. from about 500 to 50 m). The drawing shows how the river flows between high banks and hills.

Comparison of the drawing made by La Condamine and the satelite image of Google Earth of the same region , Pongo de Manseriche (Peru)
(distance between Sant-Iago and Borja: ~4000 Toises or 8 km)

13 June 2007

Farewell on 12 May 2007

Two Ara's

Farewell dinner in Paramaribo

Just as one and a half year ago we had a farewell party at the chinese restaurant Fa Tai in Paramaribo, together with Marina, Alicia and Denny, the children of our hosts Cindy and Dennis.

At the dinner we thanked Cindy and Dennis for their good care, hospitality and perfect organization. Lous and Lidie were happy that, after one and a half year of stories, they had now also experienced Surinam.
And I was very happy that Cindy knew the artist Paul Woei and called him right away. I had a long telephone conversation with him and thanked him that, through his poster, he had drawn my attention to the visit of La Condamine to Paramaribo. I hope to meet him on our next visit!

Perhaps he will appreciate the following citation from La Condamine's journal: "J'arrivai le 27, à l'embouchure de la rivière de Surinam.(...) Le lendemain, le Gouverneur m'envoya son canot avec un officier françois, qui me conduisit a Paramaribo, capitale de cette colonie, où j'admirai l'art avec lequel les Hollandais savent forcer la Nature." (Journal du Voyage fait par ordre du Roi; Imprimerie royale, Paris, 1751. Cote Bibliothèque de l'Observatoire).

On our last day, 12 May 2007, Rob and Emmy de Vries came to say goodbye. In the afternoon we drove to the airport at Zanderij. The plane brought us in 8 hours and 20 minutes to Amsterdam.

Rob and Emmy de Vries came to "Camp David" to say goodbye

04 June 2007

Around Paramaribo and “Camp David”

The lodge of "Camp David"

Doleh in his kitchen

Only once we encountered a Tarantula

Only an experienced hunter like Christo (right) could spot the anteater hiding and sleeping high up in a tree

Hilbert-Jan and Boudewijn, shopping in Paramaribo after it had rained all morning.....

The flooded road to "Camp David". In Dennis' car we stayed dry!

During our stay we experienced that is was rain season: both the road to “Camp David” and, sometimes, the roads in Paramaribo were flooded. It was also the rambutan season: we enjoyed eating the delicious fruits!

Beautiful Rambutan fruits along the road to "Camp David"

Much remains to be seen in Surinam like, for instance, the Brownsberg. Also, I didn’t see the Quinine tree! So, this will have to come during a next visit!

During our trip we sometimes talked about what should be considered to be bullshit. The jungle, however, does not give much opportunity for philosophical contemplations. Here are some after-thoughts:

La Condamine believed eventually in the existence of the Amazones: “Il y a toute apparence qu’il y a eu des Amazones en Amérique”, he wrote in his “Journal”. When I asked Jose, one of our Colombian guides in Leticia, he also said to believe that they had existed…..
After having learned to believe in the miracles of the dutch “Sinterklaas” and after, at the age of about 6, having been told that he doesn’t exist, many people continue to believe in almost anything (except Sinterklaas). Apparently, believing is a necessary and functional habit or mechanism in human behavior.

Sceptical people are often reproached that they ruin the beauty of myths by trying to understand their origin and meaning. It is true that understanding something makes it unnecessary to believe in it and that believing something usually results from ignorance and inexperience, but believing and understanding can both have their beauty…..and their “bullshit

Sinterklaas is not bullshit because we can value him without taking him too seriously
(the celebration allows to express our feelings in a harmless decor which is functional even though we do not (anymore) believe in him)

Believing and understanding become especially relevant in health matters. When we met, on our first visit to Surinam in 2005, Karin Anema on the tower of the wooden cathedral in Paramaribo, we didn’t know that she had brought her son, suffering from Perthe’s illness, in a wheel chair to the well-known medicin man (“dresi man”) Pake. She tells this story in her book “De groeten aan de koningin” (Atlas, 2006; see document in dutch). Pake literally takes her son out of the wheel chair. After a few weeks oily compressions and exercises, he could walk again! X-ray photographs, made later in the Netherlands, indicated that the bone of his hip was growing again.

Some of us also visited Pake on April 30. In a loud voice he gave them a long “lecture” in sranan tongo about blood streams, muscles and nerves. Poor Dennis had to translate everything, but he as well as the other listeners were impressed by this man and said to believe in his power and insight…..

Waiting at Pake's house. Later, Hilbert and I stayed outside enjoying the pouring rain

What is amazing in the story of Karin Anema is not so much the miraculous healing of her son, but rather the fact that the dutch orthopedic physician kept this boy for two years in a wheel chair. Perhaps this was indeed the right thing to do, but we should not believe that right away! We have to try to understand his decision, ask about his experience in similar matters and about other reported cases. These can now be found on the web; for instance at "Perthe's Disease": “Until recently most children with Perthes' disease were treated with a plaster cast or brace, or surgery. However, it is now known that at least half of cases heal well without any treatment, particularly children aged five and under, and milder cases. So, in some cases a specialist may simply review the child every now and then to check that the femoral head remains in the right place as it heals. Advice may include to encourage swimming (to keep the hip joint active in the full range of movements), but to avoid heavy impact on the joint such as running or jumping.”

Powdered bark of the quinine-tree was already used against fever by the inhabitants of Peru when the spaniards came

By structuring our health problems and by putting our physicians under regulated scrutiny, we have made huge progress in our health care. If we would not have done so during the past centuries, we would still have the insight of a medicin man in the time of La Condamine: we would perhaps still be using the powdered bark of the quinquina tree against high fever instead of our daily malarone-pill against the protozoan parasite Plasmodium.

But what to do with the power and insight of the Pake’s? Can we respect them without necessarily believing in them just as we can do with religion or Sinterklaas? I think we should value them without taking them (just as our own physicians) too seriously.

Relaxing in "Camp David"
Boudewijn, Doleh and Dennis

Eating "rijsttafel" at restaurant "Piet" on the Palisadeweg near Camp David

01 June 2007

Excursion Boskamp – Coppename river – Raleighvallen 7-5-2007 to 10-5-2007

View on the Coppename river at Lolopasi

When La Condamine finally reached French Guyana (Cayenne; 26-8-1744) he could replenish the botanical specimen he had lost on his voyage down the Amazon river. He also made an excursion upstream one of the rivers of Guyana. These rivers with the many rocks and rapids may resemble parts of the Napo river (see map above), where he survived several accidents wetting papers, instruments and, probably, his quinine seedlings.
When working in Ecuador in 1737, La Condamine and Jussieu (another member of the expedition) described for the first time in a scientific way the quinquina-tree. In 1742 the tree was named Cinchona officinalis by Linnaeus. The medicinal properties of the quinine-containing bark, however, were already well-known since the 1560s. La Condamine took 8 plants and seeds with him down the Amazon. But because of the sinking of his boat on several occasions these did not survive.

Likewise, we went up the Coppename river in a motor boat (korjaal), which took us about 3.5 hours to Witagron and another 3.5 hours to the Raleigh falls. Before arriving there we suddenly saw, with the sun in our back (i.e. in the north!), the Voltzberg, sticking out above the woods; a magnificent sight!

Doleh, Hilbert-Jan and Boudewijn: they felt the shock of an electric eel!

We camped at Lolopasi, meaning “rolling road”. Here, everything becomes moist in the humid atmosphere created by the rapids or falls (“vallen” or sula’s).

Hilbert-Jan and Hilbert enjoying the "rolling road" of Lolopasi

Our guides were Drona Gangaram-Panday and Rajen Jetaeu (cook), both of hindustan origin. Drona told us about his religion, about placing flags (red or yellow) on long poste in the corner of your land whenever you have accomplished something for which you are thankful and about his three sons living in Holland.....

Lidie at the lodge overlooking Lolopasi

Trip to the Voltzberg

To the Anjumara falls with "Soldier"

On 8-5-2007 a boat took us to the Anjumara falls from where walked through the wet forest (about 7 km) to the Voltzberg, a dome-shaped granite mountain (inselberg) of 240 m high. Our guide from STINASU, Hugo Josua (born in Witagron, and named “Soldier” although he had not served in the army), led us up the mountain on bare feet; we followed his directions very carefully and understood why this trip would have been impossible when it would have rained.

Our guide "Soldier" or Hugo Josua from Witagron

Following "Soldier" through the wet forest

We admired the knowledge of both Doleh and Hugo about the many trees, fruits and flowers. They showed us “Gods tree”, the Kakantri or Bushy Gado, the Ingipipa from which you can make pipes, the Apoketa tree used to make paddles, the Apokonnie or iodine-tree used to heal wounds and the Ingiprasara, used to make fish-traps; the fruits from the Bugrumaka-palm eaten by pigs and the Podosiri-palm with its beautiful red roots.

Learning how to weave palm leaves

On the Voltzberg, trying out bare feet?

On the Voltzberg

Upon return to the “Hammock camp” on the lower plateau, Hugo was willing to lead Boudewijn and me to the lek of the rare Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola rupicola), another 3 km up north. I could hardly keep up with Hugo who was almost running through the dark forest on rubber boots that were much too large for him. Two times he was not certain about the path he had taken, but when we finally heard nearby a loud cry of a cat, he said that we had arrived at the place. Just as the Snowy Egret lights up silver-white when standing on the river shore, so these birds flashed their bright orange colour under the dark trees.

The Cock-of-the-Rock: we saw about 6 males!

I was too nervous to take a sharp picture (but see the site of Surinam birds by Jan Hein Ribot; click "Rotshaan"). On our way back we saw a beautiful turtle. Within 1.5 h we were back again at the Hammock-camp, exhausted but very satisfied.

A beautiful turtle on our path....

Exhausted, but we had seen the Cock-of-the-Rock!!

When we finally came back at the Anjumara falls, we hardly could find the place where the boat would pick us up! Because of the rain during the past days, the water had rised at least 1 m.

Trip to the “Moedervallen”

On 9-5-2007 we walked from Lolopasi to the Moedervallen. Again Hugo and Doleh told us about the trees and fruits: the white-and-yellow of the fruit of the Hevea tree (bolletrie- or balata-boom), the red fruits of a tree called “tingy (stincky?) money” and the yellow of a jackfruit (bos-katahar?). But we also saw the Orokuku or bushmaster, 1.5 m long and quite poisonous. After hearing the various sounds of the “Okopipi’s” everywhere, we finally saw one of these little frogs!

Fruit from a rubber tree (Balata), high water and an Okopipi

A bushmaster (1.5 m) and Doleh, giving his jungle-lecture

Last morning – 10-5-2007

Yesterday we were alarmed by two tucans making a lot of noise. The reason was a visit by 4 baboons (Red howler monkey), one carrying a baby, high up in the trees above our lodge. This time the alarm was given by crow-like birds, probably Cayenne Jay’s: again it was a warning for the arrival of monkeys, this time Black Spider monkeys!
Because of the increased water level and the rapids in front of Lolopasi, two boats came to fetch us and brought us to Fungu. One of the boats was named “NEX NO FOUT” (nothing wrong), the slogan of the political party (NDP) of Desi Bouterse.

With a "korjaal" to Fungu island

Drinking warm beer at Fungu;
Drona and Rajen playing checkers

Downstream, it took us only 2 hours to reach Witagron. After lunch and a walk through this Marron-village, we continued downstream, passing a large cargo-boat filled with granite stones. From where did it come?
Then, our boat stopped: water had run into the motor and there were no tools to repair it.
Slowly the cargo-boat came along, stopped and allowed our boat to fasten to its side. We were not the only “guests”: two small fishing-boats were hitch-hiking also, attached to the other side.
The granite came from Apura at the Corantine river. Because the cargo-boat could not sail the Atlantic ocean, the boat had gone up the Nickerie river and had reached the Coppename river via a natural canal connecting both rivers. So, the natural Casiquira canal, connecting the Rio Orinoco with the Rio Negro (see map above) and studied by La Condamine and later by Von Humboldt, is not that unique!

Hitch-hiking on a cargo-boat transporting granite from Apura
(Hilbert-Jan, Marrons, a hitch-hiking fisherman reparing his nets, Lidie, Conrad, Doleh)

We were lucky and still arrived in the early evening in Paramaribo, where we had a nice dinner (“sauto”) with Drona and Rajen. Finally, at Camp David, we enjoyed the shower, the wine and the bright stars.....

20 May 2007

Visit to Frederiksdorp: 6-5-2007

Great potoo

Just as in 2005 we went again by boat to the beautiful, old plantation "Frederiksdorp". There, Fred Schoorl pointed out two sleeping Great potoo's to me!
We had a nice dinner and enjoyed the rain, the flowers and the birds. On the way back over the Surinam river we saw dolphins.

19 May 2007

Excursion to Tapuripa and Stondansisula: 2 – 5 May 2007

With two boats to Stondansi

Just before dawn Boudewijn woke me up: we listened. Far away we could hear the howling baboons! The Nickeri river streamed quietly, perhaps 2 km/h. We listened how more and more birds started their songs and screams, while a cloudy sky became more and more red. This night-of-the-full-moon Jeronimo, Hilbert-Jan and Hilbert had joined a hunting party in the boat of Dennis. Luckily, no eyes had lit up while they were searching the river bank with a strong flashlight....
Yesterday, the eight of us had embarked at the ghosttown Wageningen on the boat of Paul de Boer. We know this fisherman and hunter, born in Paramaribo, from our previous trip to Wonotobo in November 2005. This time he had two helpers: “Shorty” (a guayanese from Georgetown named Makres Renne) and Muna Rampersad (a hindustan from Nieuw Nickerie).
In the afternoon we reached the indian village Tapuripa (64 people). The “kapitein”, Petrus Sabajo, welcomed us. During the internal war (1986-1992), many of the Arowak inhabitants had fled from the village. Slowly, they were coming back now; also the teacher, so school will probably start again after the big holiday.

Blackboard in school with an announcement for celebrating May 1st

3-5-2007. A guayanese, who is living here with his indian wife and son, brings us in the boat of Dennis to a Hevea tree, here called “balatabon” or “bolletrieboom”. There are apparently not many of these trees anymore. La Condamine already reported about the milky sap or latex that could be obtained by cutting the bark of the “Hevea”, a name taken from the Equadorian indians. The name for the rubber substance, “caoutchouc”, is probably derived from the kechuan language of the Peruvian Incas. The tree I saw was most likely the same as La Condamine sent to France: Castilla elastica, which differs from the Hevea brasiliensis occurring south of the Amazon (see http://www.bouncing-balls.com/timeline/naturalname.htm).

Around 9 o’clock we continue upstream the Nickerie river. We are escorted by two Green kingfishers and groups of Water tyrants, flying low over the water. On both sides of the bending river the ever-changing pattern and colour of leaves and the many shapes of trees fallen from the river banks keep our attention. The Nickerie relates to the Amazon as Zion Canyon to the Grand Canyon: the bamboo bushes, the butterflies, the beautiful flowers, the Scarlet macaws (Ara’s) flying over, are all so close to the naked eye!

In the boat: always something to see

Except for the two motors on our “korjaal”, the wooden boats that took La Condamine down the Amazon, 14 m long (44 “pieds”), 1 m broad, may not have been much different. During the ride we are served rice with some meat and salad by Shorty, the guyanese cook. What food would have been served to La Condamine? Would the indian rowers have had the opportunity to fish or hunt like our guides? In any case, La Condamine will have heard better the sounds of the many birds in the wood. We could only hear the loud and typical scream of the Piha above the noise of the motor.

Our camp at Stondansisula: Hilbert, Dennis, Chris, Conrad, Lidie, Lous

"Shorty's" kitchen

Taking a bath, called "baden" in Surinam

This time the hunters went out before the full moon came up! Now, in the dark they shot two "hares" ("hazen"). Muna cleaned them skilfully. On our way back we made again a stop at the indian village Tapuripa. There, Dennis bought a young "hare" from an indian for 100 SRD (~30€). The young animal, probably an agouti, walked free from care around in our boat. It will be a pet for his son Denny.

Jeronimo observes how Muna cleans the two agouti's shot the previous night

The "sula" of Stondansi