Cornelia and I decided that while we were in Bolivia, we’d detour by the Jungle. So we packed weekend bags and met up with the four kiwis we were going with, Sean, Cam, Blake and Matt. They had also packed weekend bags, but somehow their bags were less than a third of mine and Cornelia’s (and we didn’t even take much!). But as we’d discovered on previous trips together, they also had a tendency to leave a trail of stuff behind, which effectively helped lighten their bags even more along the way. You can trace them back to the Machu Picchu trek where we met. We split into two taxis to head to the airport, but as Cam, Cornelia and I waited to go through security… and waited… the other three weren’t showing up. 30 minutes later, cutting it VERY fine, they had realised the taxi driver had taken them to the wrong airport. From then on it was decided that if we had to split up again, me and Cornelia would take two boys each to look after them.
So off we went, the 6 of us from La Paz in Bolivia, a city at 3,650m above sea level and about 6°C (44F), to Rurrenabaque, 270m above sea level and temperatures closer to 29°C (84F) in the space of a 45 min flight. Now we could have got the bus of course, like we did for every other journey. It would have taken about 18 hours, pretty standard stuff for us by now. However the route from La Paz to Rurrenabaque happens to pass through the famous “death road”, so we chose to fly.
Arriving at the “airport” (see picture below, yes, that’s the airport, complete with security and baggage claim) the stuffy air felt almost as oppressing as the thin air of La Paz. But what struck me straight away was how green everything was. SO GREEN! I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed trees and grass after living in the desert for three months. (if I could sing I would definitely have broken into a rendition of “the hills are alive”).
We spent three days cruising along the river looking out for animals. We saw some crazy birds and even spotted a toucan. We swam in the river (which as it happens IS the Amazon, thank god. We weren’t sure and hadn’t dared ask until then) with pink dolphins. We went in search of snakes in a swamp but only found frogs and spiders (joy, although I didn’t freak out as they were funky blue and black striped spiders) and we tried to not get attacked by monkeys. Eagle eye (Cam) spotted a sloth on our last day and we were made!
A massive downside of sleeping in lodges over the river is the amount of mosquitos. We had been warned so we were all wearing long sleeves and trousers in spite of the heat. Somehow, Cornelia and I seemed to have been served as the mosies breakfast, lunch and dinner, and our four kiwi friends didn’t get a single bite! On the second evening (the mosquitos attack mainly at dusk, not during the day) me and Cornelia were fully prepared and wore waterproof jackets so they couldn’t bite through. Sure enough instead of attacking the boys who’d let down their guards by now, they bit us on our hands, and I even had one on my eye lid!
Another thing that took a bit of getting used to is that you had to walk along narrow pathways with no barriers between the rooms of the lodge. When we arrived at the lodge on our first night it was dark, we could hear some strange ticking noise but it wasn’t until morning that we realised what we were sleeping above. Crocodiles (turns out it’s not just in Disney’s that they tick). As the owners of the lodge’s 3 year old daughter was happily stumbling about the place we didn’t worry too much. Although we did all panic for a moment when lying in our hammocks we heard one of the crocodile’s jaws snap shut and we couldn’t see the child, until we realised it was just a bird that had swooped too low. The parents were not phased, I guess that’s just routine in the jungle.
Our first nights sleep was quite interesting. We were all under our mosquito nets (by 10pm when the generator gets cut off), starting to fall asleep when we heard the loudest screeching I’d ever heard. At first I thought it was the boys playing a prank, but it was so incredibly loud and went on for so long it couldn’t have been. It’s hard to describe the sound but it was disturbingly human like. It faded into the jungle after a while. Our guide asked us in the morning if we’d been woken by the howler monkeys… HAD WE? Yes, that’s a yes. Nice to know what it is though. It’s strange how fast you get used to it, it didn’t bother me half as much on the second night.
In the down time between going on the river and looking for animals, we always seemed to manage to secure the 6 hammocks, who’d have known you could have that much fun in hammocks. I think it’s those times I miss the most.