Today was a day that every traveler has had at some point. It starts out innocently and ends up being the day from hell. I made two rookie mistakes that I normally don’t make and it cost me most of my day but a good story I guess did come out of it. It all started at 3:30am this morning in Georgetown, Guyana…
I had argued with my driver about why we were leaving for the border with Suriname at such an ungodly hour and he mentioned that there were two ferries that we had to catch and they could be unpredictable. My Lonely Planet said that I should be no later than 10am at the second ferry which is the actual crossing into Suriname for the 11am ferry. Being this was only 150 miles from my hotel I figured three hours outta be about right and of course it was but my driver Raj insisted that he has been driving in Guyana for 23 years and he knows best. How can I argue with that logic so I reluctantly agreed. Although I emphatically stated that I didn’t want to arrive at 7am and sit there waiting by myself for the ferry for 4 hours. He said that we would be lucky to make it by 10. I knew he was wrong but what could I do.
Needless to say we arrived there at 6:30am-yes 4.5 hours before the scheduled departure time. I was quite nonplussed about that situation as Raj tries to scramble to drop me off while he drove back to Georgetown-I was having none of that, I said if I am here this early after all my objections-then he’s staying with me. I made him just sit in the car while I slept in the front seat until about 9:30am when other cars started rolling up to the immigration office. I reluctantly paid him and sent him on his way because I was just gonna take the ferry and grab a taxi on the other side to Paramaraibo (Parbo).
To make a long and horribly annoying story short, the ferry didn’t actually leave until nearly 2pm. It was extremely miserable, long and boring and extremely hot and sweaty with nothing to do. I struck up a conversation with this Surinamese family of three and when we finally did arrive at South Drain in Suriname, they helped usher me through customs and immigration quickly, joining them as a guest. They then asked me how I was getting to Parbo. I mentioned I was getting a taxi and they insisted that I join them on their bus. I took a look at the bus and it wasn’t a bus, it was one of the African style minibusses that cram 25 people inside and have zero ventilation or legroom. Once again, I reluctantly said yes and proceeded to sit in the bus for 2 hours waiting for it to fill up because as in Africa, they don’t leave until they are full.
Finally, it shoves off up this bonejarring African style dirt road that makes you feel like you’re gonna hurl for like an hour until we finally reached a highway at Niew Nickerie. Again, to make a long story short, it took another four hours or so with umpteen bathroom breaks and random I don’t know why stops we finally made it to Parbo. I am staying at this beautiful eco resort here taking down a few Parbo Biers and dying for a shower after an 18 hour ordeal.
My two mistakes were this: I should have flown-I know better than to rely on third world people and timetables and should’ve just flown. The reason I didn’t was because I like to see the countryside and this drive was along the coast and I love coastal drives, plus the flight had a 2 hour layover-I would’ve killed to be there in three hours.
Mistake two was not getting a private cab and dealing with that damn minibus. It’s not like I’ve never ridden them before and been miserable at 6’3″, I could document so many occurences in Africa, South America and Asia where I swore I would never do it again but I still did it anyway; I can assure you that will be the last non essential minibus I ever ride. The other problem is that people smoke on these things and it drives me nuts and they don’t understand why you want them to stop in a small cooped up tin can with no ventilation. Oh well.
Even after all that crap, I am still pretty happy with my day because it made me realize so many important things, especially how lucky I am to be able to do stuff like this in the first place and more importantly-to always trust your instincts-especially after you have done careful research….oh yeah, and if possible FLY!