Coroico > Rurrenabaque, Bolivia...To the Amazon!
Aug 31, 2005
|Had a very good sleep, but stilll woke up with my limbs tired. Never mind, took myself down to the pool for a spot of swimming, and general lounging. Which was very nice. Just when was feeling refreshed, had to leave this little retreat and embark on the long bumpy journey to Rurrenabaque.
At the bus agency in Coroico, was herded onto a collectivo taxi - really an open topped pick up truck, with more than ten travellers. All of us making the same journey, so it was time to get to know some of them! An Australian couple, Mat and Kay. A Belgian couple - whose names slipped my mind. And for the first time in my trip so far, a Pole and a Slovenian - both graduates of Nelson Mandala founded "United World School". Also a handful of Israelis, who joined in with some of our conversations, but whose identies not revealed further.
At Yolosa we were dropped off to wait for our bus to Rurrenabaque - or Rurre for short. Of course, it doesn't arrive at 2pm, as the agency said, but closer to three thirty, it came around the corner kicking up dust. It was mostly empty, though the human passengers were outnumbered by some baby chicks in four boxes. Hey, a chicken bus! They provided the cheeping orchestra required to fill in the sounds of the jungles, but I felt bad for them - bumping into each other as the bus went round numerous bends, all cooped up in a little box, placed on top of each other, hence reducing the air supply. Later on in the evening, they would go quieter (to the relief of the other passengers), but I worried that they were all dead, and so was much happier when a bend woke them up, and they started chirping again.
The road was pretty bumpy, and it was hard to read my book, as the words kept jerking up and down. We even had to stop for about twenty minutes at one point, as there were some falling rocks rolling down the mountain and onto our road. Hmm, it would be really interesting to discover why there are so many of these... Ecological impacts?? Actually, have to say that Bolivian roads are the worst I have been on so far... Though this stretch was no longer the most dangerous in the world, it occured to me several times that I could die on this bus - especially when the bus reversed almost off the edge to let an oncoming truck pass!! And several times on other Bolivian roads, I have had thoughts like that too... Or maybe I am just getting old..! ;)
We stopped a few times. At around six, we arrived into a bustling town full of hostels, restuarants and food vendors on the street. Having relieved the most important thing on the mind (trip to the loo), we were told that dinner break would be further down the road. The driver was vague about how far down the road, and we had the impression it was about an hour away. Three hours later, we were told we could dine at a dingy place. Since everyone was hungry, we piled in, and the few veggies of us found very little option to accommodate us. So, rice with cold salad it was!!
I was lucky enough to have both seats to myself. In fact the bus was only half full, so at various points of the journey, everyone spread out to occupy two seats. That made the night pass by better.
We arrived late (of course! and I was glad!) into Rurre... a very tropical town, with its thatched rooves and palm trees. And it was raining. And it was cold. Had expected some hot hot tropical weather! But it reminded me of the Costa Rican Carribean coast, where it rained four days (of the five that I was there). Rurre brought back some memories of good old Tarcoles in Costa Rica, something in the air!! The Plaza in Rurre was neater and more defined, but somehow the walk towards the Plaza made me feel like as if I were coming home to Miriam and her family...
Also found that there was a conspiracy of prices in hotels. They all seemed to be charging more than La Paz!! To top this, a hot shower (much needed, when wet!) would cost an extra 5 Bolivianos (30p, 60 cents US), and so I left, disgusted. Finally, had to check in the Santa Ana, which offered a (kinda) reasonable rate per night, though it wasn't actually that nice. But man, the hot shower was good!
Then it was time to tackle asking around the agencies. But before that, ran into Rufus eating breakfast, so we had a little chat over food and a nice cup of tea (English style). Apparently there was a municipal tourist office with an objective list of agencies offering jungle and pampa tours. But I couldn't find it until I had walked around the town a few times. And it was literally just a list, and further probing of the official was necessary before abstracting a little infomation of the group sizes (which turned out to be random).
It was funny to keep running into various people off the bus, and we all compared notes. I was by far the fussiest, and hence was the last to find a group. Most people decided on the prices, whereas the agencies had to pass my ecological test. It wasn't even that hard, but almost all the agencies failed. They thought that I would be likely to join their group, if I could feed the monkies, fish for piranas and then eat them. Miserable!! Within a couple of hours, I found that only one agency had the policy I was happy with (strictly only observing nature), plus it had nice looking accommodation further down the river, had more flexibility with the itinerary (including possibility of horse riding) as well as the option to fly in a small plane to the base camp. However it also meant it was charging more for the quality, and hence most people were put off, though I was offered a lower price due to a previous life as a volunteer.
Actually the standard prices were twice the amount I had expected... With perfect timing, had arrived into Rurre just as a collaboration treaty was signed by all the agencies with a set minimum price, and it had just gone into effect. Went back to Jimmy at Amazonia to see whether I could go with his tour for the next day, and it looked increasingly unlikely, as the other people interested did not get back to him. Told him that I wasn't comfortable with the other agencies, as I felt they were not very ecological, and I would rather not go, if I felt I woul de making a negative impact also. Yes, despite having taken a 16 hours bus ride here! I mean, what's the point of going to the jungle if don't care enough about it, to make sure that things were perserved?
So, all the old idealogical me came back, and I was determined to stand by my principles. I kind of wished that I wouldn't be such a fusspot, but I couldn't let myself do so otherwise. In the end, Jimmy offered me the tour, even if it was only for me. At the same price. He even said he would match any lower prices set by other agencies. I didn't want to be looked after by both a guide and a cook - would prefer more company! and didn't want him to break the treaty either by going below the set price (stupid, I know, but...!!). So asked him to recommend me another agency instead, whose guide turned out to also work for him. So I was a lot happier.
To celebrate, went into the Pachamama bar with Rufus - which was constructed and ran by English Katrin. Oh, how I envy her! She managed to design and build the bar!! If only I had known her two years earlier..! ;) She did ask me if I would like to paint a mural for her, above the bar... very tempting, but time is limited for me in Bolivia!! Anyway it was a very pleasant evening spent (even had a bonfire outside to warm our hands!), with the promise of apple crumble with custard when back from the tour on Sunday...