Sunday, November 22, 2015

Paramaribo: Beautiful City/Ugly Race

I trekked over to Suriname's capital city, Paramaribo, this weekend under the pretext of running a marathon but more so I could get out of New Amsterdam and explore a city that I had heard was beautiful. As I'm saving my vacation days for trips later in the year this was a short trip.

If you look at a map of the Guianas you will probably see how close New Amsterdam is to the Suriname border and that the trip probably would only take about 3-4 hours driving. Well you would be wrong. I was told I needed to be at the bus park at 6am to catch the 9a ferry from Moleson Creek, Guyana. With my friend, Stephan, we have driven there before and it does take an hour or so. However, in a 15 passenger mini-bus, it takes as long as needed to fill that bus with passengers before we made it there. Unfortunately I was the first passenger so I was taken hither to thither as well went further and back scoping down side streets for potential customers. We did eventually get to the border where we went through immigration and customs and then boarded the ferry. 

Boarding the ferry

The ferry ride itself is about 30 minutes but the loading/off-loading and going through immigration/customs first in Guyana and then again in Guyana makes the whole process about 2 hours. Once through the Suriname side of things, you then exchange some of your Guyanese money(see more on this below) for the Suriname dollar and then get on another bus for the 3-4 hour ride to Paramaribo. I say three to four hours because it really depends on where you're staying in relation to the other passengers as the driver will drop you off where you are staying. So all told, from my walk to the bus stop to my arrival in my hotel, it was a 9 hour journey. But it really becomes a ten hour day because you lose an hour as you cross the border. 
It was a beautiful ride. And luckily I got a window that actually opened.

After dropping off my backpack at Guesthouse 24(a cute little pension within walking distance of everything), I went out and explored the city. 
Accommodations were sparse but I didn't spend much time there

Paramaribo really is beautiful. From it's tree-lined streets(with sidewalks and stop lights!) to the colonial houses on the Riverside Boulevard(Waterkant), this city seemed far more European than it's neighbor to the west. When I sat down to have a (few) liters of the local beer, Parbo, I felt could have easily been in a German beer garden not South America. 
What a relaxing way to spend an afternoon

Saint Peter and Paul Basilica 

This is the third country this year that I've been that "speaks" Dutch. And all three countries do it differently. South Africa's Afrikaans is considered a "daughter language" of Dutch as it evolved out of Dutch but is distinct. Meanwhile, the Dutch spoken is more typical of what you'd see in the Netherlands as it is compulsory to be learned in school. Locals with often the slip into Papiamento, which is a Portuguese-creolese. Which brings me to Suriname(formally known as Dutch Guyana). In Suriname, I would have said that it was Dutch-creolese but supposedly it is actually that locals will go back and forth from using Dutch and Sranan(the creolese language) within sentences using words from both. Impressively in all three countries they also speak English very well. At no point did I feel out of place or unsafe and could for the most part understand these native Dutch speakers better than many Guyanese with their heavy creolese mixing with English in an often-indecipherable mish-mash of gobbledygook and curses. Seriously google it.

Okay long enough side note on languages. It just bugs me, how bad I am at languages(even English for that matter), and wish I had taken a foreign language, other than Latin. Oh well. 

The next day(race day!), I again went for a nice walk around town and met some people from Ohio as well as a Suriname local who I had met the previous weekend in Santa Mission. It was a relaxing day, as it should be because I had a marathon at 5:30pm. 
Independence Square

Fort Zeelandia(not to be confused with Fort Zealandia in Guyana)

or Zoolandia...

Another picture of the fort

Before the race they weigh everyone to see whether they need fluids post-race and when I just on the scale, I noted that I am the lightest I've been since attempting to wrestle my first year in college. This is probably partially due to my increased mileage and partially to do with cutting out almost all meat from my diet. Either way I was feeling good about my abilities and was thinking a podium spot was in my future. And it was a super small field. I think there was only 50 runners or so. 

Danny pre-race(or was that mile 24?)
However, I was quickly disabused of any notions of placing when in that fifty, I saw about 15 guys that looked pretty legitimate and when the gun went off and I was already dropped in the first mile despite having done a 6:30, I knew I was in for a long day(or night).

I never run with a hand-held bottle, except for back when I used to do ultras(oh yeah, that's why my blog is called that...), but I decided to just to stay ahead of my hydration. I started with Gatorade and every aid station, I would get another water bottle and drink some and pour the rest on my head. This course was super-fast. It is an out and back x 2 and has about 4 turns total so long periods of flat and fast. Even when the wind was a headwind it gave a nice cooling effect.

I knew that it would be silly to try to run a super-fast marathon in the heat and humidity but the winning time last year was a 2:57 and I felt that I could do that if I didn't blow myself up. So I let those guys go and just settled into a comfortable pace. I went through mile ten averaging 6:45s which was a little slower than I had hoped but I was still feeling pretty good. At the half, my pace had already slipped to 6:52s but I was hoping that as the sun went down I could run a slight negative split and come out under 3. During this time I was slowly catching some of the runners who looked like they may have thought they were only running the half marathon. I actually started feeling better around mile 15 and picked up the pace a bit chasing my shadow from one street lamp to the next. 

This probably was the apex of my marathon with several good mile splits. Followed by a devastating nadir that took any hopes of a good time with it. Mile 18 or 19, probably from running too hard the few miles before, my wheels came off. At first, I would stop and walk just the water stations, drinking a full 500ml bottle and then picking up another and running off. By mile 21, I only jogged until I was out of sight of the aid station volunteers and then settled back in to a brisk walk. By this point, I was so thirsty, that I would drink 1 bottle and be half-way through the subsequent one before the next aid station. Unfortunately I think this did me in, So much water without any electrolytes(it took me until mile 23 to realize that the plastic baggies that were on the tables were filled with Gatorade), that I think I flushed my system and became totally depleted. Plus it's tough to run with 3 liters of water in your gut. 

But the real nadir of my race? It was my attitude. Around mile 20, someone told me I was in 4th place, and because the roads were so long and straight, all I had to do was to look back and see if anyone was coming. If I spotted someone, I'd run again until I couldn't see them anymore. Number 5 must have been worse off than me because of a few cowardly moves like that and I never saw him again. At mile 25, which if you've ever run a marathon before you know is almost impossible to walk through just because of the excitement, I was doing just that. The winner from last year, who I had met on the bus ride into town, yelled to me that I was in 4th and to kick it in. Instead I meandered in, and was able to find out that he had dropped out around mile 13. Definitely not my proudest moment.

I did eventually run the last 2-300 meters to the finish line over 30 minutes slower than I had hoped. I was weighed and had lost 8.8 pounds during the marathon. That explained my apathy and fatigue! 
Regardless, I was revived with some soup and bananas, stuck around just long enough to get my trophy(this and my 3rd place at Jackson Hole are probably my two worst performances resulting in a prize). And now that I think about it for the same reason. I became dehydrated in that race too, the difference being that that was because the race was a cup-free race and I was totally under-prepared for it(I actually at one point had my dad go to the store to get me a bottle of water because I was so dehydrated). And just like this weekend, my Jackson Hole trip was a blast despite a less than optimal race. The race, in both cases, may have been the excuse to go, but the fun and the good memories came from the journey and all the little things we did.
Danny in 4th
This does mark the first year since 2010 that I haven't run a sub-3 hour marathon, but when I look at all the cool places I've gotten to go because of running and I really don't care about my time.

Okay so, I couldn't find anywhere online with details about traveling from New Amsterdam to Paramaribo and prices etc, so I figured that I could jot them down here so that if you wanna go you'll have a better idea. Thing to remember: Exchanging Guyana currency to Suriname dollars in Guyana will get you 3 SRD to one US dollar. If you wait to get into Paramaribo, you can get 4.20 for that same dollar. So obviously, exchange only as much as you need(bus ride and for snacks), until you can get to a Cambio in the city.

Here's the deets:
  • Bus to Moleson Creek(Bus 63 only goes as far as Corriverton but they have another bus waiting there for you to get the additional 10 kilometers). Total price: $5
  • Ferry(round-trip): $20
  • Bus to Paramaribo from the ferry: 60 SRD(so if you can get SRD at 4:1 it's only $15 otherwise it's $20(so I paid $35 roundtrip)
  • 2 night stay at Guesthouse 24: 150 SRD(~$45)
  • Parbo Liter of beer on the river: 11SRD($3)
  • Cheese and Cucumber Panini and glass of watermelon juice: 6 SRD( $1.50)
  • Breakfast at the hotel: 15 SRD($4)
  • The bus back from Paramaribo will pick you up at your hotel(4am!) and bring you right to the ferry.
  • Now the 63 bus at Moleson Creek will bring you right you your house for $7.50
  • Fun weekend in Paramaribo. Nope. Not gonna do it. Bet you thought I was going to say priceless.

In fact, I can put a price on it. This trip was well under $150 total and could have been cheaper if I had planned it out better.haha. I'll leave you there.

Until next time, 


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