Gear List and Lessons Learned
—Eyelash viper, Bushmaster, Coral, and other venomous snakes are mostly peaceful creatures. However, the Fer-de-lance (French for spearhead) is camouflaged and will strike unprovoked. It’s a nasty little bugger that needs to be watched out for. Never step over a log without knowing what’s on the other side and remember, they can be hiding in the trees as well. I looked into buying antivenins but they are extremely costly and you need specific concoctions for specific snakes.
—Sharp tingling sensation on the body that flares when hot or sweating is likely a byproduct of fungus growing on clothes. Washing clothes with soap and water seemed to resolve the issue. Antifungal cream (Tinactin) was applied to affected skin as well. Tinactin saved my feet in Guyana from a debilitating case of Jungle Rot. (See pic below)
Trench Foot and Jungle Rot are terms often used interchangeably but are different maladies. Trench Foot is a term coined by the men who fought in the trenches of WWI. This is an immersion issue. Wet feet kept in damp, cold environments (like combat boots) for long periods of time can cause the flesh to die and sluff off. Simply drying your feet at the end of the day will prevent this. Jungle Rot, however, is a debilitating fungal infection which drying alone won’t cure. At first it feels like a severe case of Athlete’s Foot: tingling and cracking between the toes. The issue progresses rapidly until it feels like you are walking on broken glass. Look HERE for good advice on preventing Jungle Rot.
—Rocks are a good deterrent against overly curious caiman (alligators). Carry them in your packraft while floating. Flare gun might have been useful to scare off the jaguar we encountered. Maybe. Whistles on the other hand seemed to excite him. The shrill noise may have resembled the screams of an injured animal.
—Once away from the riverbanks where foliage can grow thick, primary rainforest is fairly easy to walk through. It’s not like bushwhacking, as the shade from the canopy prevents thick undergrowth. Mostly. But it’s very easy to get turned around. On the Rewa River, Paul Smotherman and I went in circles and didn’t believe our compass. GPS doesn’t work under thick canopy so be careful. If venturing into the jungle, don’t lose sight of the river.
—Machetes are required and so is the skill to use them. A file to sharpen the blade is also a must. I’ve bought cheap machetes and the metal is worthless. Might as well bring a good one from the states. Be aware that a self-inflicted machete wound could lead to a disastrous situation in a remote environment.
—Always find camp well before dusk and the nightly feeding frenzy. Caiman are nocturnal, not a good idea to be paddling at night. Camp well away from the water’s edge. Start looking for your campsite around 4pm.
—Campsites are best found in the jungle, not on the beaches. This is opposite from what most river runners are used to. Ashlee and I used hammocks and the Eddy’s used a tent. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. It takes much longer to set up a hammock and you need to find two sturdy trees. But if the ground is sufficiently wet or it rains hard, the tent will form pools of water inside that make for an uncomfortable night. Because I am tall, I prefer a double hammock which allows me to sleep in a more horizontal position. I prefer the mosquito netting attached instead of the ‘wizard sleeve’ set up. We sprayed the bottom of our hammocks and hammock straps with permethrin to keep the mosquitos, ants, and ticks off. We found permethrin at Tomahawk (the REI of Suriname).
At first, the jungle at night is unbearably hot. The hammock campers will be glad to have air circulating around them. At about 1am, however, the temperature drops and due to the high humidity, it becomes surprisingly cold. Then the tent campers will be glad they chose their particular shelter. Either way, everyone needs a lightweight sleeping bag. Pro Tip: Clear the leaves and foliage away from your hammock and tent. It will be easier to see creepy crawlies and ants won’t like it. Also, ants are attracted to the salt in urine, so pee well away from your camping area.
—Campfires are wonderful. But the rain and humidity can make them difficult to start. I found bringing cotton balls dipped in vaseline is a great firestarter. Don’t build your campfire directly on the ground as it will absorb the water and extinguish the flame. Instead, split a piece of dead wood and light atop the two dry halves. You will need about an hour of daylight to collect enough firewood for the night. Even with a good headlamp I found it difficult to find usable firewood at night.
—They sell a few different stoves and fuel types at Tomahawk but we found their isobutane/propane canisters were unthreaded and weren’t compatible with our Jetboil-type screw-on stoves. At the last minute we bought a large Coleman style stove, which was heavy and not fun to portage with.
—Bathing: By all means, swim in the river. But not at night! And if I were you I’d keep my trousers on. The red-bellied piranha are small and it takes a lot of them to do much damage. The black piranha, however, are conniving (and cannibalistic) and large enough to bite your dick off. I met a villager in Guyana with a baseball-sized chunk missing from his leg. He said a piranha did it. Also, women should not bathe while menstruating for obvious reasons. Also the candiru, a toothpick-sized parasitic catfish, has a fondness for swimming up an unsuspecting person’s anus, vagina, and surprisingly—even a man’s urethra. Once inside, it flares its spines and feeds on the resulting blood. The fish must be surgically removed.
—Sunblock is a must. Large brimmed hat helps to prevent sun burns.
—The airstrip at Raleighvallen (Foengoe/Fungu Island) is overgrown and not currently safe for landing fixed-wing aircraft. There is apparently no way to contact anyone at Raleighvallen as they do not have a satellite phone or InReach. There is no food to buy in Raleighvallen (or much of anything else) but the few locals there will sell you warm beer.
—To treat river-water, our group used a combination of SteriPEN and Aquamira. Silty water can make the ultraviolet light of the SteriPEN less effective. I’ve tried various filters (pump, gravity) to remove the silt but they clog easily. Another way to remove silt is to boil the water hard for a few minutes, then let the water cool. The silt will separate from the water as it cools. Afterwards, pour the clear water off the top into your bottle. The boiling also purifies the water. An MSR Dromedary is nice if you find a clear water stream. Fill it up and carry the silt-free water with you.
—Statistically, you are most likely to die in the jungle by being struck by a falling tree. Massive, healthy-looking hardwoods rot from the inside and can fall unexpectedly, especially after a hard rain. Choose your campsites well. Cody Dial, from Alaska, ventured into the jungle of Costa Rica and disappeared. Most suspected foul play. Two years later his skeleton was found; he’d been crushed by a falling tree.
In summation: Careful of snakes, falling trees, and dick-eating fish.
- Paddle (four piece)
- Bow bag
- Twinky Tubes X2
- Inflation bag
- Large Backpack
- Duct tape
- Tyvek Tape
- Tooth floss + needles
- Packraft repair patches, etc.
- Hammock w/mosquito screen attached
- Hennessy Hex Fly
- Hammock straps 2X10ft
- Carabiners X4
- MSR Ground Hog stakes X10
- Extra parachute cord (clothes line)
- Lightweight sleeping bag
- Small 2ft X 4ft ground tarp (for getting in and out of hammock)
- Inflatable pillow (luxury)
- Stove (could not find jetboil screw-on canisters at Tomahawk)
- Aluminum Pot
- Pot grabber
- Mug X2 (used as bowl as well)
- Spoon X2
- Headlamp + Batteries (+ spare headlamp)
- Rain jacket
- Long sleeve synthetic button down (primary)
- Underware X2
- Quick dry pants
- Fleece Pants
- Dry camp shirt
- Socks for river
- Waterproof dry bagX 2
- Belt (not leather)
- Tennis shoes for river
- Waterproof Maps
- iPhone, Gaia/Earthmate/CalTopo (CalTopo seemed to be the best)
- iPhone case
- X4 Days Dehydrated
- Beef bullion
- Tomato bullion
- Spice kit
- 8 days food
- Variety of pre-dinner soups for each night.
- 5L MSR Dromedary
- Aquamira 1 oz bottles (treats 30 gallons) X2
- SteriPEN Classic w/ Nalgene bottle prefilter/adapter
- Cash $300 US + $6000 SRD
- Print out entrance waiver
- Covid vac card
- Yellow Fever Card
- Bug repellent(Ben’s 100% Deet)
- Permethrin- bug dope applied to underside of hammock and hammock straps
- Cotton balls dipped in vaseline (firestarter)
- Extra Ziplocks
- Fishing pole + tackle
- Small tackle box: lures, steel leader wire, bobber, hooks
- Toilet paper
- Water bottle
- Camp towel (never dried)
First Aid Kit
- Blister kit
- Nasal strips
- Duct tape
- Band aids (variety)
- Stretch bandage
- Iodine tablets
- Antihistamine eye drops
- Rubbing alcohol
- One course of amoxicillin (antibiotic)
- Pepto Bismol (chewable)
- GoPro batteries X3
- Portable charger/cables
- Waterproof containers
- Charger cord