My goodness, it is toasty here. We’ve been to many warm places, but this may take the cake since it is not only hot, but humid, and there is no A/C to be found. It is a new kind of torture. We both tried to get as much sleep as possible, but weren’t so successful under these conditions combined with a very loud but basically useless fan and no cross-breeze.
Our alarm went off at 7:30 to a nice cooling surprise of rain. We then proceeded to pack up our things grab some of their very basic breakfast, and head off on foot to Bala Tours, our tour company for the next 5 days. On the way we couldn’t help but notice that there were Bolivian navy sailors at each of the intersections in town, appearing to direct traffic. There were also quite a few people lining the roads in anticipation of what was to come. We never did find out though, only that there would be a festival in Rurrenabaque tomorrow (which also explains why we saw people repainting crosswalks and curbs yesterday).
We arrived at Bala Tours a good 10 minutes early to see three Canadians we had seen on our flight from Cusco to La Paz asking about a potential tour, but ultimately deciding it was too pricy for them (We’d be doing 5 days at less than 2x the cost of their 2 days, so most definitely a steal in comparison). We sat down with Alfredo to settle the balance, learning once again that there is a 5% surcharge if you use credit card in Bolivia, and meeting our guide for our tour, Jose. Oh, and we also realized that, thanks to the Canadians not liking the price, we would be the only ones on our tour.
After some brief introductions we were ushered off to the river to grab our very, very long boat to the Madidi National Park where we would be beginning our tour in the jungle. Before we could head too far we had to be taken directly across the river to the park’s office to get our permits which we would deliver 45 minutes up stream at the entrance of the park.
Soon enough we were on our way up river with our guide, Jose, our cook, name unknown, a park ranger and her son, names unknown, and our boat driver, name also unknown. But, a short 10 minutes up river we happened upon a local lady needing a lift so she quickly joined the boat too for a portion of the ride up river. Before you ask… her name is unknown. The majority of the 2 hour ride was spent admiring the views of the approaching mountains, attempting to spot wildlife, and commenting on the ridiculous number of rapids that exist. In that time we were only able to spot 3 birds – a giant egret, a snow egret, and a black vulture. It’s OK though, because we would be heading into the jungle where we’d hopefully find more in no time.
Our driver expertly navigated the river to deliver the local lady to her boat and us to our ecolodge in no time. Upon arriving we were told we had about 1 hour until lunch so the two of us attempted to make use of the hammocks outside of our once again un-A/Cd, un-cross-breezed, no fanned room but ultimately were dissuaded by the persistent flies and appearance of a wasp. So, we spent the time attempting to cool off in our room while reading our books. This would continue again after a very filling buffet lunch since we would have another 1.5 hours before our first jungle hike.
At 3 p.m. we donned our pants and a thick layer of DEET bug spray before joining Jose and his machete to fight off pumas on a very enjoyable 2.5 hour hike through the jungle surrounding the ecolodge. He introduced us to a number of trees ranging from the walking palm tree (grows new trunks every time it needs to adjust for more sun), to the maipo tree (has very desirable cotton for the locals) to the garlic tree (the bark is added to soups for an additional garlic flavor). We saw a number of ants, both large and small building their nests and adjusting their routes to the changing terrain. We saw a few birds, one of which was a ground black trumpeter bird with white butt that continued to taunt us by weaving in and out of the trees and making screeching sounds. We saw a lot of evidence of wild pigs from their hoof-prints in the dirt to their mud baths flung around the surrounding flora. We heard a howler monkey several times but none wanted to make an appearance. And, we heard a screaming pigeon make a cat-call sound at us repeatedly.
The hike was followed by some more time spent at the lodge, this time outside, relaxing before dinner. Though this was gratefully interrupted by the gradual approach of group of squirrel monkeys and a capuchian who decided to have a bit of a play in the ecolodge’s nearby trees.
After another feast for dinner, the three of us plus one of the staff went out for a 30 minute night hike. We didn’t see a lot of new things but we did get to see a ton of bullet ants, ants half the size of your finger and if you are bit by one you will feel like you’ve been shot (Ouch!). We also saw a fair number of cockroaches and caterpillars, but luckily no snakes… the deadliest animal around these parts.
We were in by 9 p.m. trying to will ourselves to sleep with the relentless heat.
Daily Walking Mileage: 6.39
- Only male screaming pigeons make the cat-call noise. Females then use the quality of the sound to pick their mate. Thank goodness, this is not human nature or Lynn would have never found a mate.
- Jose introduced us to socialist spiders, spiders that work together in a large group to build massive webs and share in their kill. The only way they are not socialist is that if they get too hungry they start to eat each other… I don’t know if Bernie Sanders would be into that.
- The wood of ficus trees is not useful for construction of any sort, but it’s large trunks are used to communicate with others in the forest. Jose demonstrated by banging his machete on the trunk consequently making a very loud sound reverberated across the jungle. He mentioned that locals use this technique to tell others that they are lost.
- In the rainforest, fire ants and devil trees live in a symbiotic relationship with one another. The fire ants use the tree for shelter and food while killing off all other nearby plants providing the devil tree with as much room to grow as desired.