Last year our reporter was lucky enough to explore the elaborate underground system linking Gaza to other Middle Eastern trade hubs such as Egypt and Israel. These tourist traps have been covered extensively by the Palestine Travel Agency, UNESCO and the Egyptian Government.
We decided to track down other interesting underground networks in other parts of the world.
The Oxford Guide to Tunnels list four types; infrastructure, transport, trade and military. While the first two types are well known from Morocco’s Passage de Chèvre transport network and Denver’s famous Sausage Run to the sewers of Esgoto da Cidade and Lurveere electricity hub, the trade and military tunnels are relatively unknown.
The most famous tunnel serving both trade and military use has the grand title of
Túnel de Comercio – Polvo Blanco y un Arma Automática, known as the Polvo Blanco Tunnel. This tunnel runs from Asuriname City in Asian Suriname, the small island state landlocked by Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, across the West Indian Ocean to Suriname in South America. The exit to the tunnel can be found in Bamarapimo, Suriname’s second city.
Our journey starts 1,342 miles away in Asian Suriname, in the city of Polpotpoi. The grand marble edifice of the martyrs of the Workers Devolutionary Party monument hides a more secret if not sinister use.
To understand the history of the tunnel and its original purpose we need to travel back to 1764 and the Dutch Revolutionary War. The Nederlandse Onafhankelijke Borst Partij, the Dutch independent state movement, forced the Belgian government into a referendum that would guarantee Holland independence from Belgium. In a close vote Holland won its independence and immediately started colonizing in both Asia and South America.
The Dutch Asian Trading Company set up its base in Asian Suriname while the Dutch South American Trading Company set up its base in Suriname.
In order to transfer troops, goods and slaves, the Dutch embarked on an ambitious project to dig a tunnel between the two Surinames. Work took 22 years and finally on 21 November, 1791 both digging parties met at Von Yanghas Point and the tunnel was finally complete.
Today it is possible to walk the entire length of the tunnel, although a train has now been installed to make the journey quicker. Our guide, Colonel Juan O’Tintod, made two requests from us; no photography and no reporting. Both we ignored. We believe in complete press freedom and transparency.
We descended by a metal spiral staircase to the tunnel. On the wall are photographs of the construction team who volunteered for this massive project. It’s amazing to see the global effort involved. Volunteers from all over Africa, the West Indies and even indigenous tribes.
The tunnel floor has been left unpaved except for the railway which was donated by a German firm, Deutsch Polnisch Transportsystem (TPT), and a plaque commemorates this, dated 1943.
The tunnel is lit by ultra bright neon lights and it’s amazing to see these fizzing strips go on seemingly for ever. The rest of the tunnel is extremely boring. Every now and again you’ll pass a grave, a stack of military equipment or a punishment cell, but apart from that it’s bland and dull.
Eventually after five mind-numbingly boring days on the train we eventually arrived in Bamarapimo, Suriname. After exiting the train our military escort was replaced with another bunch of uniformed men and we were escorted up a second spiral ladder also lined with pictures, mainly of dead criminals the police had proudly displayed, until eventually we hit daylight.
Our cameras were immediately confiscated and our phones…………………………….
EDITOR: Our reporter managed to send us this incomplete report before being arrested. At the time of publishing this article he is still languishing a year on in Bamarapimo Prison without trial and no access to a lawyer or the West.
Please join our campaign to free John Doronglley by clicking here and demanding #JusticeForDoronglley.