Life after Pumas
Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
31Trip End Apr 06, 2013
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The alarm went off at 6:30am and AK was up and straight in the shower, then went to Kyle's room to make sure he was up as they'd planned to go out early to buy supplies. They bought hammocks, a pot & kettle, and a few other necessary supplies, they decided to buy the food in the small jungle town of Ixiamas four hours drive away from Rurrenabaque.
AK said one last goodbye to SJ at the hostel, told her to be careful and he would see her the week after, then headed off across the river with Kyle and Kate. After waiting for about thirty minutes, they managed to get in a minivan, but only half way to the small village of Tumupasa, this wasn't ideal but the best they could get
Tumupasa was a nice little village, surrounded in jungle and pampas, and the people were very friendly, with no other white people in site....completely different to Rurrenebaque in that respect. It was a long wait for the next bus to Ixiamas, so AK, Kyle and Katie decided to buy a beer and a bag of coca leaves, a bag of shit coca leaves as it turned out, buy they chewed them none the less, while flagging down passing lorries trying for a hitch, but having no luck. AK and Kyle started to play with a young lads catterpult, setting up a couple of beer cans as targets, taking it in turns to try and knock them over, it turned out the kid was the only one handy with a catterpult. In the mean time Kate had decided to get her head down on the path at the side of the road....even coca couldn't keep her awake.
It was a few hours until a bus turned up for Ixiamas, so when we spotted it, we wasted no time in jumping on, taking the three seats at the back while chewing coca. By the time we arrived in Ixiamas, the sun had gone down, this meant it wasn't possible to start our trek today as the spot where we were going from was another two hour ride further into the unknown. It was decided that we would go and see a woman that Kate stayed with when she done her jungle trek with El Niño a few weeks before
We arrived at this woman's house, not knowing what kind of reception we would get, three gringos turning up at her house in the night, wanting to set up our hammocks in her garden. Kate was confident that she would be very welcoming though, and she was right. As soon as we arrived she greeted us and invited us into her one room house, where she was sat with six children watching a film in black and white. We tried to get the colour onto her tv, which we couldn't do, then went into the garden to set yo our hammocks, then it was out to buy some dinner, and some sweets for the kids as a thank you for her kind gesture.
Morning time came and we'd all had a rough sleep in our hammocks. Between the dusty garden, cockerels cockadoodling and dogs barking all night, it made for a pretty poor nights sleep. We wasted no time in packing up our hammocks, saying goodbye to our very kind host, and walking to the small market to buy our food supplies that would last us for the next four days in the jungle.
After buying our supplies for our trek....along with extras should the unthinkable happen, Kyle went to see a old guy he'd been told about to get his machete sharpened, this would be vital for chopping our way through the jungle
The plan was to follow a trail Kate had taken with a local guide a few weeks before, this wasn't a tourist route she went on, tours wouldn't venture into these parts because of the possibility of extra danger that lurked. This is what appealed to us when we initially started talking about making our own trip, Kate was convinced that if we found the Undumo river where we she started, we could follow it to a secluded waterfall over four days.
After waiting outside a small shack in the blistering heat, for about three hours, we decided that if we wanted to make it into the jungle today, we would need to jump on a couple of moto taxi's (the local motor bike taxi's). Kyle being the only fluent Spanish speaker, sorted out a price for three of us to jump on two bikes. We were riding on the back of these bikes for a couple of hours when we came to the Undumo river, the only problem was Kate didn't recognise it...this was not a good situation. After standing round for half an hour, keeping the bikes there while we made a decision, we decided we would carry on to the next big river, which our drivers told us was about another forty five minutes ride away
When we arrived at the next river the problem got worse, Kate still didn't recognise it & we were further into the unknown. We decided that we would get off here and just follow the river for four days....sounds easy! AK knew he'd told SJ before he'd left, that he'd be back on Saturday at the latest, but as we had a bit more of a unknown adventure ahead of us, he decided to write a text out on the drivers phone, gave him ten b's and asked him to send it to her number when he got back to civilisation....knowing that there would be a ninety five percent chance that he wouldn't.
The drivers turned round and left, there was no going back from here. Kate felt bad that she couldn't find the river where we were headed, but we reassured her that it was ok and we would make the most of our trip anyway, besides it was sort of better that none of us knew where we were, a lot more adventurous! The sun was close to going down, so we had to start making our way up river to find a camp spot for the night. At first we were unsuccessful, the river split off almost instantly, and the jungle at the side was much too thick for us to chop through in the fading light. We back tracked slightly and found a bit of a sandy spot on the river bank, by this time we had no choice anyway as the only light we were getting from the sky was the moon, albeit a very bright moon.
We wasted no time looking for dry wood for our camp fire, we needed a fire to cook our food, and to give us some light
The fire was started with no problems, so while Kate prepared the food, AK & Kyle found palm stalks to use as sort of cooking splints. They worked perfect for boiling water and cooking food, so we did exactly that. On the menu tonight was vegetable pasta with herbs, washed down with hot chocolate. After dinner we washed the pans in the stream, and sat around the camp fire laughing, bambo's "let us waste not haste" in an olde English accent comment got us going, then we had the giggles for hours! He was meant to say it the other way round but got it wrong, for the next four days we would joke with each other by speaking in an olde English accent....the things that keep you going in the jungle! Kyle acquired his unwanted nick name "Bambo" the week before at Jacj Cuisi, when putting on his bandana, he called himself Rambo, which promoted us to say he was Rambo's weaker side kick, Bambo....never call your self Rambo
The day had been long and it was time to go bed, we lay on the sand circling the campfire in our sleeping bags, and fell asleep to the strange sounds of the jungle!
We woke up at 7am after a much needed good nights sleep, the sun was shining down & the sound of the jungle got us excited. Today we planned to chop our way through some of the jungle, to our next location, but first we needed breakfast. Kyle had already started to get the fire going, so we put on some porridge, and boiled a kettle for hot chocolate. We also used the hot chocolate to flavour our porridge, as we never brought any sugar, plus it was made with water which was pretty tasteless on it's own. Packing up camp was a slow process, by now the sun was so hot we were sweating without doing hardly anything. We would've cooled down by going for a dip in the clear river, but there were that many sand flies around our camp we would've got annihilated by them as soon as we got stripped off.
We eventually got packed up & it was time to leave for our hike. We walked up the river for ten minutes, then took our shoes off and rolled up our trousers to wade across it, to make an entry into the jungle
We had been walking for a couple of hours, when out of nowhere, appeared a group of about seven Marmoset monkeys. We quickly put our bags down in haste to grab our cameras to try and snap the group of cute little monkeys before they left, but we quickly found out that they weren’t gonna leave in a hurry. In fact the Marmosets were just as intrigued by us, as we were by them. They were climbing up and down the tree trunks and swinging off branches, while we were free to stand there and take photos and watch them playing. We were so happy and excited to see the small, playful monkeys up close, this is one of the things we had come for. After a good half an hour, the Marmosets stayed for a good thirty to forty minutes, and then they set and left us with huge smiles on our faces.
After the excitement of the monkeys, it was time for us to proceed with the trek, we had to keep going as we had no idea how long it would take us to get to our destination
We had been walking for about six hours when we came across a clearing in the jungle, which lead us out onto a small, quiet dirt road. We decided to use this to help take us to the next part of the river. We assumed it wouldn’t take long to reach our destination, but after another long two hours walking, we finally reached it. Again we had to wade across another river, which wasn’t the easiest when the bed was covered in stones, and we were carrying backpacks, plus a heavy bag of food etc. We found another decent spot to set up camp, again along the river bank, and again, just as it was going dark.
AK & Kyle wasted no time in rigging up a similar cooking system as the night before, using the same palm branches and sturdy sticks
We woke up early after another decent sleep, again the sun was beating down hard. Another breakfast of porridge and hot chocolate and we packed up our camp, a bit quicker than yesterday as we didn’t want to set up tonight’s camp in the dark as we’d done the past two nights. The sun was so hot this morning that we decided we’d strip off and go for a dip in the river to cool down. We all got in with a bar of soap, and had a nice soak and swim, we then covered ourselves in mud from the river bed, and took photos of us looking like real jungle folk. After being in our underwear for about thirty minutes, we got our clothes back on, only to realize we had been absolutely hammered by the sand flies…a big price to pay for a small dip in the river. We knew from our experience at Jacj Cuisi that sand fly bites were actually worse than mosquito bites (excluding the malaria and dengue fever factors of course), the itching was more intense and the bites could easily be there for a month or more
It was time for us to leave and spend the best part of the day trekking through the jungle. Again there were some dense parts, and some not so dense parts, but that was all part of the fun. We even had a few fallen trees to cross and Kyle took one or two opportunities to climb some high trees, he was like another monkey we could observe. Today’s trek was a lot tougher then the day before, as we came across some parts of the jungle that were so thick that we couldn’t chop through it, instead we had to go off course and make our way around them. After coming across some of the biggest trees we had ever seen, and listening to the sound of macaws flying above us, we again found ourselves at an un-passable bit of bush. Kyle was in front at this point, and as Kate followed him she accidently stood on a wasp nest and disturbed them. It was her chance to get stung today, only it wasn’t quite as funny as AK’s experience with the cricket the day before….well, not at first anyway. She instantly got stung three or four times on the bottom of her legs, we all wasted no time in getting the fuck out of there before we got involved in a full blown wasp attack. AK & Kyle managed to get away without getting stung, thankfully Kate never got any more than the initial three or four on her legs, although they were painful nonetheless. We had a joke about it afterwards when Kate felt a bit better, we said it was Kyle’s turn next
We’d only been walking for about three hours when we randomly came across a banana plantation. We had been following compass bearings like the day before, but never expected to end up here. We walked through the plantation looking for ripe crops, but unfortunately there wasn’t any. The plantation brought us out onto another little dirt track with a farm opposite, and amazingly Kate recognized it. It was the farm she stopped off at when she done her first jungle expedition with El Nino, now she knew where she was, and we weren’t far from where we should’ve started our journey a couple of days before. We walked onto the farm and gave a shout of “hola” as we approached the old wooden, rickety house. Nobody turned up for about ten minutes, when a guy came strolling up towards us with one eye, a machete and a rifle. Kyle started talking to him in Spanish straight away, and explained that we were with Kate who had visited him before with El Nino, he seemed like a decent guy and just asked us what our plans were. Kyle told him we were taking the river to a camp that Kate knew, this is where we should’ve stayed on the first night, but we’d had our own little unknown adventure anyway so we didn’t mind.
We left the local guy to walk to the river just fifteen minutes away, when we got there we discovered, much to our surprise, that it was the first river we stopped off on the motorbikes on our way here from Ixiamas
We made good time walking along the river bank and walking through the jungle, and then turned up at a well set up camp used by El Nino. It was a nice clearing on the edge of the jungle, with the river just down the bank, also we got here about 4pm which meant we had a couple oh hours of sun before it started going dark. This gave us plenty of time to set up our hammocks and fishing lines, and also get a fire going to try and get rid of some of the sand flies and mosquitoes that were hanging round our camp. We’d just put a kettle on the fire to boil, and put our make shift fishing lines together (very badly at that), when AK seen the same guy from the farm, walking towards us from the river….carrying his machete and rifle. AK thought it was a bit strange as he approached, this spot was over two hours, probably closer to three from his farm, and he’d turned up where we told him we were coming
We had dinner and were chilling at our not so roaring fire, a lot of the wood around camp was damp which made it hard for us to keep it going. A couple of hours had passed when we heard this guy returning, walking up to our camp, he had bag full of fish and gave us one to use as bait. We thought this was very kind and instantly started cutting chunks off and putting it through our hooks. He never stayed for too long, and left us to get on with fishing, we said “mucho gracias para la pescano” and waved him off. When he left we wrapped the remainder of the fish up in a big palm leaf, and left it on as hot rock next to the fire to cook
After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, AK woke up to find Kyle was already awake, and Kate was still asleep. We had survived the night without getting attacked as we thought we might, its amazing how much safer you feel in the jungle in the light of day, Kate woke up and was oblivious to the activity around camp during the night so AK and Kyle told her all about it. To save time we ate last night’s left over’s for breakfast, packed up our stuff, and went to go and vines to swing off
After the fun of the vines, it was time to return to camp to pick up our gear, then made the journey back down the river to the road, and eventually back to Ixiamas and civilization. As we made our way down the river bank, we noticed fresh caiman and jaguar footprints in the sand, we couldn’t believe that we were camping so close to these animals and realized we were right to be slightly scared and cautious the night before. We also realized that the river we went swimming in the day before was the same one, which meant we were swimming where there were possible caimans….if only we knew at the time. We reached the road and the guy’s farm not far from there, gave him all of our left over food and said thank you again for the fish, but quite embarrassingly had to tell him we were unsuccessful in catching our own. We left his farm and walked down the road for about twenty minutes in the sweltering heat, we’d almost forgotten how hot the mid day sun can get without the shade of the forest canopy, so we decided instead of walking we would just sit in the shade at the side of the road and wait for a lift.
We weren’t waiting for too long when a big logging truck pulled up when we flagged it down, we told the driver we were heading to Ixiamas and could we get a lift, he told us jump on top of the truck on we can ride on top
It took two hours to reach Ixiamas, we jumped off the truck and went straight to the bus stand to find out if we could get back to Rurrenabaque that day, but the woman behind the desk was very vague and wasn’t very helpful, nothing we hadn’t dealt with before though. We decided we would buy a cheap bottle of rum, and sit outside the bus stand to either hitch a lift, or wait for a possible mini bus. AK used the spare time to go to the only internet shop and e mail SJ to tell her he was ok, he was surprised to find a few messages from SJ saying that she was really worried and to get in touch as soon as he can, before she “raises the alarm”. AK told SJ before he left that he would be back on Saturday at the latest, and to start worrying if he didn’t get in touch by Sunday, it was Saturday today so SJ, who was in Sucre further south, was getting a bit worried. At least now she could put her worried mind at ease.
Eventually a minibus to Rurrenabaque turned up, so we bought three tickets, and jumped on for the four hour minimum journey back
While AK was in the jungle SJ was making her way to Sucre via La Paz. After a fairly decent lie in once AK had left SJ got up and got ready. She had decided to visit the French bakery for the last time but first she had to find a hostel to stay in. After walking around for a bit with her rather heavy backpack in the jungle heat she settled on a fairly upmarket (upmarket for hostels in Bolivia) private room at the pricely sum of 80bs (£8)
After dropping off her bags she headed to the French bakey and had freshly baked quaissant with freshly squeezed orange juice. After a walk round the shops and after sending some time with Bruno the gringo dog she bumped into Dave, Pete and Devan and decided to have lunch with them. It was nice to catch up with them again but SJ was sad all over again saying goodbye. After some more shopping for things like peanut butter SJ headed back to her hostel to shower, pack her backpack and have an early night as she was up 6am to catch her flight.
The alarm went off and after getting up, fairly easily by SJ's standards, she was ready and waiting at the TAM office for the bus to Rurre airport. TAM is a military run airline so SJ had images of a military style plane without seats and everyone sat on their luggage. She was to be pleasantly suprised but her nerves were kicking in about flying as they usually did!
After arriving at he airport (as previously described the airport was a grapes field, a strip of Tarmac and a wooden shack) SJ paid the two airport taxes of 7bs thinking that this was just a way to rip off tourists as usual.
The plane landed safe and sound at the military airport and after retrieving her backpack (it is always a tense time waiting for the return of your backpack as your whole traveling life is stuffed into that 65l bag and we would be devastated if it ever went missing) it was time to try and get a taxi, without getting ripped off, using very basic broken Spanish.
After being approached by several taxi drivers SJ settled on a middle aged, slightly on the large side guy as, should she need to, she could spray him with her pepper spray and coupled with the fact he was very over weight and had stinging eyes there was little chance he could run after her
Because she was familiar with it and because we had stored a few bits and bobs there SJ decided to stay at the Onkel Inn 1886 where her and SJ had stayed last time in La Paz. So after checking in and getting the exact same bed as previously SJ headed out for some supplies and to book her ticket for the bus to Sucre. After booking her ticket for the following day at 7.30pm, buying face wash and something for dinner SJ headed back to the hostel for something to eat
SJ got talking to a nice girl from England called Ruth. She was traveling on her own for three months and had so far packed in loads and loads. After chatting to Ruth for a while SJ headed off for an early night.
The following day SJ and Ruth headed out to the Witches market and had a look around the street markets. After an afternoon shopping (during which SJ only bought one thing, a silver ring for £10 that AK later said looked like a power rangers ring, therefore putting SJ off it for good!) we headed out to Mario's for Chinese chicken curry. After dinner SJ gathered up her things, said goodbye to Ruth and jumped in a taxi to the 'terminal de buses'.
After arriving at the bus station, working out which bus stop was hers she checked her bags and even though she was desperate for the toilet she decided to wait until she got on the bus as there was bound to be toilets on an overnight bus! So she boarded the bus and sat down
At the point when SJ thought she would have to go for a wee right there in the aisle of the bus, it stopped and she heard the driver shout 'baño' meaning that, thank god, it was a toilet stop. SJ rushed off the toilet and into the building, asked donde esta baño?. SJ found the baño only to be confronted with a very dirty and smelly toilet, minus the seat, toilet paper or a flusher and the door consisted of a curtain that didn't preserve your modesty at all! No time to worry about trivialities like that though so SJ got on with it!
Back on the bus a happy SJ got settled down for a sleep and as it was 1.30am she drifted off fairly easily. Some hours later SJ awoke knowing something was wrong but in her sleepy state didn't know what until she realised that there was ice on the inside of the windows
A cold and tired SJ arrived in Sucre and jumped straight into a taxi. SJ came prepared and had written down the address of a hostel she had booked in advance in La Paz so she handed it to the taxi driver and arrived 5 minutes later. SJ was shown to her little private room with private bathroom and apart from the fact there was no tap on the sink, there was plaster all over the floor and the window didn't have a lock on it, it was quite cozy! The owner of the hostel promised to fix the problems reported above so SJ, reluctantly headed out to explore sucre while waiting fir the room to be fixed
Sucre is a pleasant place and is classed as the Capitol of Bolivia although lots of Bolivians argue that La Paz is the Capitol! But that's Bolivia for you! SJ had some toast for breakfast at a little cafe, sat in the Plaza de 25 watching the pigeons and then after a few hours headed back to the hostel. The room was ready and SJ got settled and headed out to the supermarket for supplies. Supplies included noodles with broccoli for dinner and a can of Diet Coke which is very hard to come by in South America so SJ was very happy with her purchases.
Before dinner SJ watched a couple of chick flicks, Dear John & Pretty Woman for the zillionth time. It was while SJ was chilling that it started to dawn on her that AK had gone off into the jungle, with out a guide and she had no way of contacting him until he was out! She started to worry but thought that she didn't have too long for news as AK should be out the jungle by the following evening evening and had promised to email her. He had also said that if she had not heard anything by Saturday to start worrying so she decided not to stress too much and after noodles for dinner she headed off for an early night.
Back Together, ahhhhh ...........
After a great lie in SJ woke up happy that today AK would be out the jungle and would email her that evening. Breakfast was peanut butter on bread and then SJ headed out to explore again. After a look around the shops SJ settled in the Plaza again to watch the locals, stroke the stray dogs and feed the pigeons. About 20 minutes after SJ got settled she was approached by a young local guy about 25 years old. He asked if she spoke Spanish and after SJ answered in English that she didn't he started to speak to her in English. After a short conversation he asked if she could help him practice his English. SJ was sceptical as she had heard about scams that started just like this one so she said she could help for a little bit but then she had to leave. At this point an older local guy came and sat between SJ and the younger local guy. SJ was initially relieved until the older guy started to ask her if she liked Sucre and if she was traveling alone. It may have all been innocent but that fact he took SJ's hand and proceeded to kiss the back of it several times made her think otherwise! She promptly left and went to an internet cafe to catch up on emails.
SJ bought ingredients for sardine & tomato pasta (it sounds disgusting but as long as you remove the little bones it is very nice) and headed back to the Hostel
Saturday morning came and SJ was convinced there would be an email from AK overnight so when she seen there was nothing an the fact it was Saturday, the day to start worrying, the panic started to set in. After a shower SJ headed out to the Plaza again to try and pass some time with her book. She sat with a little companion in the form of an elderly and rather smelly little dog (not that SJ minds and in fact much prefers companions in the form of dogs rather than humans a lot of the time) and got stuck into her book for a few hours.
SJ decided to return to the hostel and check emails, sure that AK would have been in touch so when again there was no news SJ decided to call AK's brother Andrew for advice. It was during this call that an email pinged into SJ's inbox and upon opening it SJ was relieved to see it was from Alan. He was out the jungle, late but safe and was heading back to Rurrenabaque for the night before heading out the following day for La Paz. SJ went to bed that night relieved and happy that AK was safe and she would see him again in two days.
Sunday was spent doing much the same as previous days in Sucre and SJ had time to upload some pictures before spending 5 hours on Skype catching up with people. After a nice relaxed day SJ headed off to bed excited to see AK in the morning who had arrived in La Paz, headed straight for the bus terminal and took an over night bus to Sucre.
AK arrived tired at 8.30 the following morning and after checking into another double room SJ and AK moved their bags, took a shower and headed out to meet Hayley, the girl we met in Cusco and who we hiked Machu Picchu with. We decided to go up to the Mirrador for lunch and to admire the view over Sucre while catching up with Hayley. After a lovely lunch and a walk around the market where we bought the most amazing fresh fruit salad with yoghurt and cream for the pricey sum of 80p each we headed back to the hostel.
Hayley had recommended a little pub that shows films and documentaries either in English or with English subtitles so we headed off there at 8pm to watch a documentary about a little Bolivian boy who worked down a mine. We got settled down with our beer and watched the sad but interesting documentary about a 14 year old boy who spent up to 20 hours a day working in a mine looking silver
AK and SJ had decided to leave sucre for Uyuni on Wednesday so after a good sleep they got up and headed out to post a parcel home and meet up with Hayley again. After getting a price from DHL of £130 we decided to try the Bolivian postal service! At a cost of £60 there was no contest so we sent our souvenirs and other bits and bobs home with or trust that, on this occasion, Bolivia would not let us down. We shall wait and see.
We met up with Hayley who had decided to come to Uyuni with us so after agreeing to meet up at 6pm to buy bus tickets we headed out to buy SJ new trainers and to Skype Gladdy & Caroline which we were both looking forward to as we had not spoke to them since we had been away
In the evening we met up with Hayley, booked our bus tickets for the following day, leaving at 9am and returned to the hostel to pack up our bags, make dinner (sardine & tomato pasta again) and had an early night in preparation for our 10 hour bus ride the following day.
We woke up early and SJ headed off to pick up our tickets from the tourist office while AK checked out the Hostel and paid our bill. We then jumped into a taxi and headed to the bus terminal where we were meeting Hayley. We all met up, checked our bags and boarded the no so luxurious bus with small cramped seats. We were not too worried as it was a daytime bus and it is really the night time buses that you need the extra comfort! At £6 each we couldn't really complain.