Basic Instincts (by MAPG)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Feb 19, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, October 8, 2009

After the incredible bike ride to Coroico (actually Yolosa, because Coroico lies 600 m uphill form the actual finish line) we embarked on our last Bolivian adventure, a 3 days and 2 nights jungle tour in the Madidi National Park. The bus drive to Rurrenabaque, the starting point of our tour, was an adventure itself. It took 20 hours for 400 km. The sound of that alone reveals enough about the condition of the road. Who thinks that the world most dangerous road ends in Yolosa should take the bus to Rurrenabaque for an adrenaline boost. The road only ends there for the spoiled tourist not wanting to ride uphill. After a short climb, the same narrow road continues to descent another 1000 m. The slight difference is that the previous rider, once in control of his own faith, is now trapped in a bus. Yeah, and the cliffs only drop 300 to 400 m and not 700 m as they did before. So what happens when to road giants meet on this 3 m wide dirt road? Well, according to the Bolivian rules, the bus going downhill has to back up, allowing the vehicle climbing to pass it on its right side. Luckily for us, it got dark soon, and we did not have a window seat from where we could witness the wheels of the 20 tons bus getting just centimetres close to the edge of the cliff. If you can afford it and unless you are not risk loving, take the plane!

Once we got to Rurrenabaque we quickly forgot about the bumpy road. It is the excitement about doing one of the two tours available: jungle or pampas. With the Brazilian Pantanal "stamp" still not dry enough (very similar to the pampas), it was the mighty jungle we wanted to add to our log book. At least two nights are necessary for this experience. Access is only done by boat and takes three hours from Rurrenabaque.

After finding the right tour operator (it was luckily recommended to us by an American we met on the Uyuni trip) we set off, just the two of us in a boat. Our first stop was a small indigenous community living of a sugar cane plantation. After we drank some freshly self-pressed juice, we continued our journey to the lodges of our travel agency. The latter was basically consisting in a large indigenous family (mom and pap were over 80 and had 11 children). Back in the 80ies, papa jungle was one of the few who insisted around the administration in La Paz to stop the slaughter of animals for commercial purposes that took place in today's Madidi Park. He had a direct contribution to the founding of the National Park. Nowadays, only a limited certified number of agencies are allowed to operate lodges, and this only takes place in a tiny part of this 18,000 sq km big park (it takes around 30 days for a complete tour). The killing frenzy from the past makes it difficult to spot animals. Small groups are advised when trekking through the jungle. Seeing wildlife is hence a mixture of choosing the right tour operator, luck, and lots of patience.

During the three days we spent there, we had an intense program. We started with a two hours trekk in the surroundings of the camp, and we ended by floating back to the camp after a night spent just under our mosquito net in the rain forest. Other activities included a trip to see a rock full of macaws’ nests, trekking at daylight and in the pitch black night only with a flashlight. After the lights went off, everything suddenly was reduced to hearing and smelling. Our guide massively relied on these two senses to trace animals. There was no reward without patience, with even the loudest monkey stopping to sing after 10 minutes long hit when we were 100 m away from the tree it used as a stage. The tribute paid to nature for the great experiences consisted in numerous bugs invasions & bites. Everything was accompanied by a fabulous local cuisine. Our cook even managed to do a great job when cooking in the middle of the jungle. The coup consisted in a 10 kg big fish, obviously coming from the river crossing the jungle.

In the end we did not regret a bit the effort of getting there, and even the sceptic of the two of us was impressed.
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