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Published: August 28th 2011
It was time to regrettably leave the jungle. I was back in Rurrenabaque, and like a dutiful passenger, was following Amazonas Airlines rules that I re-confirm my flight IN PERSON a day before my flight. Seemed ridiculous beforehand, but when I was there ready to re-confirm, I quickly understood why. I was supposed to fly out on a Tuesday. They said, “No, you can’t go tomorrow. No fuel. You will fly Thursday at 6am.” End of story, no decision to make, that was that. Seriously? The largest airport in all of Bolivia had run out of gas for their airplanes. I mean it just sounds comical, that is unless you are trying to get somewhere on a schedule.
Having spent the last week lazing in hammocks and trying to identify the sounds of birds and monkeys, I was far away from my westernized mind of times, dates, and schedules. I actually was happy to hear I’d get a couple more days in the jungle. I went back to my Mashaquipe friends and told them I had a free day, so did they have anything new for me to do? Yep. They did. Fancy that.
I’d already done the jungle,
done the pampas, but there was still a little traditional village that hardly anyone ever goes to. “Do you want to ride there by motorbike?” they asked. Uh, absolutely not! After twenty days in Bolivia, I was well aware of what the roads were like, and was not getting on anything with only two wheels. Not to mention the amount of dust I would consume on a cycle. I asked if I could get there by boat. “Oh, it will be much more cost that way.” Well I said let’s get to the nitty gritty, how much more? “Ten dollars.” Done. Amounts of money are so much a matter of perspective, aren’t they?
So the next day it was I and yet another Mashaquipe guide off downstream in a boat to the village. I guess the best way to describe the location of this village is to think of deforestation. It sits along the Rio Beni. The same river that upstream winds through vast tracts of protected jungle. Here, however, the massive forest growth had been cut down to make room for farmland and houses. It is still lush, beautiful, and photo worthy. But the wildness is gone.
We walked all through the village, snapping photos and basically just showing up at people’s homes and hanging out. Picked some fruit off their trees, tried their cocoa beans, drank their coconuts. I kept asking, “Is this really okay?” My guide kept saying, “No problem, no problem.” I guess since he was carrying a machete around with him most wouldn’t object to us picking a grapefruit here or there.
This was not a place that tourists or foreigners ever go, as most blast through on their way to the jungle and pampas. I would never have known about it if I hadn’t had time to kill. So it’s not like there was a place that was scheduled for us to stop for lunch, and this was not the kind of village that had a restaurant!
So around noontime we wound up at a villager's home and they started cooking dinner for us. Unannounced. Bless the ladies hearts; they cooked a full meal with fish, fried plantains, rice, and soup. I asked my guide if he knew them. No. Had he ever seen them before? No. We had basically just knocked on the door, talked for a bit, and
then he had told them we were going to have lunch with them. Awkward. Very awkward. At least on my part it was, with my western mind still at full work of the situation. Everyone else seemed totally okay with it all. I asked my guide WHY this particular house for dinner? He said he looked around the village and liked that houses appearance.
It was a good meal, a fabulous day, and quite an experience. The precious family that took us in for lunch had girls that were weaving purses in their room. I bought one of the finished pieces from them, so all turned out well for them. In fact, I made an effort to look in stores after that to see if that style of purse was for sale. I never found one. However, I did notice later that some Peruvian women were eyeing my purse quite closely. They would have known it was hand woven and a work of art.
At the end of the day we had to go "find" our boat captain. He was downriver, and couldn't see or hear us. We ended up "borrowing" a dug-out boat moored along shore and
paddling down to his boat. We found him, returned the dug-out, and headed back to Rurrenabaque. I was so inspired by my guide's machete and his "lessons" of how to chop through the growth, that back in town I bought my own.
I guess La Paz got a new shipment of oil, because the next day, as was planned, we had gas for the plane and off I went to my next destination. I was really sad to leave that area of Bolivia as so many adventures and memories happened there.
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