What a difference a single river crossing makes. If you ever wonder why every country is worth a visit, no matter how small or unknown, then the stark contrast between the two tiny young nations of Guyana and Suriname would be an exemplary answer.
The view from my mini-bus window on the post border-crossing part of the journey from Georgetown (Guyana) to Paramaribo (Suriname) has changed dramatically. The first real hint of what’s to come occurred when I was actually able to look out the window without fear that my face would go through the glass on the next major pot hole we hit or yet another terrifying near-miss traffic situation. Looking through the front windshield, I saw a paved road with actual signs and even paint demarkating the lanes! The country suddenly feels tropical but with a definite sense of purpose. All the land is being utilized for cultivation or has actual pens for the animals they rear. The donkeys are being cared for, not tied to the side of the road creating hazards. Bananas and coconuts bloom from the palms beckoning you to feel refreshed. The homes are all in more than livable condition. The style of the older colonial homes are not as elegant and elaborate as in Georgetown but they are cared for here. Fresh paint, no rotted wood or plastic covering to holes. Resident care for gardens.
Suriname is younger than Guyana, earning its emancipation from the Netherlands in 1975. The language is still Dutch and the European influence is very strong here. Politically, this country of 500,000 people has more connection to the Caribbean and Europe than to its neighbours directly South – it is not even possible to cross into Brazil from Suriname despite their shared border! It’s interesting to note that in addition to the Dutch being the last nation to abolish slavery in 1863, they also have a reputation for being the roughest and toughest masters. Here in Suriname, all emancipated slaves were still forced to labour for 10 more years – for free – following their liberation. Seems the only real difference that followed 1863 is that the African people were actually recognized as human beings, not just property. Of course the Dutch, like the British in Guyana, also brought indentured workers from around the world – mainly other Dutch colonies like Indonesia.
Travel Tip: It’s cheaper for locals to fly from Paramaribo all the way to Amsterdam, Holland and then back to South America than to try flying directly to another country within the continent (outside of neighbours – British and French Guyanas). WOW!
Check out my story on the Maroon people of Santigron @
Maroons are the direct descendants of escaped slaves.