“Babe, I’m so excited for our Amazon Jungle trip. It will be my best birthday ever!” was the last thing I said to Ian before we got picked up from Coroico by our tour company…
While choosing the tour company we opted for a slightly different itinerary as most people fly from La Paz to Rurrenabaque (the best place to experience the Amazon jungle in Bolivia) to start their tour there. Since we really didn’t want to go back along the Coroico – La Paz route again and there were no flights from Coroico to Rurrenabaque, we looked for a different option, ideally leaving from Coroico. What surprised us the most was that out of hundreds of tour companies offering tours into the Bolivian Amazon, there was only one company organizing a tour from Coroico considering the bus route to Rurrenabaque goes directly through Coroico. After not having had many options with tour companies, we decided to go with Deep Rainforest.
Pretty soon we discovered why there is only one tour company leaving from Coroico to Rurrenabaque!
Going back to what I had said before we got on that bus, at first my excitement began turning to confusion and then to fear after we were transferred to a large public bus with the rest of our group. We had assumed that because we had arranged a tour we would have been put on an organized mini bus and not a public bus that looked 100 years old with 40 odd Bolivian people staring at us. Well we thought, “That’s ok. Maybe we hadn’t read the itinerary carefully or this part of the trip wasn’t mentioned at all”. So we jumped on the bus a little curious as to what was waiting for us next. After about 20 minutes we started to drive through what looked like another “Death Road” like what we avoided back in La Paz, but only more dangerous as this road is still open to normal traffic whereas the “Death Road” is now only open to adrenaline seeker cyclists with organized tours. Not only was it open but a large part of it was under construction which only left one lane open.
During our 5 hr bus ride which felt like a lifetime, there were times that I seriously thought this was it and we would be really lucky to see another day in this world! How and when did we arrive to our first destination, it’s all a bit blurry…
When we arrived after sunset in Guanay where we were going to take the tour boat to Rurrenabaque the next day, we all felt exhausted and were ready for a good night’s sleep. So you can imagine how we all felt when we were told by our tour guide that there was some sort of festival going on in the town and no hostels were available, also ,since we arrived late due to road works, the first night’s dinner wasn’t going to be prepared by our cook . Nobody took the news well. We were then given some money to cover our dinner expenses and started looking for some food. Us vegetarians had to walk around for a long time till we settled for a cheese sandwich as it’s almost impossible to find meat free menu in small towns in South America. After dinner, we put up the tents by the river near a bridge where drunk onlookers from the festival shouted “gringos” walking past. Oh joy.
We hoped for the best for the rest of the trip and went to sleep…
It’s my birthday! Yay and ouch!
I woke up with the worst stomach cramps and diarrhoea. This can’t be happening, not now, not on my birthday I shouted! And then, our tour guide announced that we were going to spend about 7 hours on a boat before we stop for the night. My face dropped suddenly thinking how I was going to get through the whole day!
I did! Some very strong South American pills that we stocked in our bag managed to kill the pain for the most part but this was definitely not how I imagined I would spend my birthday. Luck was nowhere to be seen on this trip so far, at least for me. So, Ian and I decided that we would postpone the birthday celebrations until I felt much better.
Despite my drama, our second day was way better than the first. We stopped for a walk in the lower Amazon basin exploring types of trees and plants and swam by a small waterfall before we called the night on a riverbank sleeping under the stars.
The boat drifts along lazily,
The sun warms the soul,
So far away yet so close,
We are where we need to be.
As I wrote this in my journal sitting under the bright stars that night, I felt an overwhelming gratitude for all this beauty surrounding us. It’s there, right in that moment everything felt in perfect harmony.
Day 4- Letting go off fears
By now you’ve read that our tour was full of surprises. Some good, some bad as this trip turned out to be very different than what was advertised. On our last day we had another big surprise. We found out at breakfast that we were going to finish our tour with canopy zip lining in the Madidi National Park covering 1200m via 10 cables and 8 platforms. Ian got very excited by the thought of it, I, on the other hand, was petrified as I’m not a big fan of heights and definitely not a fearless thrill-seeker!
Ian got me thinking when he asked me how many times I would get a chance to whizz through the trees 40 meters in the air over the Amazon forest. I thought probably only once so I decided to go for it. Let me tell you, for someone with a serious fear of heights, this decision was a big deal for me and it took me a very long time to let go off the first platform. Luckily our group was patient and supportive which made feel at ease so eventually I let go. It was certainly one of the most fun things I’ve ever done after the initial shock to the system. 🙂
Our adventure in the jungle was without a doubt a unique one with lots of unforgettable memories…Bolivia keeps amazing us…