A Travellerspoint blog

Arequipa

Meeting up with Lori and Monty! Last stage of the journey..!!

sunny 25 °C

Getting closer and closer to a trip´s ending, I often face increasing senses of denial and ambivalence. Asia and I left Bolivia super-excited to see Lori and Monty. At the same time it marked the definite beginning of the last stage of our trip, the beginning of the end. Nevertheless, the reunion was a very happy one. Asia and I arrived at our hostel about 15 minutes before Lori and Monty got there, so we were able to receive them straight out of the taxi from the airport, our joy so tangible that the air sparkled with the electricity of it.

Five years ago I fell in love with Arequipa, and I was now happy to learn that the feelings then were well-grounded. Arequipa is called “the white city” as it is built mostly of white stone. It is very pretty with cobblestoned streets and alleys and buildings in a colonial, “older European” style. Towering over the city (which is quite flat) are snowcapped peaks of numerous mountains.

One of the main attractions of Arequipa is the Colca Canyon – the world’s deepest canyon (depending on who you ask). Five years ago I visited it and was awed and amazed and stunned by the beauty of the place, and ever since then I’ve been itching and yearning to go back. It is very common to hike through the canyon, and numerous tour-companies offer numerous different ways of doing it. However, as there is only one path (and we have Monty) we decided to hike on our own so as to be able to spend our time as we wished and not have to pay.

The canyon was, if possible, even more dramatically beautiful than I remembered. It is basically a sheer drop of 1100 meters from the rim to the bottom. Somehow, there is a trail leading down to the bottom. The trail is (of course) all switchbacks and rocky and narrow but still surprisingly well-kept. It takes a couple of hours to get to the bottom, and all the while you have to watch your step so as not to accidentally make that trip a whole lot shorter. I had to keep reminding myself to STOP and look around – gazing at the glorious surroundings while walking was much too dangerous.

Once we were all the way to the bottom, had crossed the bridge spanning the river running down there and started walking along the other side of the canyon, we could barely tell where the path we had just walked actually went. From below it looks only like a steep, rocky cliff-face and even though we had just hiked down, we were almost convinced that there actually was no trail and we had all just been played some clever trick.

Anyway, the sun was setting and we made our way to the little town (I forget the name, something like San Juan) situated half an hours walk from the bridge to spend the night at Gloria´s hostel. (Gloria being a Peruvian woman whom we had just met at the bridge as she still had empty rooms and wondered if we would like to stay the night). We were served a surprisingly good dinner, surprised to be able to buy beer to go with it, spent a surprisingly comfortable night and were in the morning served a surprisingly amazing breakfast. Why all this surprise? San Juan is situated at the bottom of the Colca Canyon and as such, has no road that leads to it. All supplies must be carried down for at least an hour or two by man (whereafter this same man has to hike back up) (unless, of course, the man starts in San Juan and has to begin by hiking up… You get the picture).

Being sore from all that steep downhill the day before, we were happy to have a relaxed 3-hour hike to the next stop – The Oasis. The Oasis consists only of hostels (is not, as San Juan, an actual town), most of which have a pool and little bungalows or huts to sleep in. It is where all people hiking the Colca Canyon spend the night (some start in the morning and hike all the way to the oasis in one day, skipping the leisurely pace we took, along with a relaxing afternoon at the pool and Gloria’s wonderful hospitality) before starting back up to the rim again the next morning, finishing the hike.

That morning’s hike was stunning and amazing and gloriously beautiful.. if you haven’t realized it yet, I am totally blown away by the wonders of the Colca Canyon. It is SOOO BEAUTIFUL!! (That is really Dad’s line, but in the absence of his presence, someone has to step up to bat…). We arrived at the oasis just in time for lunch, then proceeded to bask in the sun and swim in the pool all through the afternoon.

The next morning we had to get up at 5 am to begin the 3-hour hike back up the canyon. This is partly because busses leave from Cabanaconde (the town at the top) at 9-ish in the morning and partly because after the sun comes up it gets freakishly hot, and you REALLY want to not be walking on a steep uphill without a chance for shade at that time. Well, it was tough, but we kept a steady pace (led by Lori – you’re the best!) and had a great time walking upwards. It’s probably one of the first times in my life where I’ve actually enjoyed walking uphill, and the whole experience was something of an epiphany for me. In Cabanaconde we had a great breakfast (never before has bread and jam tasted so good..!) and then we got on a tourist-bus back to Arequipa. This was something of a feat to accomplish as most tourist-vans are fully booked by people actually taking the tours, and there were several other tourists we had seen on our trek that where desperately trying to get a spot on a bus that morning. “Luckily” a woman in a couple taking the trek had fallen ill with bad diarrhea and left all their medicine in Arequipa. Their guide approached us at the oasis (as we were the only ones there at lunchtime..) and asked if we could help, and we were more than happy to give her some of our pills. We were also more than happy to receive a promise of four seats on a tourist-van the next morning (Of course we didn’t bargain for this, but it might have been to our advantage when we asked the guide if he knew of a van with extra seats).

We had taken the public bus to Cabanaconde, and it had not been a pleasant experience. It hadn’t been exceptionally bad or anything, but let’s just say that the tourist van is –much- nicer. Lori spent some of the traveling time making a list of 25 reasons why the van was better than the public bus. Apparently she did not find it a very difficult thing to do. (Especially since one of the perks was getting to stop at some hot springs for an hour to soak our weary muscles).

Back in Arequipa that evening we were tired and more than happy to check into our hostel and look forward to two days of relaxing, walking through the city, drinking coffee and just enjoying life. (Oh, did I say that Monty, Asia and I had originally planned a hike up El Misti, towering 5800 masl and visible from all parts of Arequipa, the next day? Well, we changed our minds at 5 o’clock in the morning while hiking up the Colca Canyon. It was one of the best decisions made on this trip. Especially since it involved getting up at 1 (!) am to hike up to the peak from the base camp).

After Arequipa we headed for Cusco on the last nightbus on this 4-month journey! It was sad as well as spectacular as we all got a full cama bus with great food and individual interactive screens to watch whatever movie one might prefer. All in all, a good bus to have be the last on this trip (and first for Lori and Monty. Although in their case it might actually also be the last one. Ever.).

Stay tuned for our Cusco adventures!! (I’m sitting in Lima now. We have only one sleep left in South America. Only one more breakfast. I just took my last shower in South America. Buenos Aires feels like it was a whole other trip in a whole other lifetime. What we’re doing now simply feels like… Life.).

Posted by Irmelin 22.05.2013 10:52 Archived in Peru Tagged arequipa colca_canyon cabanaconde Comments (1)

Salt flats! Tupiza! Uyuni!

A-a-a-altitude!!

sunny 0 °C

Backing up a bit, it is about time I told you something of our tour through the salt flats.
We left the jungle-animal-ranch-paradise of El Roble in Paraguay to spend a night at El Jardin Hostal in Asuncion (one of our favorite hostels! Run by a supercool and sweet Swedish couple, they serve fresh-baked rolls (integral! Seeds! Actual substance!) for breakfast in the morning, grow their own fruit in the garden free for picking and are just incredibly friendly and helpful in every aspect) while figuring out exactly how to get to Tupiza, Bolivia. As it turns out, the journey would take us three days more or less, including four buses, a nightbus, a short night at the border town of Bolivia and walking across the border in the early morning to catch the Bolivian bus that would take us the last bit.

Well arrived in Tupiza we were more than happy to check into our HOTEL. Yes. Hotel Mitru: Double room with giant cushy beds (the most comfortable so far) (and after, for that matter), really clean, beautiful outside garden area with a sparkling blue pool surrounded by big woven sunbathing/relaxing-chairs. Cheaper than a dorm room in Brazil. It was like paradise, and we actually considered pushing our salt flats tour a day forward just to be able to sleep in those beds again.

Well good thing we didn't!! We booked a tour for the next day and ended up with the greatest random travel group EVER. Three jeeps, each with a group of four people in them, departed from outside our hotel (we booked with Tupiza tours who also run Hotel Mitru). Asia does a great job of introducing the people in our group in her blogpost and I recommend you to read it because its great and far more detailed about the salt flats than this one could ever hope to be :)
Let me just state that our (whole) group (12 people) consisted of people from all over the world, all between 24 and 34, all loving life, joyous, open minded and curious about people and the world, quick to laugh and share jokes and experiences including ones that might be categorized as "failures" or "embarrassing" by other people bothered with overbearing pride. Safe to say, we had such a wonderful group, the interactions and dynamics were amazing, we basically laughed our four days through the desert. I haven't laughed so much and so hard while at the same time broaching more serious, interesting and intriguing subjects in a long time..
Asia and I have so many stories, so many jokes, so many little tiny hilarious things that have to do with that tour and I SO want to share them, but I think that task will be too great for me to achieve in a blog post. It would, literally, be like when you try to explain a joke to someone who doesn't get the point. Usually the person will get the point after the explanation, but its not funny any more. I wish that wasn't the way of things, but it is, so you'll just have to take my word for how much fun we had :)

So, to the tour itself. The tour is named for being of the "salt flats", or "Salar de Uyuni", but this name is actually a bit misleading. The salt plain of Uyuni is huge, you can dimly see the mountains surrounding it when in the middle, but you can still easily drive through them in half a day (less if you don't stop). If I remember correctly, they are more or less 80 km wide and about as long (Asia may have written the exact size in her post - like I said before, she kept notes through the whole thing! Amazing!). The traditional salt flats tours are 3 days (from Uyuni) or 4 days (from Tupiza). You can see that this doesn't exactly add up.

The answer to the mystery lies in actually only spending one day (well, one half to be precise, if 5am to 1 pm counts as only half) in the actual Salar de Uyuni. The rest of the days are a journey through the ever-changing landscape of that part of Bolivia. Mountains and valleys interspersed with mines (13 metals and minerals are mined in this area, including silver, gold and copper) all "covered in desert" (I just can't think of how else to explain it) but a surprising amount of brush as well (the rainy season just ended). Llamas graze all over the place; a family or community will have a large herd that is kept inside a low, circular wall at night and let out during the day. Nobody ever seems to be watching them, and apparently the herding in in the evenings is done by car. Anyway, the greatest thing about the llamas is that they all have bright pink and purple (sometimes other colours) little tufts of yarn/string tied to (through?) their ears. It looks like they're all ready for the party of the year! Add the llama's particular peculiar gait and stance, and we were having a riot watching them. (Which is funny in itself because you wouldn't think the farm-animals passed by by chance as one of the most appreciated "attractions").
(Oh, and joke of the week: point at a llama and say "¿Como se llamas?") (=what is it's name?).

Enough about llamas, lets talk about lakes, or Lagunas, as they're called here. Karol (an irish guy in our group) is a firm believer as to the fact that he has seen enough lagoons to last him a lifetime and a half, but while he has a point, they really are incredibly beautiful. I can't even describe them without taking up way to much time and space.. Look at the pictures instead and then imagine a multitude of more and deeper colors, steaming water surfaces with flamingoes going about their business half-shrouded by the mist. Then imagine everything given an ethereal ambiance from the sun high overhead, an all of this to a backdrop of the most magnificent, gorgeous mountain peaks I have ever seen in my life. It is breathtaking and glorious. For those experiences, I can handle stopping at up to ten or fifteen lagoons in two days ;)

All in all, what we did for four (3,5) days was sit in a jeep for approximately 10 hours a day. Without getting bored. Just staring out the window and marveling at the landscapes, talking to each other and our driver, stopping to have lunch outside in the glorious sunlight, going to bed at about nine (when there is no electricity, 9 pm feels line deep into the night, let me tell you!) and then get up at 5 or 6 to be on our way again and catch the sunrise.

To those of you who don't know it, this is my second time around visiting the salt flats. Five years ago I took a three day tour out of Uyuni and loved it. People keep being astonished at the fact that I've gone back to do something twice, but.. I would gladly go back and do it a third time. That is how beautiful an experience the salt flats are, and how wonderful the people you tend to meet there are.

Fem av fem toasters.

Posted by Irmelin 05.05.2013 18:48 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia, you make my heart soar!

City of contrasts

sunny

Sitting on a bus bound from La Paz to Arequipa, I have a distinct twinge of sadness in my chest.
(And, knowing that there won't be a bathroom for another couple of hours at the least, a distinct twinge of neediness in a lower region of my body as well. Go figure.)

Anyway, I LOVE Bolivia and as much as I am looking forward to the final stage of our trip (whut?! Final stage?! Denial!!) in Peru, I am sore to leave this country.

Bolivia is difficult to describe. It is a land of contrasts for sure, but not in the same way that say, Rio, is a city of contrasts between the poor and the wealthy. Bolivia is more complex than that. And at the same time, more simple and down-to-earth (or should I say up-to-earth as basically the whole county is half as high as airplanes fly..).
Bolivia is wild and wonderful, high altitudes, bright sun, hot days, cold nights, fresh air, dry, arid land surrounded by giant snow-capped peaks, with humid, mosquito-filled jungle and pampas nestled in behind.
The people are hard-working, traditional, short and darker-skinned, friendly, fair, and eager to help or give advice.
The atmosphere and society is that of a survival of the strongest, working around the clock, alcohol and drugs, misery, danger, garbage-littered streets, robbery and scams. Being one of the most dangerous places in the world, we have taken the strongest precautions so far to be safe (not carry valuables, hiding money in different places all over our bodies, researching bus companies thoroughly before buying tickets, etc) but still, I have yet to feel unsafe.

La Paz is like a manifestation of all of this. Everywhere you look, women and men are dressed in traditional garb, the women with large colorful skirts and shawls and hats on their heads, their thick black hair in long braids on their backs tied together with ribbons. The thing about Bolivia is that all of this is real, it's not for show, it's not exotic, they're not trying to impress tourists or give them the thrill of feeling that they are abroad for sure. Actually, most people go about their business without giving a rat's ass about tourists. It is so refreshing, so different from everywhere else in South America. It's like being accepted, in a strange sense of the word.
Man, I'm getting myself all mixed up and tongue-twisted but then again, that is exactly what Bolivia does to you.

Coming back from the jungle, we had a happy reunion with our crazy Irish friend Karol and the four of us proceeded to have a great last evening together that sadly ended a bit early due to the altitude and the boys' very early wake-up call the next morning. (Altitude is a crazy thing for sure ;) ).

The next two days were a blast. Asia and I stayed in a hotel cheaper than the largest, cheapest dorms in Brazil, we pulled out ALL of our clothes and did LAUNDRY and OMG IT WAS AMAZING! Clean clothes for the first time in about two-three weeks!! We walked up and up and up until we got to a vantage pint where we could see large parts of La Paz sprawling beneath us. The sheer size and spread of that city never seizes to amaze me, and has to be experienced. It goes and goes and goes and goes, dense and toppling up and down the mountain slopes, into valleys and along high ridges. It is beautiful in a wild, rustic, red-dirt way. And if the view isn't enough to take your breath away, the walk up there certainly will. Or the walk just about anywhere for that matter. I try to tell myself that I am doing good/"working out" just functioning and walking around at 3600 m, and sometimes I even believe it (generally before deciding to eat some delicious chocolate cake or equivalent ;) ).

By the way - the food here is AMAZING. Bolivia is another bread nation meaning that not only is it everywhere in abundance (little booths with signs saying "Hay pan" (=there is bread) always make me laugh as that would be the understatement of the year for Bolivia) but the quality and taste is excellent. For breakfast every morning at our hotel we only get bread, butter and jam. This sounds boring until you realize that that particular bread is in the form of hard-crusted rolls with puffy soft insides that would make the best French bakers cry in despair and envy. And in Bolivia that is just cheap any-old-bread bought right off the street.
Following the breakfast, we have had coffee of stunning quality and the adequate fika-pastries and cakes to go with it. Cooked meals are just as delicious, we have yet to be disappointed with anything we've eaten at a restaurant in La Paz. As if all this wasn't enough, fresh fruits and veggies are everywhere. PILES of them. (No really, a little lady will be sitting in the middle if a 1-2 meter high x 5 meters-in-diameter ocean of oranges, selling them).

La Paz is a city of abundance, you can get everything and anything from whatever foods, groceries, spices or produce you desire to hiking boots (Asia and I are now prepared for trekking in Peru!), yards of fabric, toys or why not a faucet or a toilet seat? All sold directly on the street.

Oh, and did I also mention that everything is dirt cheap? Dinner with a bottle of wine and two courses rarely exceeds 70 kr/US$10 per person.

I love Bolivia so much, I will miss it incredibly, I can't wait to come back, but in the meantime at least I have bought about half of La Paz to bring home and remind me of it. (Or maybe I'll set up my own little booth selling gorgeous, woven alpaca scarves in bright colours. God knows I have enough of them for that ;) ).

Bolivia is wild and wonderful, it makes my heart soar to the sky and I can't wait to come back. I do not want to live here, but I love it more fiercely than any other place in South America. A country of contrasts for sure.

PS The over-abundance of activities such as mountains to climb, jungle to discover, tours to take and much much more is implied by the other blog-posts about what we've actually been doing in Bolivia. (Though truthfully I forgot to write about that fact until now).

Posted by Irmelin 30.04.2013 20:11 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Madidi pampas - part two

Hot az, bro!

sunny 35 °C

"Ah, yes, those are termites. They help decompose the wood".
Well, this statement would have been perfectly normal if the termites in question hadn't just started pouring out of our boat. Our boat being a wooden canoe about a two-hour ride away from camp in the middle of the pampas. I had a strong feeling that the helpful termites would have been even more appreciated say, in a tree. But that's just a thought.

The second half of our jungle-tour took place in the pampas. Now, how to explain the pampas. I guess you could say they are the flatlands of the jungle, except without very much "land", as everything is covered in water. It is pretty amazing - what is supposedly a river seems more like a gigantic lake turned into a maze by trees and plants that grow straight out of the water. The water itself is filled with pink river dolphins, cayman, anacondas, piranhas, and a wealth of other fish and snakes. The trees are nowhere near the size if those in the jungle and animals and birds sit on branches or fly overhead and just go about their own business in full sight of tourists. It really is like being in the jungle and "filtering off" the jungle-part so you can actually see the animals :)

The pampas are a three hour extremely bumpy car drive away from Rurre on a dirt road, and we were extremely grateful for the air conditioning in the car even though it was not exactly adequate.
Already on the drive there we saw a sloth up in a tree (our driver spotted it, he must have supernatural sight or something) and a number of birds including the largest bird of the pampas (Greater Rhea, looks like an ostrich), the largest stork of the pampas (Maguari stork, sort of like a black-and-white marabou stork but nowhere near as numerous as those), and a number of different vultures, hawks and herons.

Road weary we stumbled out if the car next to a river bank where a canoe was waiting to take us the five minutes up to the lodges we were staying at. Imagine our surprise and delight when we in those five minutes encountered several pink river dolphins!!

To say that the dolphins are numerous in the pampas would be an understatement. They are everywhere. And I love it. Dolphins have ever since I can remember been one of my absolute favorite animals on earth, and seeing them all around was really one if the highlights of my trip. Not to mention- we got to SWIM WITH THEM!! As they are wild animals, this isn't as "petting zoo" as it might sound (thank god), but rather you (we) got to jump in the river and swim and they would be swimming and diving around us. It was marvelous. AND - one swam up to me and touched my foot when I was sitting in the boat with my feet in the water!! Way cool!!

As far as land-mammals go, we've mostly seen caipivaras (biggest rodent/"guinea pig" on earth, weighs around 45-55 kg) and monkeys. Our tour company is responsible and doesn't feed the animals, but some others do, and the monkeys therefore follow the noise of the boat motor and climb around in the trees and even in the boat for a while until they realize that these humans are boring and leave. Tiny little Herr Nilssons sitting on branches not one meter away eating leaves and looking at us was definitely another highlight :)

The last night if our stay we went out in the boat after dark with flashlights to search for/look at the eyes if the cayman. They show up as bright red glistening points of light in the beams of the flashlights. Suddenly I couldn't believe my eyes - about a hundred little red dots showed up at once! We drove closer and saw lots and lots of little baby cayman all around in the water, not 15 cm long!! Super cute!!

I've tried to keep a list of all the animals and birds we've seen on this trip, and I'll paste it into this post at the end. Some of the names are correct and weird, some of them are probably wrong (Greek Annie?) but what can you do but try ;)

All in all, the jungle tour was absolutely amazing, partly just because of the tour itself but partly because of the wonderful people we met and travelled with. I have laughed more at once than in a long time, learned all about Kiwis (no not the fruit) and generally just had a wonderful and amazing time.

I'M SO HAPPY.

ANIMALS

Tayra
Mono Amarillo - yellow squirrel monkey
Fireflies
Rokoko - sapo (big toad)
Rana - frog
Spectacled cayman
Caipivara
Fire-ant
24-hour ant
Hair-cutter bee
Wild (solitary) peccary (jungle pig)
Brazilian runcerunner - green lizard
Brazilian morpho butterfly
Rat opossum / bamboo rat
Aranja amarilla
Brown agouti
Three-toed sloth
Brown cappuccino monkey (Mono silvador/Mono maizero)
Black howler monkey (&juvenile)
Spectacled cayman
Golden tegu (lizard)
Crested cara-cara
Anaconda
Porcupine
Turtles
Green lizard

BIRDS

Ornate screamer (Pico)
Southern screamer - jungle peacock
White-throated pinpinguan
Purple jay
Lioness woodpecker
Crested oropindula
Red-chested macaw
Red and green macaw
Yellow and blue macaws
Parakeets
Aguilucho - "small eagle"
Great yellow-head black vulture
Rufus tailed jackhammer
Coicoi heron
Great white heron
Wood Stork (cabesa seca)
Chapiru stork (second largest birds in the pampas)
Maguari stork
Snail kite
Greater Rhea
Chacochachalaca
Greek Annie
Small squirrel Annie
Tiger Heron
Striped heron
Snake heron
Trumpet heron
Pampas pigeon
Hoatzin (cerere)
Boat-billed night heron
Aninga
Night heron
Black vulture
Turkey vulture
Neotropic cormoran
White and black woodpecker
Rufus cachalote
Rosed spoonbill
Black-collared hawk
Great black hawk
Strider heron
Amazon kingfisher
Ringed kingfisher
Green kingfisher
Black fronted numbir
Tropical screech owl
Pygmy owl
Orinopo goose
Woodson duck
Water jicana
Boat-billed flycatcher
Cowbird

Posted by Irmelin 29.04.2013 05:43 Archived in Bolivia Tagged animals birds river tours pink dolphins madidi pampas bala Comments (1)

Madidi!!

Jungle part 1

sunny 25 °C

Going to the northwest of Bolivia to do a jungle tour was not on our original list of even remotely possible things to do or see on our four-month journey. (To be embarrassingly honest, I didn't even know that the northwestern parts of Bolivia contained the most southwestern parts of the Amazon).
However, when in Paraguay, we heard first-hand amazing stories about the wonders of Madidi national park and the surrounding "pampas" and decided that this was an opportunity too good to pass up.

We were recommended not only a tour company (Bala Tours) but also told that a combined jungle-and-pampas tour was an absolute mandatorium. Apparently the pampas are exactly like the jungle but without the jungle - meaning that you actually get to see all the animals!! Well, we didn't need more prompting than that ;)

It did prove to be a bit stressful trying to plan and time the tour with flights with busses and the rest of our trip, as all this was done when we were more or less out of Internet (i.e. sitting on busses for 2+ days, going on the salt flats tour etc..) but luckily the busy season hadn't quite started yet so it all worked out for us :)

To get to the jungle/Madidi, you have to take a flight to a town called Rurrenabaque (took me a while to learn how to spell that ;) . The flight takes 30 min and leaves from La Paz. There are four flights a day with one company, and it turned out to be about half as cheap to book the tickets at an office as on the Internet. Oh, and the plane holds 17 people. In total.
I had a great flight as the view was amazing - flying over the mountains, seemingly at the same height as some of the peaks in the distance. Needless to say, I got a window seat - my favorite ;) . Still, it was nice to land on the little runway in the middle if the jungle and know that everything had gone well :)

We were picked up at the airport (a turquoise painted house on a dirt road in the jungle..) by the tour company, drove into town to pay and wait for the other members if our group and then got into a long, thin wooden canoe/motorboat for a 3-hour ride up the river to our lodges.
Just sitting on that boat in the sun, looking at the rainforest around us, we quickly concluded that the tour was already worth it. And we weren't even done with the simple "getting there" yet ;)

Anyway, here we are in the jungle. It is now our third day, and tomorrow we leave to spend three days in the pampas. We will probably have about half an hour of Internet on the way, which is when I am planning to post this.

We are extremely well taken care of out here, our lodges are wonderful, the beds are super-comfortable and come with mosquito-nets (AND they are magically made up every morning..!) and the food is absolutely amazing and extremely delicious.

Our days are spent walking through different parts of the jungle and "seeing what we see" as our guide puts it. Yesterday we were very lucky and saw LOTS of animals on a long hike during the day. Instead of riding back home in the motorboat, we got to "raft" down the river in an inflatable rubber boat, which was great. At night we've walked by moonlight (carrying flashlights but not always using them) and marveled at how the sounds of the jungle quadruple in volume and everything seems even more magical and mystical than before. Walking in the dark by a full moon under giant trees with a few stars poking through their canopies, listening to the sounds of crickets, frogs, birds, monkeys and whatever else while fireflies glisten and light up all around feels like walking around in a fairy tale, and I just can't get over how wonderful nature, life and our planet is. I know it sound corny, but still, it is true :)

Among other amazing sights, we have been introduced to a number of plants and animals with potential to kill you, making our walks through the jungle that much more exciting.
As a rule if thumb, when you come across a straight, thin tree with splotchy bark standing alone (nothing grows within about a meter of it even though the environment is dense rainforest) - Do not touch it. As soon as you do, big red "fire ants" come swarming out of little holes in the bark. Oh, and not only do they bite you if you touch them, they actively attack and can jump up to 15 cm.
So.
There are three rules in the jungle villages around here:
1. Don't get lazy
2. Don't steal
3. Don't lie
If you break one if these rules, the chief might very well decide to use the fire ants as punishment and order you to hug the fire ant tree for up to a whole day. Too many bites and you have a very real chance of dying. Talk about motivation for not hitting the snooze-button in the morning..

When we're not walking in the jungle or otherwise occupied (About an hour a day. Whoever said taking tours was only relaxing was wrong), we play volleyball with the guys who live on the property/the staff and caretakers. Volleyball is the second or third (depending on who you ask) most popular sport (the first is of course soccer) in Bolivia. I basically haven't played volleyball since high school (in gym class) and have never really gotten the hang of it. However, it is SO MUCH FUN. Really. It helps, of course, that we feel as one big group of friends, playing for the fun of the game instead of some kind of deadly serious competition (the Bolivians are winning against Las Turistas FYI).

As far as mosquitoes go, I have less bites than in Paraguay but the bites I have are still numerous and itch more than the previous ones. However, Madidi is an area free of both malaria and yellow fever so the risk of catching anything serious is low :)

It is now 7 am and we are on our way back to Rurre by boat. I guess I'll just have to leave a cliffhanger from here - until next time!! :)

PS. I apologize for the lack of continuity in this post, I haven't had a lot of time (=any) to sit alone and write this, so it is the combination of several stolen periods of writing and socializing at the same time.

Posted by Irmelin 25.04.2013 06:24 Archived in Bolivia Tagged jungle rurrenabaque madidi Comments (0)

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