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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.
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 06:24 Archived in Bolivia Tagged jungle rurrenabaque madidi

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