The 80%.

Let the off-roading begin.

17th February 2022

Domberg, Suriname

Water covers 70% of the surface of the earth and on Ruffian we spend at least 70% of our time on it. In Suriname 80% of the country is rainforest and after spending at least 80% of our time in the rain we thought the forest might prove to be an amazing escape.

Just getting to the rainforest was an adventure in itself. Leaving the paved highway the 4WD was engaged and with every inch all 4 wheels were needed more and more. We started by driving through puddles that were more like ponds and around holes that seemed bottomless. As time went on the puddles turned into oceans and the holes joined to create ravines that threatened to swallow us.

Carefully inching higher and higher our progress felt pedestrian as fearless gold miners zipped past us on their spindly motorbikes while carrying metal detectors strapped their back. They were heading towards their places of work which were far from civilisation and far from oversight. The signs of the mines stretched far from their operations as everything downstream of them was dead and all the ground around them a quagmire. As we passed them they really looked like scars in the virginal forest.

Congratulating ourselves on negotiating the hazards our route up was suddenly impassably blocked. A tree and fallen across the road and with all our might we couldn’t untangle it from the undergrowth or lift it out of the way. There was only one thing for it, brute force, ignorance and blind faith that the car would bounce over it. Putting the accelerator down, mud flew in all directions and with a shuddering shriek we’d bounded our way over the obstacle and could follow the miners up.

Rounding the next corner, the tree we’d just bounded our way over looked like sapling compared to our new quarry. A tree as tall as a house and as wide as a man was our next challenge. There would be no bounding over this, no brute force and no ignorance. To carry on we’d need to use cunning, tools and just a little bit of skill.

Attaching a metal wire under it’s girth we revved and revved and pulled the tree time and time again. With every pull the wire strained and threatened to snap, but with every pull the tree moved inch by precious inch until we could just squeeze between it and the impenetrable forest that it had fallen from.

Now deep in the forest our hiking could begin and all around us the forest was alive. Under our feet frogs hopped and scarry looking centipedes crawled, while high above us illusive monkeys jumped from tree to tree, but the most awe inspiring were the creatures who flew.

Hummingbirds flitted from flower to flower and butterflies clumsily beat their huge wings around us. As they flew, looking for a mate, each opening of their wings treated us to flashes of bright red and yellow spots and then there was the magical ‘Blue Morpho’, butterfly which simply took our breath away. The ‘Blue Morpho’ looked other worldly as if it were powered by electricity and it beat its wings so quickly, we felt like we were looking at a blue strobe light.

With dense forest on all sides of us we hiked down for hours and the forest was far from peaceful. Unseen creatures bounded through the undergrowth and slowly but surely all sound was eclipsed by the thundering roar of water cascading over a precipitous drop and crashing on iron hard rocks far below.

Realising that it’s simply not possible to see a waterfall and not get into it we stepped into its stream and found that all the gentle rain that we’d been experiencing had now been combined into a single powerful torrent. No power shower could ever get us this clean and if we’d not had the rest of an arduous hike in front of us, we would have finished the day clean and lovely and not filthy and minging.

Now covered in mud and grime we readied ourselves for the 4wd trip home and if going up was tricky, going down was trickier. Now instead of gravity helping control our decent into bottomless ravines and puddles the size of oceans it did everything it could to destabilise us, test our resolve and question our abilities.

Spending time in the rainforest that covers 80% of this country was eye opening in the extreme. The gold mines that scar the landscape and the ancient tress that come down on the back of lorries made us realise how fragile and pressured this 80% really is. Having tried to escaped to the forest, the reality was that we hadn’t escaped anything at all, we just witnessed both destruction and beauty living hand in hand.  

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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