Raging Rivers and Bumpy Buses

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South America » Bolivia » La Paz Department » Coroico
December 2nd 2008
Published: December 6th 2008
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Day 607 (25.11.08)

We'd opted to stay in Coroico after our bike ride the day before as the bus to our next destination (Rurrenabaque) would pass close by on it's way from La Paz, thus saving us several hours of travel. It also gave us the chance to spend a few hours in the small town of Coroico which perches prettily on the edge of a hillside overlooking some spectacular scenery. As we'd wandered the town the night before we opted to explore a little of the surrounding countryside before our transport left at around lunchtime.

We hooked up with Isabel and Christian and Caroline from our bike tour and persuaded a local taxi driver to take us to the natural swimming holes a few km outside town. We thought this would be a nice way to escape the increased heat now that we were a lot lower in altitude. Although the pools are only a few km away the journey would take about 40 minutes due to the state of the roads but before we even got into the cab we were concerned that we might not make it even that far as water poured from under the car and steam rose from the bonnet. The driver didn't blink an eye as he pulled a large can of water from the boot and topped up the radiator so we crammed ourselves into the car and hoped for the best!

The journey was stunning as we passed coffee and coca plantations and got great views down into the valley. The road got steadily windier and more rough as we neared the bottom of the valley but our unflappable taxi driver took it all in his stride.

He dropped us off and directed us up the track where in 5 minutes we'd apparently find the swimming holes. Unfortunately, with rainy season fast approaching, a very heavy rainfall the previous night had swelled the waters and the river was raging a little more than usual. We managed to find a quiet enough spot for a quick and refreshing dip but were the only two that braved it! With some time left before we had to leave we walked along the river admiring the jungle plants and brightly coloured butterflies.

We returned to our patiently waiting cabbie and began the steep uphill climb back to town only to stop about 10 minutes into the journey as the car was complaining about the hard work we were putting it through and was again spitting steam. Another quick fill up and a good splash of water over the engine and we were off again this time to make it safely back to town.

We said goodbye to Christian and Caroline, picked up our bags and, with Isabel, got into the taxi that would take us to Yolosita, a tiny transport hub half an hour away, where we'd pick up the bus to Rurrenabaque. The guy who'd organised the bus for us was (it turned out a little too) worried we'd miss it so ensured that we'd get there early. The bus was due at around 2.30pm and we'd arrived by 1pm in the fierce heat of the early afternoon. We found a little shade in one of the food shacks, bought a drink and got the cards out. The bus finally arrived at 3.45pm, we went for a last minute pee stop (the only buses to Rurrenabaque are local buses with no toilets) and climbed aboard.

This bus trip is renowned as being long and bumpy with no sealed roads and many travellers heading north choose to fly but the price difference was too big for our meagre budget so we'd opted for the bus. The journey took almost 15 hours, the bumps frequently lifted you out of your seat making reading almost impossible, the dust flew in through the windows which were open to provide a little breeze in the heat and the windows rattled like a pneumatic drill but all in all it wasn't too bad a journey with Mark even managing to get quite a bit of kip. With only one bathroom stop we'd tried not to drink much and arrived dehydrated and, probably feeling like our taxi had in Coroico, glad to down an awful lot of water.

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