From La Paz it’s actually a simple process to get yourself down to the Bolivian Amazon. There are two options, bus or flight. The bus takes the better half of a day, has a safety record that you’d never mention to your mother and is meant to be one of the worst experiences on the continent. The plane takes 30 minutes and has great views. That’s right…we went for the plane.
Sam and Lauren were initially a bit worried as we’d heard we’d be crammed into a 12 seater twin prop aircraft. In fact we were crammed into a 50 seater jet and shot off towards the rainforest. An interesting fact, going from 4000m above sea level to 0 causes your Pringles tube to implode and crush all of your crisps.
Rurrenabaque airport has recently upgraded to a tarmac runway, the “terminal” is still the same though. I guarantee you’ll be using gate 1 in terminal 1, there isn’t a duty free, there are refreshments but you have to milk the cow yourself.
We’d booked onto a 4 night 5 day combined rainforest and pampas tour and would be departing the next day. After a quick orientation at the office we headed to the hostel for an early night.
We awoke that morning to the type of rain you’d expect in a rainforest. The empty swimming pool at the hostel was now half full, as was reception. We took it in our stride and headed to the boats.
As we headed up river I couldn’t help thinking of Indiana Jones and wondering whether there was a seaplane or rolling boulder around.
The rain abated and the sun came out just as we got to our halfway point. A sugar cane farm. We were handed a machete and shown the best way of chopping down the canes. Next we headed to the press and used a bit of muscle to get the sugar. After adding local citrus to the drink this stuff is far more potent at waking you up than coffee. We also got our first introduction to the biting insects of the rainforest that seem to think our insect repellent was an interesting sauce.
A bit of river wading was of course necessary to get back to the boat.
The jungle lodge really is set in the heart of the jungle, after getting off the boat we waded a couple more rivers and then trekked up to the lodges hidden in the trees.
Our guide Ron was excellently versed on the local flora and fauna and took us off into the rain to explain all the bees and trees to us.
There were of course local plants that will do pretty much anything, from pregnancy tests to painkillers. We did catch on pretty quick though that the majority of the plants, spiders, ants and bugs are just there to kill you.
Ron did warn us to watch where we put our hands, with trees like this you can see why.
Humidity also started to be a problem for the cameras…
After multiple more river crossings and a few more machete sessions we were all feeling like true jungle explorers and were happy to head back to the lodge for some more of the excellent food.
There’s only one solar panel at the lodge and it hadn’t exactly been sunny, so there was enough light for dinner and then bed.
The second day was unsurprisingly wet, so wet in fact that there was no point heading into the jungle to look for animals. Instead we lit a fire, made rings and necklaces out of local nuts and played around with the bows and arrows.
That evening we went for a trek in the jungle. When we stopped and turned off our torches the darkness was absolute, you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. It did give us the chance to hear the sounds of the forest though. We didn’t see much wildlife except an Ocelot and some type of jungle rat, probably the Ocelots dinner, but the walk was still worth staying up late for.
The next morning we jumped on the boat to head back to Rurrenabaque and the next part of our adventure, the pampas.