• close family • small boat • big world •

Broken Windows, Killer Bees, Very Strong Rum

March 14, 2016

by Nicole
At Anchor, Saint Martin

While standing next to used, rusty cogs twice my height, I could hear the crickets chirping, the wind rustling the tall grass, the bees buzzing... buzzing – right next to my ear. Wait, what? AHH! Yes, the factory was filled with swarms of Brazilian killer bees.

In Mariënburg, on the Commewijne river in Suriname, we went to explore an old abandoned rum factory. It was the first plantation in Suriname to be equipped with electric lights, a railway, and the new vacuum pan system. It had a capacity of processing 300,000 kilograms of cane per day – the second largest mill in the world at the time. This thing was a big deal. The mill didn’t get off to a good start. Things kept breaking. The machines couldn’t handle the quality of the cane. The pouring rain made the railroad tracks sink into the soft ground. They installed a new steam boiler in 1885, but it was installed so badly the resulting leaks were almost impossible to fix. After that, it did well for a while, but frequently experienced economic difficulties. It was sold to someone else in 1964 and just fell out of use. It really gave the feel to me of something long-abandoned.

The factory is huge, and it looks like it came out of a post-apocalyptic movie. The tower and buildings around it are overgrown and broken, but still clear enough for people to be able to walk around. Even with rusty metal and broken windows the walls were still mostly intact. The interior of the buildings were dark, with plants growing through the windows and along the walls. The outside areas not frequently walked on by visitors were full of knee-high grass in places, with lots of plants and the feel of spring. It really gives a feeling of ruin and abandonment. There is part of an old railroad that went all around the factory. The decrepit buildings were amazing, with the insides being even more spectacular. We learned not to go too far into them, however, as a wasp stung my dad when he did. Luckily, it wasn’t one of the African killer bees.

Past the buildings was a field with giant cogs and gears lined up in a row, used to process sugar cane. Two
These giant rollers crush the sugar cane to squeeze out the juice.
huge rollers were used to crush the cane. Underground chutes brought cane juice into the factory. Rum is made with either cane juice or molasses, which is fermented, then distilled to make it stronger. The rum that was made at the Mariënburg factory was 162 proof!

It was a wonderful experience to get to see the factory. Everything about it was amazing! Well, everything except for the killer bees.

Looking up the tower.