Jungle, here we come!
Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
45Trip End Sep 14, 2006
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Our boat had a Dutch couple on it, but they were only doing a 3 day tour, and staying in a lodge. We stopped at two Madidi registration offices, but we had decided to do a 4 day camping trip in Pilon Lajas (which is a Reserva Biosfera directly across the Rio Beni--it sounded less touched by humans) so we did not need to get out and pay the park fee.
About 3 hours later, after sitting in a leaking wooden boat (which was actually kind of exciting), I was beginning to think that we would just hop off somewhere with our guide and start to walk, and about 3 seconds later that is exactly what happened
We started off walking through sand and reeds, and no longer than 5 minutes into it Fernando pointed out some lovely jaguar tracks. I was thinking right about then that this was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever done. Tristan and I were kind of expecting a trail perhaps? But no. Fernando simply asked me to get out his machete from his backpack and he pretty much just started swinging at the trees and vines, and thats how we entered the jungle.
We walked through vines, trees, ferns, plants, leaves (all of monstrous size)and over logs and dead trees. About 1.5 hours into it, we reached a kind of deserted camp. It had 3 sets of hacked up bamboo for setting up tarps and mosquito nets, a campfire place, and a really funny hole in the ground with a toilet seat and tarp on one side. This is where we had dinner and set up camp for the first night. After a delicious dinner of rice, meat, and vegetables, Fernando took us on a night walk. We saw a monkey, heard a Tapir, and a cricket the size of a small child. Fernando was also so kind as to point out a giant hideous spider above my head that was "muy toxico." After that we headed back to our tent, and we had to make sure to get in quickly to avoid any of the millions of moths from entering
The next day we packed everything up and walked for about 3 hours. We stopped part way and walked up a mountain for about an hour so that we could get a nice view over the amazon and the Beni. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty tuckered out from all the carrying and walking. We ended up at our second camp which was by a tiny river/creek. The campsite was really nice, the number of biting insects was not. We still enjoyed ourselves though, we bathed in the stream, and went for another night walk. This time at night we heard a million frogs, and also saw capybara and tapir tracks, as well as chauncho tracks (chauncho=cute wild pig).
The third day we hiked along the small river to reach our last camp. We did not walk as far, but the walking was a bit tougher. There was lots of really sticky mud--tristan's sandals broke, and we got really grubby. We also had to wade into the Beni, but hold onto roots along the 2 meter bank for awhile, and then bushwack into the jungle again. This time Fernando went ahead to clear a path, because the jungle vegetation was too overgrown. We made it to our last camp at about 3pm, and had lunch. The third camp was the nicest. We were in a little bayish thing off the Rio Beni. There was lots of nice sandy areas, so we set up our tent there. We swam in the river, and hung out with Fernando. Fernando was awesome. He is half mexican, half japanese, and grew up in Brazil. He has been doing jungle tours for 11 years in Rurrenabaque, and has worked with almost every company. He was a great guide and a great cook. That night he took us on another night walk. Just before we left Tristan heard a noise in the jungle and ran back to get Fernando and I. Fernando got his flashlight and we saw that it was a Tapir coming to get a drink from the stream
The last morning we had breakfast, packed up, and then went on a jungle walk with Fernando. Fernando heard some movement, and sounds, which he identified as squirrel monkeys. After making some calls to the monkeys, and having them respond, we went on a mad monkey chase through the jungle. After about 10 minutes of Fernando making these ridiculous sounds, we had managed to find the monkey tree, and we watched tons of cute monkeys hop around. On the way back we saw a vine called "the cat's nail" which fernando said was the only vine you could drink water out of in the jungle. He also said it was good for your kidneys
Here are some other cool things Fernando showed us: An ant that could kill you in 10 days, a plant that cures Malaria, a tree that smells like garlic, a leaf that tastes like garlic, a bunch of berries and fruits we could eat, an antibiotic plant, a plant that cleans cuts and wounds, and a deadly plant that natives use to poison their darts.
All in all the jungle has been my favourite part the whole trip so far!