“A freewheeling and vividly written essay on the mysteries and longings of what it is to be human in a world of cynicism and loss — and more significantly, what it is to be hopeful, to persevere, in the search for redemption and beauty.” - The Globe and Mail
Shortlisted for the 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction
Suriname is one of the least traveled countries in South America, a little-known land of myth, magic and ecological wonder just north of Brazil and the Upper Amazon Basin. As an aspiring primatologist of 23, I spent a year living deep inside this country’s primordial jungles. My home was the remote Central Suriname Nature Reserve, the largest tract of pristine protected rainforest on earth. I was sent there to study monkeys.
When I finished my research contract I left Suriname right away, but the country itself stayed with me. I read everything I could find about the place: riveting stories about Amazonian shamans, animist tribes of rebel slaves, overzealous Dutch missionaries, outlaw Brazilian garimpeiros, a massive jungle goldmine, a fetid lake with the dead canopy of a drowned rainforest at its surface, the aftermath of bloody civil war, an unsolved murder mystery that continues to haunt the nation.
Then, five years later and now an aspiring writer, I returned to my old jungle home on a mission to explore every corner of the country by foot, bus, boat and plane. The Riverbones describes my resulting five-month journey into the untouched rain-forests of Suriname.
Through an assortment of adventures – such as my perilous friendship with a bodyguard of the former dictator, my adoption by the Saramaka royal family, my compulsive search for a rare blue frog called okopipi – I traverse the length and width of this haunting country while searching for closure to my strange obsession with it. Along the way, I am welcomed into the little-known Afro-American culture of the Surinamese Maroons, and by the end I come to understand how the struggle for human rights and ecological preservation can often vie, with tragic consequences, with the economic needs of a proud people.
Oh, and I finally find that frog.
Or do I?
The Riverbones. A true story of adventure, heartbreak, mystery and murder, set deep inside the jungles of Amazonia.