In Manaus you can buy watches or telephones “per cubic meter”. All historic museums appeared closed or were in a process of reconstruction (e.g. the Instituto Geografico e Historico do Amazonas). We stayed in the run-down hotel “Premium”. After a luxurious dinner in the italian restaurant “Fiorentina” we went to the bus that would bring us through the night to Boa Vista (some 900 km). The comfortable bus hardly stopped; walking in it was almost impossible due to the bumpy road. When it became light we saw a depressing landscape of burned fields with solitary, dead trees and some cows (near Novo Parais?). In the distance cone-shaped mountains.
On the 26th more people came: Edneia, with two girls Rosangela and Roseane (not her own children), all from Para and Socorro from Boa Vista. In total (the four of us included) we would be 19 adults and two small kids packed in two minibuses together with the two drivers, Bryan and a Guayanese chauffeur.
La Condamine travelled in a time when the spaniards were still seeking gold in the Andes. Presently, the exploitation of gold has become very restricted in Brazil. As a result, many brazilians migrate to Venezuela, Guyana or Surinam to find their luck. That is also the reason why our group consists of some 6 men and 3 women that want to search gold in Surinam. All seem to know about the danger of the mercury that they will use to separate the gold particles from the water-sand slurry. But do they realize the long-term health consequences of inhaling evaporated mercury when they heat the gathered “black gold” (gold-mercury amalgamate) with a flame?
Collection of "black gold" - the evaporation of mercury with a flame
After waiting the whole morning we went by taxi and bus through a savannah landscape to Bon Fim, the brazilian frontier town at the Tacutu river. A small boat brought us to hotel Torquato on the Guyanan side of the border. Bryan had told us that we would go the next day to the police station of Lethem. When we arrived, Bryan and his goldseeker-passengers were already there. More travellers came through, but did not stay. Our group seemed happy: together with Sandra, a colombian “rola”, we had dinner, played cards and drank beer. Everybody was tired and we went to sleep.
ant-hills. We had to traverse many small bridges and after the 14th we got a flat tire.
We have dinner in a restaurant at Kurupukari and Bryan has a short sleep. A truck driver, transporting wood and a hindustan family camping on the truncs, tells me that a few years ago the distance Lethem – Georgetown (500 km) took him 10 days!
In the middle of the night, at a “chineese village” owned by a wood company, we were halted. This time, the policemen, who had specially come down from Georgetown, didn’t want to accept money. The local police “allowed” them to check all luggage for weapons, but not the passports or other papers (“manifests”) of the passengers. There was a lot of scolding between them.
We had lost time at the police check and raced to Georgetown, where we made a short stop at a run-down hotel. There were a lot of junks around. But we drove further, faster than ever. On a street, sided by beautiful lotus flowers, and full with cars, bicycles, dogs and people carrying babies, boxes and baskets, we could reach a velocity of 100 km/h on the meter. But we were in time for the two ferries, first over the Berbice, then over the Corantijn: We, that is those in the “legal bus” carrying passports, were in Surinam. The others were taken in little boats over the Corantijn, where a Surinam bus would take them over and bring them to Paramaribo. Due to formalities on both sides of the borther, we arrived 4 h later at hotel Perola in Paramaribo, where the others had arrived safely.
On his next trip, Bryan was arrested by the Surinam police and had to stay 3 days in the prison of New Nickerie. He had told us about the accomodation: 30 people in a room with one hole in the corner as toilet.....