Off to the Alto Beni

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, July 20, 2007

So it was time to leave that valley and head to the Alto Beni... easy said, longer done.

Waking up early, renouncing to the cold shower in the morning, by 9 we were looking for transportation. A pick-up was ok to take us all the way to Caranavi: quite unexpected, in place of having to hop on and off different transports. But there was a but.. the guy said we'd get in Caranavi at 8pm. No way, what the hell was he going to do on the way? Not loosing more time finding out if he'd be really slow or if his sense of time and duration estimations were to be put in doubt, we went back to the initial solution: the "taxis" (cars packed up with people: two at the front, four at the back, and possibly some in the trunk)

A first one took us to Chima, then another one to Tipuani. There we had to wait for other passengers to show up. Roberto called Ricardo: we were supposed to meet up in Caranavi in the evening, but finally they had left from La Paz eaarly in the morning and were already waiting for us in Caranavi. Being on a hurry in Bolivia is not an option.
From Tipuani we finally went on to Guanay, and from there a last car to Caranavi. In total 6 hours in cars, incuding a couple of hours in the trunk.

I had changed all my dollars in Unutuluni, and we arrived in Caranavi with 30 bolivianos left. Roberto was expecting to pick up some cash there, but this is Bolivia so it did not happen, and so we had to rely on Ricardo.

In Caranavi we met up with Ricardo, who had been living in Bolivia for 30 years, and a project manager in the NGO of Roberto. He was with Marco, from the NGO too, who worked on a project to help kids in prisons. And there was also Fabio, a long time friend of Ricardo, who was on holliday with his two kids Chiara and Marco.

The seven of us jumped into the pajero and we headed to the Alto Beni, 3 hours away. Eventually we crossed the Rio Beni, when the sun was low on the horizon. The landscape was great, a large river valley surrounded by hills covered with forest, with mountains in the background.

Half an hour more down the river, on dusty gravel roads as usual, we arrived in Santa Ana, the major Mossetene community. Wooden houses, with roofs made of interwoven leaves. We were there to organise a boat trip down river for the next day, to other Mossetene indigenous settlements. Don Ricardo, as they call him, had been regularly visiting and helping for the past 15 years, so things were made easier for him. We found the boat and the "sailors", we agreed to bring fuel and oil, etc... never seen such organisation carried out so easily in Bolivia.

We walked to the river shore, a truck was there being loaded with manioc and papayas that came from up or down river. I helped a mum and her daughters get some fruits from the tree above the truck. They were really nice, and the girls were more chatty than usual.

Before leaving we went to the school to see how the preparation for the next day festivities were going on.  We were greeted by screaming kids, who were so happy to see Marco again. Good kids, lively and funny and laughing and chatty too.

We stopped to say hi to a Cacique (ancient), Ricardo explained us afterwards that he had seen him fishing in muddy waters with a bow and arrows. The Mossetenes are traditionally hunters, the ancients still have a huge knowledge and know-how of the forest and the river.

Back to Sapecho, half an hour away, where we had our "hotel" (tiny rooms of two beds with cold showers and no door to the toilets). We found wine to accompany our dinner at a nearby comedor.
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