Published: August 19th 2008August 13th 2008
To keep you all in check with our log of terrible bus rides we are pleased to announce that the bus ride from Coroico to Rurrenabaque has just jumped to top spot....!
We had both read a few blogs where people had said how bad this ride was but we hadn't really thought much about it until we got on the bus! The buses in Bolivia are quite different from the ones we had got used to in Peru and Argentina.. a lot more basic! Unfortunatley for us we were sat on the back seat which is the worst place to be for a really bumpy ride of 14 hours along a gravel road! The second worst part was that half this road is along the 2nd World's Most Dangerous Road and we didn't like being on a bus passing trucks on a 3m wide road with sheer drops next to us! This was a night bus but there was absoloutely no chance of us getting any sleep when you are jumping 2ft in the air every 2 minutes. Dale even tried to numb the pain by chewing cocoa leaves for most of the journey but this also failed, so
by the time we got to Rurrenabaque at 5am we were hot, tired, dusty and were glad that for once there was a lady touting hostels and to make it even better it was the one we had been recommended.
Rurrenabaque is a beautiful little town set with in a really great backdrop of jungle covered mountains. The town itself kind of reminded us of a western movie setting with streets lined with low buildings, there were no horses here though just lots of motorbikes to get around on. The best thing about it here is the weather, it is just so hot. Maybe a little too hot in the afternoon so you have to seek shelter but we love not having to wear 10 layers to go out in the evening and made the most of all the summer clothes we packed.
There isn´t a huge amount to do in Rurrenabaque and the main thing is that it's the place to book your jungle or pampas tours and there certainly are a lot of agencies to choose from. For this reason we probably spent more time than was necessary choosing the right one for us.. 3 days!!
We made the most of this time visiting the mirador swimming pool which overlooks the town and had a great day there. For the first time since we were in Brazil it actually felt like we were on a 'proper' holiday sunbathing, drinking cocktails and having a dip in the pool to cool off.
As we said there are numerous agencies to choose from all varying in price. What we found out to our dismay is that the lower end agencies cater for a certain nationality of traveller (for those who have travelled in S. America you will know who), and during these trips they not only hunt for monkeys, caiman, turtles etc, but also eat them too. Aside from this they all make the most of hacking away at the jungle which has led to it now being in such a state that it´s ruining it for the rest of us who want to go and enjoy what it has to offer.
We had intended to do a Pampas Tour with one of the more reputable agencies but because we didn´t make up our minds in time and because there was a referrundum on the Sunday we
were left with our other option which was Madidi Tours, unfortunately the most expensive too but we were happy to pay the additional price for reasons we will explain...
Madidi Tours is run by a lady called Rosa-Maria. She was involved with the Madidi National Park from it's outset long before many tour agencies cottoned on and started to go there. She helped to set it up as a National Park and put a lot of work into it's running and maintenance. She also worked with National Geographic in 2000 for an article and T.V. episode on the park and we spent many hours talking to her about what went on there and what led to her leaving the park and buying Serere National Park. Serere is a private reserve owned by Madidi Tours and they are trying to restore this to it´s former glory after devestation by timber merchants in the past. The Serere Park is now run entirely on funding from Tourists which is the main reason we were happy to pay the additional money knowing that it will go to a good cause.
We booked a 3 day 2 night trip to the jungle and
set off by boat along with 3 other guests on Monday morning. The trip there is an experience in itself going 3 hours along the Rio Beni passing indegenious tribes as you go until you reach the shores that are the entrance to the park.
The accommodation at the park is fantastic and we were so excited when we saw our cabin which didn´t have walls, just mesh nets all around so that you actually felt like you were in jungle when you were inside. Even the bathroom only had nets with a wall to one side for a bit of privacy. The best bit was at nightime when you were in bed tucked safely under your mosquito net and you heard all the sounds of the jungle around you.. a little scary but really cool! It was not quite so cool though when a part of the jungle decided to join us and we found a massive cockroach in our bed on the 1st night! The best bit however was on our first morning when we woke up in bed to be able to watch a troop of about 30 squirrel monkeys pass through the trees and right
over our cabin.. what an amazing experience.
The main lodge is a similar affair with mesh all around and sitting on the edge of Lago San Fernando. Living in this huge lake are caiman, sting rays, piranahs, anacondas and a whole array of birds and other wildlife live on the shores. Our first afternoon and early evening was spent in a small kayak drifting around the lake looking out for anything we could spot. We managed to see many birds including the rare Serere bird which the park is named after along with turtles, giant kingfisher and many kinds of fish all peeking out the water at us. Unfortunatley no caiman or anacondas to be seen but we had high hopes for the next day!
The following day we started off with a 3 hour trek through the jungle to Lago Gringo, another nearby lake. Sophie did not enjoy the trek so much because our guide kept going off the trails and through the undergrowth and having spotted many spiders lurking on the trees as she went she had to close her eyes and just hope nothing landed on her. This was not helped when we passed a
bush which contained not only one but hundreds of webs.. almost like a spider city! We did manage to spot many monkeys, strange colourful insects, a mongoose type animal that that we can´t remember the name of and learnt a lot about the fruits of the forest and what medicinal plants can help you... who´d have thought that a termites nest can help sooth a stingray bite... Dale also thought he would try his best to impersonate Bear Grylls and try termites for lunch and to his satisfaction, they tasted great!!!
After lunch we were all excited about our next activity which was piranah fishing in Lago Gringo. After a slow start with our guide trying to get a waterlogged kayak out of the reeds we all stepped in and set off. Sophie was immediately worried about being in this small wooden boat with the water nearly up to the sides knowing what lay beneath them in the lake and even Dale will admit that there were a few hair raising moments when the excitement got a bit too much and the boat tipped a little more than perhaps it should!
Neither of us have really done much
(or any!) fishing before but we were amazed at how easy it is to catch piranahs....
Get a bit of fishing line
Add a hook to the end
Add some meat to the hook
Hey presto you have piranahs chomping at the line in a matter of seconds!
When the meat is in you can literally feel hundreds of little mouths all trying to get a bit of meat and if you are not quick enough you are just feeding them and the meat is all gone. Dale seemed to be a master at this and managed to get 6 of them in about 2 hours fishing with only our guide getting more with 8. Sophie however did not do quite so well and just managed 2 sardines, one of which was a tiddly little thing that could hardly even be classed as a fish. The sardines met their fate as piranah bait though and were eaten alive before they could blink.
After a hard afternoons fishing we had to make our way back to the lodge in the pitch black which was an interesting if scary experience as the jungle sounds get louder and louder as the
night seems to go on and you are never quite sure what is at the side of you watching. There was a small battle as none of us wanted to be the last person that would get picked off by a hungry jaguar or puma! There was a highlight on the way back though as our guide remembered a tree which was a hangout for a local tarantula. Sophie had been deserate to see one while she was here even though she hates then and it was such a treat to see one so big and in it's natural environment.. we were all careful not to get too close though as they can jump!
On our last day we had another sighting and this time it was a caiman that we had all wanted to see and surprisingly it was while we were waiting for the boat. Two of the workers in the park had managed to catch a baby one to show us all and as they put it back they showed us the mother who was waiting impatiently for her offspring to be returned. We were so glad that we had seen nearly everything that we had
Jungle by night
wanted to see with the exception of a jaguar and anacondas which you have to be really really really lucky to see.
We had planned to leave Rurrenabaque on Thursday but it was about time that our transport arrangements didn't go according to plan. After leaving our hotel room at 11 and trying our hardest to make the most of a wasted day until the bus at midnight you can imagine how pleased we were when we arrived at the terminal at 11pm to be told there were no buses to Trinidad that evening.... aggghhh! What was even more helpful was that they weren´t sure that there would be any the following day and we were told to just turn up in the morning to check.
Thankfully we arranged to keep our hotel room for the day so we could have somewhere to rest without having to buy things in a restaurant and we were even more glad we did when we found out at 7pm that there were no buses... AGAIN!
We kept our hopes up though as there really are worse places to be stranded. Dale had gone for an early breakfast that morning while
Sophie opted for a lie in.. While Dale was eating away one of the guys from Madidi Tours came over and sat with him and said it was his day off and would Dale fancy going kayaking up river with him. Dale had been itching to do this so instantly agreed not beliving his luck that this opportunity had come up. Sophie opted for a lazy day sunbathing after her last kayaking experience wasn´t one she cares to remember. So off they went spending a lazy day on the Rio Beni taking in all that nature has to offer and also seeing and tasting wild pineapple and chocolate fruits. On their way back they stopped off at a hippy hangout to pick up two stranded Argentinian hippes who had somehow been stuck there for days. They really appreciated the lift and invited us back later that night for a full moon ceremonial party but sadly we had to decline as we couldn´t risk the chance of possibly missing another bus!!!
After speaking to a local American we found out that it is common for buses to be this infrequent and the bus companies often just lie to you if
they can´t make the arrangements (or be bothered to). He suggested getting a minibus to the local town of San Borja and from there we should have no problem getting to Trinidad so this is what we hope to do.. wish us luck!
There are more photos below