Welcome To The Jungle!

[Note: We likely won’t have internet for the next sixish days as we will be in the rainforest, so don’t worry we likely aren’t dead.  Also our travel map is updated through the rest of our trip with real dates.]

Last night we were checking some emails before bed and had a very unpleasant one from Amaszonas Airlines informing us that our flight for today had been cancelled due to maintenance and we needed to call and reschedule.  Lynn began the process of calling and prepping herself for a very drawn out conversation in broken Spanish.  Literally seconds before someone answered the on hold music though we got another e-mail saying we had been automatically rescheduled to a later flight, all in English.  Good work Amaszonas.

So we had more time this morning than originally planned.  We spent it sleeping in a little (for real this time) before getting breakfast and working a little more on the Chile portion of our trip. At 11.30 we finally checked out of our hotel and met a waiting cab to head to the airport.  Along the way we stopped on a highway to pick up the driver’s dad. This did not seem to be an uncommon thing and there were both parked cars and pedestrians all over the highway.  Unfortunately for us though we were right in front of a policeman who pulled us over and ticketed the taxi despite protests of “desculpe me, por favor” from the dad.  It didn’t delay us too long though and we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in and grab a quick lunch.

When it was time to board we were called to the ticket podium, scanned, and then sent out on to the tarmac…where there was absolutely no further direction, nor a plane waiting for us.  We were the second and third people through so we just followed the guy in front of us as he walked under jet-bridges and around equipment.  It was incredibly confusing to say the least, and about as far from American security as you can imagine.  Eventually we met a yellow-vested Amaszonas person who sent us back the way we came, explaining that the crew needed to change one of the tires on the plane.  I guess better now then after we’re on the plane.

Back into the terminal we went, where we both continued reading and I ate some expensive Gobstoppers I had purchased.  Eventually we were called again and headed back out to the tarmac, this time with some semblance of an idea where we were headed.  As we rounded a jetbridge a very tiny plane came into view with Amaszonas emblazoned on the side.  It was not the size plane we had been hoping for.  This was the kind of plane where everyone gets a window seat and a view of the action taking place in the cockpit.

Our little Fairchild airplane that got us safely to Rurrenabaque.
Our little Fairchild airplane that got us safely to Rurrenabaque.
The inside of our little plane.
The inside of our little plane.  Window and aisle seats for everyone!

Once everyone was loaded up we had about the most terrifying 45 minute flight of our lives (Lynn disagrees). We bounced (maybe fell is a better word?) through clouds and banked way too sharply for our liking.  Lynn spent the flight trying to think about anything else and I death gripped the seat in front of me and tried reading to distract me.  Whenever we went through a particularly rough patch we could at least be comforted by looking into the cockpit and seeing the pilots laughing or putting on sunglasses which helped ease our fears.

The landing may have been the worst part.  You see, the wikitravel article for Rurrenebaque, the base town for exploring Bolivia’s rain forest, described the airport as “a small landing strip on the outside of town that closes in rain because it floods.”  As we came in both of us felt way too close to the trees and it looked for a while like we were just going to slowly descend into them and bury the plane in the thick jungle.  Luckily at the last minute a strip just wide enough for the plane opened up and mercifully landed with a few hard bounces.

We taxied to the “terminal” (I use that word very loosely) and were met with a swarm of trilingual taxi drivers wanting to take us into town.  We settled on one and loaded into his van after grabbing our luggage.  We were joined by a group of Israelis, one of whom had a guitar that smacked me in the head as they loaded it into the back. A drive into town reminiscent of Mr. Otgoo’s wild ride ensued while the Israeli’s drank beer and smoked (no doubt to calm their nerves after the flight).

This is the airport. All of it.
This is the airport. All of it.

We pulled up to our hostel after not too long (the town is tiny) and checked in.  It does not at all seem like our kind of place, with a large pool in the center, loud music playing, and a bar by the pool, but it was the only place with vacancy in town.  We dropped off our bags and headed our to check in for our rain forest tour that starts tomorrow.  After a little trouble we found Bala Tours and managed to communicate in Spanish the the only guy working there, at least enough to check in and know to show back up tomorrow morning at 8:45.

Our hostel room has a very concerning set of wires running from a circuit breaker to our shower head. We assume it's an in-shower-head water heater but it seems very unsafe.
Our hostel room has a very concerning set of wires running from a circuit breaker to our shower head. We assume it’s an in-shower-head water heater but it seems very unsafe.

With that done we walked through town a little bit, bought a water and then headed back to cool down in our hotel room.  It was certainly much hotter and more humid here than it had been a mere 200 miles away in La Paz.  We turned off the lights, drew the shades, turned on the fan as fast as it would go and watched The Americans.

After two episodes are tummies were rumbling and it was back out into the streets for dinner.  The small town reminded us both of rural Cambodia but with a giant river along one edge of town.  We had a little trouble finding our planned dinner destination, as there are no addresses here, but eventually tracked it down.  We had a dinner of two pizzas, two beers, and a large bottle of water which very much satiated our apetites.  After dinner we walked back home where we once again attempted to cool off before calling it a night.

Pizza for dinner!
Pizza for dinner!
Lynn had "sausage," which we have still somehow not yet learned means hot dogs.
Lynn had “sausage,” which we have still somehow not yet learned means hot dogs.

Daily Walking Miles: 3.5 miles

Fun Facts:

  • So far we have to yet to see a single mosquito.  Here’s hoping that continues and we can avoid all of the Zika business everyone is talking about.
  • La Paz has a program called traffic zebras where they will train ex-cons how to conduct traffic, give them a zebra costume, and pay them to conduct traffic, dance, and generally entertain everyone.  We sadly never spotted one though we clearly see the need for them.
  • Despite the flight to Rurrenabaque being as scary as it was, the bus has far worse reviews if you can believe it.

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