Where the wild things are
Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
7Trip End Dec 09, 2009
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My how the scenery has changed... After our long stretch of hard work around Cochabamba, we made our way north to La Paz and eventually into the steamy jungle. A 45 minute flight in a tiny twin prop plane took us from the high and dry altiplano, over 18,000 foot peaks in the Cordillera Real and into the low, lush and humid rainforest on the fringe of the Amazon river basin. As we broke through the pea soup clouds I beheld an endless sea of green, tens of thousands of towering trees stretching toward the sun and lazy brown rivers cutting serpentine paths through the landscape. Landing on a dirt runway in the only swath of bare land for a million miles, I knew the experience would be unique.
We first settled for a day in Rurrenabaque, a sleepy jungle town with beach bum vibes where the hot and sticky weather seemed to determine the relaxed pace of life
The first half of our jungle experience took us on a longboat ride several hours up the mighty Beni river and to our first accommodation in the midst of the vast Parque Madidi, one of the most biologically diverse treasures in the world. Sleeping in wooden cabanas at night and hiking through the meandering jungle trails by day, we quickly became familiar with the savage wilderness surrounding us. Though a great deal of wildlife thrived in the area, the density of vegetation and sheer size of the national park kept us from encountering much face to face, instead displaying much more impressive fauna that proved just as ominous and intimidating. Though many of the indigenous names have slipped my mind, we became familiar with trees whose natural properties proved as powerful and at times deadly as any pharmacy Iīve encountered. The bark of one could be eaten or boiled and ingested as a remedy for the common cold and diarrhea, and the core of another might aid against headaches or rheumatoid arthritis. Within the leaves, roots, vines and bark of these longstanding giants dwelled cures for snake bites, upset stomach, toothaches, insomnia and a whole host of ailments suffered by local tribesmen. There even existed a 'viagra' tree, whose bark shavings "make men very strong", according to our chuckling guide, Freddy
In addition to the plant life, we were fortunate to come across several species of fauna, including bright red macaws, giant tarantulas, scurrying armadillos, capuchin monkeys and a foraging pack of over 100 wild boar, who fled once they picked up our scent. The fresh tracks of a baby and mother jaguar also raised eyebrows, leaving us to wonder if we were actually the ones being watched.
At night I had thought to sleep outside in my travel hammock and mosquito net, but was warned by my guide that this would be no protection against stinging insects and biting spiders, the blood-sucking vampire bat, or the bora-bora moth, who laid eggs in the skin to later hatch into sickening larvae straight from the unlucky host
Our next two days in the bush proved an interesting change as we headed back north past Rurrenabaque and into the swamplands of the Pampas. On the smaller and muddier Yacuma river we headed upstream in small motor boats toward our next junge accommodation, passing loads of wildlife on the way. In the water and on the muddy banks we came within armīs reach of alligators and six-foot caymans, as well as overweight capybaras, the worldīs largest rodent who waded in the shallow riverīs edge. Giant cranes, eagles, toucans and birds of paradise overlooked from trees and squirrel monkeys and howlers swung noisily from branches. It was truly a jungle of noise and activity from our put in all the way until our overnight cabana three hours up river. The following days were as exciting as they were questionable, given the activities lined up on our itinerary. In the morning we fished for piranhas with simple reels and chunks of fresh chicken meat on the ends. While catching them wasnīt too difficult, avoiding their razor-sharp teeth while removing the hooks turned out to be adrenaline-inducing. We also went for a dip in the cloudy river so as to get a close-up experience of one of the more unlikely inhabitants, the pink freshwater dolphin
For a simple snowboard bum like myself, this experience was nothing short of eye-opening. As much as I enjoy the warm weather and animal watching, however, I am over these damn mosquitos - Iīm outta here!
Thanks for your patience in the overdue blogs, and look out for the next update from Peru!
Saludos a todos,