During the first two an a half months of our trip we really didn’t have any bad luck. No pickpockets in Buenos Aires or Santiago, no bus breakdowns on gravel roads and no broken ankles during Patagonian hikes. As you might have deducted from the title, dear attentive reader, our good luck didn’t last. It ran out when we went to the Amazon in Bolivia. Actually our very own series of unfortunate events started from the moment we even tried to go to the Amazon.
After hearing several horror stories about the bus drive to Rurrenabaque (no real road, deep cliffs, you get the picture), the start-off point for our tours in the jungle and pampas, we decided to shell out a bit more cash and booked a flight. The flight from La Paz to Rurrenabaque should take no more than 35 minutes so we were very excited for what was supposedly going to be the easiest journey ever. In theory. To make a long story short (for those of you who want the long story, you can read it here (in Dutch)), our flight was delayed and we spent 24 hours in the airport mostly being misinformed and eating Subway sandwiches before we could finally fly to Rurrenabaque.
After a night in the airport and not showering in La Paz the day before (because of the freezing cold shower in the hostel, a common occurrence in Bolivia) we were feeling rather sticky. Alas, we couldn’t have that much longed for shower yet, as there was no water in Rurrenabaque because the pipeline to the town had been damaged in a landslide. So we decided to go book our tours instead. I managed to have my phone stolen before we even sat down in the office of the tour company. It was mostly my own fault, I basically left it right under the nose of the owner of the call-shop where I’d tried to call the lady from the tour company. When we returned after I’d realised I’d lost my phone about 20 minutes later the shopowner ‘hadn’t seen anything’. I went to the police to report the event without high expectations, but before I knew it I was on my way to the shop on the back of a police officers motorbike. I’m sure being a police officer in Rurrenabaque can be quite boring so they jump at the slightest scent of crime. Despite their swift action the shopowner stuck to his story, so that was the end of the grand investigation.
The next day it was time to leave as much behind as possible and get ready to be at one with nature in the jungle (who even needs a phone?!). After a 3 hour boat ride during which we saw an alligator and a capybara (a sort of giant hamster) we met our guide, Marco. He took us on (very sweaty) walks through the jungle where he told us about the uses of several plants, for medicine or as a colour pigment for example. We got some purple warrior stripes painted on our face, which we luckily sweated off quite quickly, and got to draw jungle tattoos on our arms with the juice of a fruit. These lasted more than a week, which was a little bit unfortunate since the ‘snake on a tree’ that Marco had drawn on Matt’s arm looked more like a really really bad dollar sign. Gangsta or what?
Even though our three days in the jungle were probably the most uncomfortable of our whole trip (sleeping on the ground with lots of strange noises in the background aren’t the best conditions for two occasional insomniacs and mosquito and fire ant bites never made anyone happy), it is definitely one of my favourite experiences so far. I think the best thing about the whole excursion was our guide Marco who knew so much about the environment and had so many ‘jungle skills’. I mean, when he said he was ging to catch a small fish with his machete and a flash light at night to use as bait for bigger fish. I have to admit I didn’t have much faith in the whole mission, but after about five minutes he’d alreadt caught one! Very impressive indeed.
After our jungle tour we both got ill (another unfortunate first on the trip), maybe drinking the purified river water that still had a fish in it wasn’t a good idea after all, so we decided to push our tour in the pampas a day back and spent most of the day in a hammock (the best way to spend a day anyway).
The tour in the pampas was a lot more relaxed, we were basically driven around in a little boat through the swamp and got to see a lot of animals in their natural habitat. Apart from the water safari we went fishing for piranhas (very entertaining, although I didn’t catch any and Matt only caught 4 sardines), anaconda hunting and – highlight of all highlights!- we went swimming with pink river dolphins! Maybe it was because we were so high of life and not paying much attention to mundane things such as making sure your camera doesn’t fall into the muddy river water, or maybe (more likely) we are just pretty clumsy in general, but (and you’ll never see this coming) our camera fell of the edge of the boat into the river. We managed to fish the soaked piece of electronics back out and luckily the memory card was fine so we still have all our pictures. So all in all our Amazon experience was still amazing despite of the bad luck. At least now we’ve got that over with.