Choro Trek and Rurrenabaque

Posted at 16:10:12, 31/10/2004

Tuesday 19th October 2004, 5:45pm, Cactus Hostel, La Paz

We had a fantastic meal last night with a selection of travellers of many nationalities from the hostel: Lukas (Swiss), Ryan (Californian) a Swedish guy and two Swedish girls. Breakfast was similar, and the two German girls who we met at Lima randomly wandered into the same cafe!

Lukas is setting off on the next leg of his cycle with two French guys who've been cycling around the world for a year so far. So that her can squeeze in a trek with us in the meantime, we're setting off on another trek tomorrow, despite our aching muscles from Huayna Potosi! Ryan is also joining us - a 24 year old guy from California. The plan is to trek from La Cumbre at 4700m, over a pass at 4850m and down to Coroico in the jungle at 1500m.

Wednesday 20th October 2004, 5:40pm, Camping spot near Callapampa

The scenery today has been awesome - we started by walking through the barren Yungas from El Cumbre, over a rock covered pass and down the other side. We've dropped over 1500m and the land has changed from dusty grey rock, through increasingly green grass and small shrubs, into the misty cloud forest where we are now.

Unfortunately my enjoyment of the day has been vastly diminished by the state of my stomach, which has tested my hole-digging skills to their limits! Being unwell and walking all day with a big rucksac is not a very good combination, so I'm going to try and go to sleep soon!

I felt better this morning and for mostof the day. The walking was like something out of an Indiana Jones film - all forested ravines with rickety wooden and rusty steel suspension bridges. After descending down through the cloud forest we reachedrain forest, amazingly green with trees and plants all growing over each other. Lorna saw a tiny hummingbird and a line of leaf-cutter ants crossing the path.

Once again, my stomach became dodgy in the afternoon, probably because we walked so far so I didn't have a proper chance to recover. A stodgy meal of quinoa, tuna and tomato sauce has helped, but bed will help more!

Saturday 23rd October 2004, 9am, Hotel Esmeralda, Coroico

The place we stayed at (Casa Sandillani) on Thursday is pretty amazing. A Japanese guy moved there in the 1940s after travelling by boat all the way from Japan. He has carved an amazing house and garden out of the jungle and allows you to camp there as long as you sign his visitor's book! He must be in his 70s now and he is very hunched over from a life working in the jungle, but he was still as sharp as anything when talking to us about the journey from Japan and the 5000+ people who camp in his garden every year.

Once again, I felt better in the morning and we covered the distance down to Chairo very quickly. A guide, who'd been leading a group of French people through the mountains, negotiated with a truck driver for us. We got an exciting trip along the winding dirt tracks, through the jungle and up a mountainside to the town of Coroico, standing in the back of an open truck!

We're staying in the best hotel so far, just out of Coroico. It has a pool, hammocks, a sauna and lots of gringos to play pool and drink beer with. Lukas and Ryan went back to La Paz this morning, although we may meet one or both in Uyuni in a week or so - as Lukas says: "The gringo trail is long but very narrow"!

Monday 25th October 2004, 10:30am, Hostel Belle Vista, Rurrenabaque

After arriving in Rurrenabaque after 4am and eventually stumbling to this hostel (refusing the offers of "taxi" rides on the back of a motor cycle with a big rucksac and no helmet!), I didn't see much of the jungle town last night. After a deserved lie-in I have now got up to a gorgeous sunny day in the jungle. Its hot and humid already, but out the front door of the hostel is a green plaza and a street lined with tress up the middle, and out the back is a huge lawn leading to the wide and slow-flowing Rio Beni.

The day before yesterday I completed my relaxation. After the taking the piss out of another English guy, Jason, for getting very sunburnt on his back, I stupidly managed to get almost as red on my chest! A day of swimming, lounging by the pool and in the sauna, drinking beer and playing pool, felt good after the manic mountain climbing, trekking and travelling of the last couple of weeks. We also met a load of people staying at the same Hotel in Coroico who have travelled with us to Rurre. Jason (the English guy), Charlie and Jenny (brother and sister from Connecticut) and Scott (from Australia).

The journey yesterday started with more cattle-like travel, this time stood in the back of a Toyota pickup. The bus was late arriving and wound along scary winding roads, above immense drops, high on the side of forested ravines. At one point a bridge was being built (or rebuilt!) so the bus had to ford a large river instead. We were even pranged by a young guy driving a large truck - no real damage apart from a dent, but still half an hour of arguing between the drivers!

Tuesday 26th October 2004, 6pm, A hut in the Pampas!

We spent most of yesterday wandering around Rurrenabaque trying to find the best deal on jungle and pampas tours.n, After much deliberation we finally went with Amazonico, mainly because the guy was a good salesman who spoke good English. We ate huge steaks at an "Italian" restaurant with the people we travelled down here with from Coroico.

I'm now sat in the middle of the pampas - lush tropical grassland that is teaming with wildlife. To get here involved a 3 hour, dum-numbing jeep ride and a 4 1/2 hour boat ride up the river. Despite travelling quite rapidly up the river, we saw lots of animals. We came past half submerged, dead and twisted tree trunks covered in turtles, several different types of eagles, many other birds and three different types of alligator.

The sheer number of alligators along the banks and floating in the water meant that the huide's suggestion of swimming was met with disbelief. The theory is that the huge pink dolphins that live in some of the lagoons scare the alligators and pirana fish away. After seeinbg Charlie survive the swimming, I jumped in as well. There may not have been any alligators or piranas, but I still got bitten on the back of my leg by a large sardine!

Thursday 28th October 2004, 5:30pm, Belle Vista Hostel, Rurrenabaque

After dinner on Tuesday night we went out on a boat ride in the dark. It was very spooky: the eyes of the alligators glow bright red in the light of you headtorch. Because the alligators with only their eyes above the water can be seen as well (these are difficult to spot in the daylight) you realise just how many there are!

On Wednesday morning we spent several hours walking around the Pampas (grasslands). The guides tried very hard to find us an anaconda - seemingly a certainty for the Pampas tours, but there failed due to the overcast weather, which means the snakes don't come out of the water to bask. We did see lots of bird in the lagoons and our guide caught a baby alligator. I don't agree with hangling wildlife at all, but Charlie really wanted to hold one and the Bolivian government allows this.

I lay in a hammock reading by book for an hour or so at lunchtime. It was only this morning that I realised that the mosquitoes were biting me through the thick material of the hammock and the cotton shirt I was wearing. I now have somewhere in the region of 400 bites on my back... very itchy!

Yesterday afternoon we went fishing for piranas, Lorna caught one and the guide caught 4 (Jason caught a tiny sardine as well!). We ate them with dinner, which was fun for the novelty value, but they're kind of fiddly to eat! The journey back was very quick, once everyone on the trip had had a good look at my bite-ridden back!

Friday 29th October 2004, 7:15pm, Belle Vista Hostel, Rurrenabaque

Last night involved many beers and daft, drunken conversations, mainly with Scott. The hangover would have gone largely unnoticed if I hadn't had to get up at 6:45am!

We went on a day trip into the jungle on some "Social and Ecological Tourism". The basic idea is that you go to community projects and learn about what people are doing, and in return they get some of the money and you buy some of their crafts; it was actually a reall good day. We started at a farm where many different crops are grown in and amoungst each other: bananas, cocoa, papaya and many others. The plants are surrounded by untouched jungle and its all very ecologically friendly and sustainable.

The next place was a group of mothers who make handicrafts out of 3 different types of palm leaf. They make brightly coloured woven hats, little pots and cool model insects (which, unfortunately, would have no chance of surviving in my backpack!). The final place was another group of local women who make a sweet and strong wine and excellent jams from the jungle fruit.

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