Into the jungle!

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

From La Paz we took a 45 minute plane journey into the town of Rurrenabaque, deep within the Amazonian rainforest. We had a choice of either taking a 20 hour bus journey on dirt roads or the flight, the latter surprisingly won the toss. Rurrenabaque is a small town by the River Beni. As soon as we exited the plane we were blasted by the extreme humidity of the tropics. We found a hostel complete with a hammock area; perfect for relaxing after a day of continuous sweating.

The next day we began our first tour to the pampas. The three day trip started with a 3 hour jeep ride across dirt roads. Though being promised a maximum of six people on the tour, we were irritated to find that there were nine of us, with two others having dropped out at last minute! We knew that the tour was going to be a lot more cramped than expected but we tried to remain positive. We stopped after a bone-shaking 2 hours of driving for lunch. This is the only place in the world where we have eaten with a huge pig under the table, a deer 3 metres away and cats and dogs playing under the next table…Surreal.

It was a relief later to finally get out of the dusty jeep and board a narrow boat and travel up the shallow river into the pampas. Immediately we saw many alligators, turtles precariously balancing on logs and capybaras sunbathing in the mud. Our overloaded boat soon became grounded and many of us were forced to get out and push. After a quick alligator check, it was time to get our feet wet! The trip continued along beautiful scenery and the sun was beginning to set. We finally reached the base camp for the trip which once again comprised of a hammock area, but this time overlooking the river. We stayed in a hut which was on stilts to protect it when the river floods during the rainy season. The night was pretty special, listening to the sounds of monkeys in the forests and mysterious noises coming from the river. You could see the monkeys swinging from the trees whilst in the toilet! I managed to get stung by a huge wasp within minutes of being there but the guide helped me by spreading toothpaste all over my finger; a strange but effective remedy.

The following day, we went in search of anacondas within the dry, burnt plains. We found a few snakes hidden within the hollows of trees, their hideaways given away by the long skins shed close by. In the afternoon we went fishing for piranhas by using chunks of meat as bait. The fish seemed very skilled at getting the meat and not getting caught. The guide caught a piranha though. It was interesting seeing its sharp teeth. A very different natural phenomenon occurred whilst fishing though- for some reason the girls seemed to simultaneously give up the rods and sit back and relax in the sunshine whilst all of the guys continued on competitively, exercising our hunter/gatherer instinct. I was bemused because I caught what I thought was a piranha with bad teeth, though the guide insisted that it was a "normal toothless fish". What would he know?!

 On the final day, we rose in the dark so we could see the sun rising over the flatlands. It was very calm with the only noises being the stirring of some animals in the distance. The sun didn't rise but seemed to get brighter and brighter in the sky; a vivid orange disc. Later, we went swimming in a deeper section of the river where pink river dolphins live. This was a good experience. Disappointingly the dolphins didn’t flip us into the air but it was an exciting experience just having dolphins and alligators sharing the same section of river as us. The drive back to Rurrenabaque was just as tiring as the journey there but the lack of comfort was all part of the experience for us and worth every mile, every bump and every bruise. The unlucky couple who sat by the door were completely covered in thick brown dust- they looked as though they had just finished having a spray-tan but forgot to take their clothes off.

After a few hours of recharging on hammocks and washing our clothes, we started the second part of our excursion, the jungle trip. We met our guide, Louis, on the banks of the River Beni. The 3 hour boat trip went up stream through slight rapids and rock-filled shallows where we had to jump out and push. After some on board repairs with bamboo and netting, we reached the destination and had to walk through thick jungle to our accommodation. It was very similar to “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” with a camp fire and huts closely scattered across a jungle clearing. We had to share our jungle hut with the Danish couple we met and with the odd cockroach and a deadly caterpillar. We had a mosquito net each so we were pretty well protected.

The highlight of being in the jungle was definitely the jungle treks. We went on several- one of them being at night. In a line, we followed our excellent guide and learnt about the different trees and plants. We saw a tree which had poisonous sap that burns the skin if it is touched or would kill you if it entered into the blood. This was used as a weapon by indigenous people by putting the sap on the spearheads of their arrows. Though the jungle was full of potentially dangerous things, it also contained more friendly aspects, including garlic-smelling trees that aid cuts and bites, water-filled vines and various leaves that have many different healing qualities, including cancer treatments.

During the treks, we were lucky enough to see a deer, many wild boars (which you smell before you see and for too long after), red squirrels, monkeys, huge bull ants, toxic caterpillars and various spiders-including massive tarantulas, which was a highlight for me. Some trees contained armies of ants; with the slightest tap of a machete a still tree could be instantly swarming with thousands of curious biting red ants, some of which decided to bite Eleanor and me. One of the guides had previously made a large rope swing out of a 50 foot vine, which was good fun. It made us feel like Tarzan and Jane, minus the dodgy loincloth! Another highlight for both of us was when a storm began whilst we were walking. We could hear the loud cracks of thunder and the creaking of the swaying trees in the wind and rain. We also had the opportunity to make replacement wedding rings out of pine nuts using only a file, sandpaper, dirt and ash to create a perfect finish. On the journey back we stopped briefly to see a spot on a cliff-face where there are lots of macaws. It was great to see them free, flying in pairs, and not locked inside a cage. Our jungle experience was a fantastic one, aided from having good company and a great guide.
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Elaine on

Excellent, thoroughly enjoyed reading your travel blog, awaiting the next adventure.

James the Cat on

That sounds like an amazing experience but I don't know if I could handle the spiders

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