We flew to Rurrenabaque on a small 20 seater plane, but there were only 7 of us on it. The flight goes up and over the Andes and was a little nerve-wracking, but was pretty smooth. Rurrenabaque is a small town of 10,000 people and is the entrance to the Amazon basin. We landed on the runway, but there was no building to speak of, only a shuttle bus that drove us into town. We went straight to Madidi Travel to get gumboots, flash lights and ponchos for our trip. Then we were straight in the long dug-out boat and down the river for two hours. We saw a couple of baby caimans and some turtles along the way. Then we walked for 40 minutes to get to the Serere Reserve. We had to carry our packs throug quite deep mud, which was a bit of a challenge. Then we went to our cabana for a rest. There were no walls, only mesh so the mosquitoes couldn’t get in. There was no electricity or hot water either, so we had to use candles and have cold showers.
Once we were settled our guide took us for our first Amazon bush walk. We didn’t follow a path, just bush-bashed our way through. We went looking for howler monkeys, which are the loudest mammals on earth and make a deep howling noise. They sound like a speedway, which is weird to hear in the middle of the jungle. We found the monkeys and watched them for a bit before heading home. We had an amazing dinner of soup and beef with veges. It’s set up as a retreat, so all the food is fresh and healthy. We had an early night, but just before we left for bed we were warned to shake our gumboots in the morning in case a tarantula had made a new home in them. This was a horrifying prospect and I went to sleep with visions of tarantulas crawling all over me. Spiders are not exactly my strong point. Unfortunately I woke up in the night with a desperate need for a toilet. This meant battling the nocturnal tarantulas that could eat me whole. I armed myself with my torch and sandals and tried not to look too far out of my needed course. Reaching the bathroom I didn’t find any tarantulas, but I did find a very large family of cockroaches. They were everywhere. Yuck. However, when compared to tarantulas those little guys were my best friends.
The next day we went for another walk in the jungle looking for pigs and tapir (a weird antelope-type creature). We didn’t find anything but footprints, but we did see a bat cave and a snake. In the afternoon we took the canoe out on the lake. We saw heaps of birds and a caiman. Then we stopped and went fishing for Piranhas! They are little fish, but have HUGE teeth. We all managed to catch one and they cooked them up for us for dinner. That night we went out in the canoe again, this time looking for caiman. It was pitch black and we all had our torches. As we shown them around the caiman’s eyes would reflect an orange light. We saw heaps of them, one of them swam towards us. The dug out canoe took on a fair bit of water and in the middle of the boat we were only a few center metres above the water line. Thankfully we weren’t out too long, as I’m convinced we could have been caiman dinner.
The mosquitoes in the Amazon were just torture. They were always buzzing around us. They bit through clothing and insect repellent didn’t seem to work too well. Katie got bitten on the lip and eyelid, which both swelled up tremendously. She looked like she had been in a fight with the tapir we never managed to locate. We all now look like we have chickenpox. I got bitten by a fire ant, which oddly enough feels like someone lit your arm on fire. Other than that, we came out unscathed.
Our last morning in the Amazon we got up at 4.45am to go on a dark morning hunt. We were looking for pigs and tapir again, and again we didn’t see any. We did find a coati, which is kind of an overgrown squirrel. It was really exciting walking through the forest in the dark. Every now and then we would all turn our lights off and just listen to the jungle. I think our guide may have been exaggerating a little, as he was always convinced that he could smell the pigs and tapir and that we were right on their trail. In reality we were all clumsily stomping about like neanderthals and any animals should have been long gone.
Breakfast was dished up shortly after and then we had a nap. Our final activity was to make a ring out of a baby coconut and tattoo ourselves with an apple. The apple insides were mushed up and you could draw pictures on your body. At first nothing came up so we put more and more on. However, soon enough it showed up like a tattoo and we are stuck with messy doodles on our arms for 10 days. We spent most of this time playing with the three resident monkeys. They are just like naughty children and are always trying to destroy things. They were very cute to cuddle though!
Soon enough it was time to leave. By this time the fresh food was playing havoc on my stomach. The walk back to the river was torture, but we did finally get there. The boat trip back took twice as long as it was upstream. Given my state, I managed to fall asleep on a bit of wood for nearly the whole trip. Once back in Rurrenabaque, we were able to have nice hot showers again and get a good night’s sleep.
The next morning Katie also woke up quite sick, which progressed into quite a horrendous day. However, in the mean time we enjoyed croissants and paine de chocolates from the local french bakery. Then we hired a more basic dug-out canoe to take us up-river of Rurrenabaque for a few hours. The river went into the Andes, so was a lovely trip. We had to sit on the floor of the boat though, which became remarkably uncomfortable. After the boat ride we went to a little restaurant to wait until our 6pm flight. It was about now that Katie was getting quite ill. Once on the plane, Katie began to vomit and had quite an unpleasant flight back to La Paz.
There was a couple on our plane who were being evacuated to La Paz. The guy had been using a circular saw and just about cut his arm off. They were Australian and lived on a boat a few hours down the river. The hospital at Rurrenabaque stapled his arm back together, but he needed surgery in La Paz. He was on a lot of drugs for the pain and spent most of the flight yelling that his hand had come off. The poor girl was hysterical and kept yelling back that he was an idiot and that she’d never let him touch machinery again. The girl was also scared of flying and was yelling that it would be just their luck that the plane would crash as well. With Katie in the back vomiting, it made for a very dramatic flight. As if this wasn’t enough, the pilots were filming each other flying with their Iphones and laughing away. Somehow we landed safely and we left to find a nice peaceful hotel. No more drama.