December 27, 2006
Bamboo Raft Experiment Day 2
Craig and I got up at 4:00 and checked the river. Sure enough, the tide was just starting to go out. We quickly packed up and left. Once again, we slowly drifted down the river under the crystal-clear nighttime sky. We got to Wakay at about 9:00, just before low tide.
Wakay is a government-run outpost at the end of a canal that goes all the way back to Nickerie. This time of year, it rains enough that the huge rice fields get enough water on their own, so the machinery used to pump the water from the river into the canal wasn't running. Still, we had a few hours to kill, so the friendly employee showed us the site. We had to go back and forth between the living quarters on a tractor because of the vicious attack dogs that protected it. We got a little bit of sleep, cooked all of our food, and stuck around until 3:00, when we got on the tied-up raft and waited for the water to change direction.
The rest of the day consisted of a lot of slow drifting. We had two paddles with us, but it's much more difficult to paddle a raft than a canoe because of the greater surface area and the logs sticking out of the sides. In a bamboo raft, you're really at the mercy of the river.
From the advice given at Wakay, we thought we'd easily make it to Siparuta, but that didn't turn out to be the case. At dark, we knew we only had a couple hours left with the tide on our side, so we tried to find any sign of civilization. Eventually, we spotted three large sand banks, where ships load up with sand to be turned into concrete and sold. We made it there after what seemed like an eternity, but then we got caught in an eddy and started going backwards. As far as we knew, we could've been going backwards because the tide changed though, so we paddled out to the center of the river, and sure enough we started moving in the right direction again. However, we were so far out that we couldn't paddle back to the shore in time to make it to the sand banks, so we had no choice but to continue.
We finally saw the lights of Siparuta and started heading there. However, the fiasco in the eddy consumed so much precious time that the tide was already starting to come back in. It was very frustrating because we were within 300 meters of our goal but couldn't get there. We were just about to look for a spot on the shore to tie up and wait for six hours when a boat full of Dutch tourists passed us. The raft was starting to fall apart, so we thought it best to flag them down. They already knew all about us from the gossip on the river and gladly drove us the short distance to shore. We didn't quite make it as far as we wanted to, but it was still an interesting way to go down the river. Now we just had to figure out how to get back to Apoera.
The photo album for this entry is here.