Our rescuers can be seen attempting to grab the sides of Noah’s Ark in this photo. In the background are the two overcrowded boats tied to each other.
Our rescuers can be seen attempting to grab the sides of Noah’s Ark in this photo. In the background are the two overcrowded boats tied to each other.

Night at the guest house

 

“What’s this? What are you doing here?” These were the questions hurled at me by an “overgrown grown” man (not a pleasant sight) whose arms were a burden to the shoulders of the woman at his side. They must have been given a second key to the room and trooped in as I lay sprawled on the bed watching a movie on my laptop (the thing was otherwise useless). It was my second and last night in Orealla. I had spent the entire day walking uphill, interviewing villagers and listening to their endless problems. The last thing I wanted was for a stranger to invade my privacy late that night.

My first night in Orealla was spent at a resident’s house because I couldn’t get a room at the guest house. When I was offered Room 15 the second night I thought I had finally gotten lucky. I guess I should have known better than to hope for something so good. The manager, let’s call him Ricky, told me that Room 15 had been cancelled and booked me for the night.

So when this stranger all but barged into my room that Friday night I had finally had it. I was ready for a verbal rumble.

“What am I doing here?” I asked him not so politely. “What are you doing here? I paid for this room so you’d better waddle along and speak to management.”

I stood there waiting for a reaction from him but I guess he was smarter than I thought; he recognized my mad mood and left to deal with management.  I slammed the door, bolted it this time and listened as he abused Ricky but eventually settled for two hammocks.

Noah’s Ark

On Saturday morning I missed the sunrise and stewed over it as I waited to order breakfast. By now I knew better than to ask for anything healthy or sugar free so I asked Ricky, also the cook, to make me a sandwich. As I munched on my too sweet sandwich I made transportation arrangements with Ricky. The boat, he told me, would be leaving at 11am and I had no reason to worry. I now knew better than to believe that.

Ricky’s boat never showed and I met the lively group on Noah’s Ark just before my temper erupted. As I said my goodbyes I was surprised to feel a little regret as I looked back at the simplicity of Orealla. If it weren’t for lack of technological access I’d actually consider living there.

As Noah’s Ark sped along the Corentyne I slowly started feeling better. In just under two hours I’d be back to civilization; closer to home and food I could eat. I was too happy to notice the guys muttering but when we made our first stop in the river to transfer some load to a larger vessel I knew something was up. Noah’s Ark quite possibly had two of everything; it was overloaded.

Almost home

Well, a few minutes later Noah’s Ark was out of gas. For fifteen annoying minutes my eight companions and I were adrift and of course the river isn’t like the road. There’s no honking your horn for attention and certainly no yanking out your cellular phone to call for help.

I wasn’t thinking about being stranded there. I knew someone would come along and lend us fuel or tug us along with them. However, some of my colleagues, judging from their expressions at the time, weren’t so optimistic. One of the men looked as though he was considering swimming to shore.

I was thankful that we weren’t left drifting long enough to find out whether anyone would be silly enough to try swimming. Our saviours did come along but they were all drunk, this is no exaggeration, and they almost toppled Noah’s Ark. But we were towed safely to the overcrowded twins where I ended up being stranded atop blaring speakers.

My sixth hour on the river was beginning to look better. The suicidal drunk had given up trying to fling himself overboard and I was enjoying the view my seat afforded me. I could see all the drunken people dancing and I began snickering because I knew tomorrow they’d feel worse than I would.

By hour seven the suicidal drunk was out cold and I had to change boats for a second time. The good twin that was towing my ex-boat and the boat of my rescuers was low on fuel but we had managed to catch the ferry. We were all being towed by the ferry now and I took the first chance I got to jump over to the larger vessel which didn’t have speakers.

Getting away from the noise improved my mood and I actually began to enjoy the ride. Although what should’ve been a two-hour river trip became a nine hour disaster I learnt several things. The first was that a few hurtful words from a neighbour could cause a man to want to fling himself into the Corentyne. The second, when you’re staying at a guest house never rely on the door’s lock, bolt it or shove some furniture against it!

The third and most important lesson by far was to never again set foot on any vessel with a name like Noah’s Ark; the original ark did not see dry land for seven months!