The Guianas Part III
Suriname will forever bring me a smile when I think back on its humble dutchness. Yep even out here hidden in the malarial jungles and mangrove coastlines the Dutch have got it together making things rad. You know you’re in an ex-Dutch colony on disembarking the ferry from Guyana because there are canals everywhere. Pulling into Paramaribo (Parbo for short to her friends) you get this 18th century vibe from the buildings and the port, almost enough to make you wanna out-trade the French and Spanish or discover new lands and riches faster than the English and Portuguese. The reception is welcoming and excellently European and I settle into the only travellers-hostel in the whole of the three Guianas and enjoy.
Walking past some hotel I see a dusty motorbike parked through the fence and that’s how I meet Mark from Minnesota. Another overlander, another ex-military, another ex-afghan visitor. You bet we get on famously. And the only shame of it is that we’re on opposite trajectories, of course, so we just hang out and enjoy swapping bullshit stories and bitching about the road and its frustrations knowing someone else is right there in-amongst-it feeling it just like you are.
My Turn For A Breakdown
I'm exiting Suriname. At the ferry crossing for French Guiana. After the hellishly early morning departure to make the sailing and the straight ride to the border I pull-up on the outskirts of the border village and in the quietness of idle I can hear it. A vicious, invocative, engine rattle. I know enough to know it’s not good and I should not ride anymore for fear of doing damage to whatever’s obviously loose in there. Fuck it. What to do? As about a million options race through my head all at once; go to French Guiana anyway there’s bound to be a good mechanic, but it’s exceedingly expensive what if I’m stuck ordering parts for weeks, back to Paramaribo then, but what are the chances of finding a good large-bike mechanic there all I've seen are 125s and the odd 250cc? Whoa whoa whoa one thing at a time. What is the current-need, right now? To go have a cup of coffee. Good idea.
After chatting through all my options with a saintly-local-guy who happened to be standing nearby and willing to listen, I’m loading Aroha into the back of some guy's van with the help of customs officials and military police and we’re off back to Parbo. Where the boys at the hostel are on the phone and ringing round for mechanics before I’ve even sat down to drink the free beer they’ve just poured me. Great call coming back to Parbo who’s happy to have me back, there are worse places to be stuck. And as it's about to turn out, I will be here just a little while longer.
I’m worried about finding a mechanic with enough experience on these kinds of bikes to be able to diagnose a potentially complicated job. But I needn’t be. Providence has it all figured out. Again. I ask a couple of the guys from the ringing-around to come over and have a listen before I commit to the job. One is obviously out of his depth and the other guy walks in with a huge Maori Tattoo down his arm, takes one listen to Aroha's rattle before pronouncing the probable causes and solutions with perfect reference to all the internal engine-part-names. We have our guy.
And he fixes the loose bolt that was in the engine within a day with little fuss and shows me photos of how close I came to destroying the whole fucking engine if that bolt had jammed the timing chain it was rattling against. Completely right call to stop and not ride her anymore when I did. And with Aroha fixed the delicious irony is that I’m still not going anywhere for a while, as when we were loading her into the back of a mate's pick-up for transport from the hostel to the mechanic, I got my finger jammed in between the wheel and the chain, lost a fingernail pulled clean out, and spent the rest of the day on the phone with medical insurance people back in NZ and in the Doctor’s waiting room.
Red Light, Green Light
And so. I'm stopped without much to do while a very messed-up digit heals. I don’t do much, I can’t do much actually, and I certainly can't put a motorcycle glove on or do up zips and tighten straps on gear on the bike right now. So I swing around in a hammock and chill. And think. And this is exactly where the turning point comes for me. Not rushing. Don’t you see? Can you not see? Just do less, be more. Create space. And that space shows me all sorts of clarity and why I am on this trip in the first place. And after a week’s down-time I think I'm healed-just-enough to get going again and feeling like I am nearer than I have ever-been to understanding what I originally set out to find.
Ahh Parbo, what a gem - cjG.