We started to miss the heat in La Paz but we are 30 minutes in the Amaszonas flight to Rurrenabaque and we are starting to change our minds. It isn’t because of the thrill of traveling by plane with 20 seats, but from the lack of air conditioning in it and the high temperature and humidity outside.
We got used to seeing red lamps on the control panel in front of the pilots and the beeping sounds that go with them. We had just gotten used to it when we landed, the glass of the camera fogged up immediately. The airport was a small landing strip in the middle of the Amazonian jungle. From there the passengers are picked up by van and driven to a house, if somebody is waiting for you, that is where you get off. If not – the van takes you to the center of the town for the humble price of 10 bolivianos.
|We fit in|
|Landing strip in the middle of the jungle|
The jungle is off limits for most tourists, it is Madidi National Park and only certain tour guides have the license to take people to their eco lodges, where local tribes work.
These people know the jungle well, because they have lived there for centuries. This way they manage to preserve their traditions and the tourists have the chance to enjoy the local culture. Before we take part in one of the trips we had to spend a night in Rurrenabaque because our journey was set to begin the next morning. Was it luck or not, but that evening was the festival of the town. It was like a village fair. There were chairs and tables and loud live music and drinks and food. There were stalls selling all kinds of things and the locals had a lot of fun. The party lasted till next morning, when we took off for the deep jungle.
|The harbor and its residents|
|In the scorching heat, the festival must be supported|
|It isn’t easy to celebrate in 120 % humidity|
In practice we are on the shore of Beni River, which is a feeder of the Amazon along with several other rivers in the area. Tuichi River is in the other direction, where our home for several days is located.
You can reach it only by boat, about 3-hour journey upstream. The trip was a high-quality overture for the upcoming show. The lodge consists of several small houses, hidden in the midst of the huge palms and other trees. The sky is clear in the evenings, but you can’t observe more than one constellation because the trees are huge and surround you from all sides. The locals welcomed us with tasty lunch. They were clear from the start that they would take care of us and our need for vegetarian meals. They appointed a guide to our group, Orlando. The group itself consisted of us and two Australians. We were in luck with Orlando, he knew a lot, he has a lot of experience in the jungle and he can explain it all in English and Spanish.
The main activity in the area are the walks in the jungle and observation of plants and insects, if you are lucky – many animals. There are a lot of designated paths and trails and they are all named in the old Quechua language, which is spoken in this community in order to preserve the traditions of their ancestors.
It is hard to remember all the weird names of the things we saw. There were huge trees of 400-500 years of age. Of course, a species of Ficus Elastica was wound around them and it was about to kill them and become a huge tree at their expense. We saw a walking palm tree. Yes, literally. In the fight for sunlight it tilts on one side and takes new root like a leg and moves itself towards the light. Similar to it, but a bit different is the glass – palm, named that way because its form seems like a cup to locals.
There were all kinds of ants, there was a species that was 2-3 centimeter long and poisonous. It is said that if it bites you, you feel the pain for 3-4 hours after that. There were ants, which carried leaves to build their nests. This way they feed a special sort of mushrooms, which they use for food. It is beautiful to see them carrying green leaves bigger than themselves tirelessly. We saw many different fungi, it is the rainy season after all. We learned a lot about them because a group of scientists from America and Europe arrived to look for new species of fungi. Some of them were authors of books on the species of fungi in the Amazon jungle and in about an hour they managed to find a dozen new ones. We left them to their search because at their pace we would’ve seen only a small part of the jungle and we are not huge fans of fungi.
We say and understood what the freedom of animals means when they live in their natural habitat.
Several macaws sang carelessly and broke the branches of the tall trees. They have nothing in common with the macaws in the zoo. Several species of monkeys could be observed on the near trees. Even several small and black tamarins overcame their shyness and showed themselves before our eager eyes. A lot of what we saw is kept in our memories, because to take picture you’d have to lay in wait in the jungle and that wasn’t the goal of our visit. We went on trips in the jungle every morning and afternoon. Between them we had siestas in the hammocks in front of our rooms. During our rest we could see small insects and birds, which visited the flowers. The best thing was seeing live humming birds. It passes so fast that you can’t even think of capturing it on camera.
There are certain places in the jungle, where the animals come to get minerals and salt from the clay mud. The most common visitors are the wild pigs. We managed to observe groups of several dozens of pigs. They are so sensitive that if you try to approach them they smell you, grind their teeth together and disappear into the forest within seconds. They weren’t this shy when they came one morning into the yard of our kitchen in search of food.
We went for a walk in the night once. It is very dark between the trees and lush vegetation, but there are the reflecting eyes of the insects. Too late we thought of making a video, but here is the result.
The next day we decided to go on a trip upstream and for that purpose we needed a boat. We met birds and stalked pigs. On the way back instead of a boat we came back stuffed in truck tires (tubing). It was a fun experience. No, there were no piranhas or crocodiles to eat what was left of our mosquito-bitten bottoms.
During one of our walks we ground the leaves of a special plant and painted ourselves red. It is not used as a war paint, but for dye for fabrics. Several weeks later we still had traces on our fingers. We tried to go fishing for piranhas. However in the rainy season we were surprised by the vegetation – the small lakes were covered in dense greenery and there was no way to see what we were fishing. We didn’t venture to poke our finger in to get a piranha for dinner.
Is there order in the jungle? According to the locals, there is.
Orlando and Alejandro told us about their community of about 500 people. Nature provides everything they need. This is why only they are allowed to fish in the whole reserve. They heal themselves only with the help of ingredients they find in nature. A hospital in our sense of the word doesn’t exist. In case of emergencies they get on the boat and ride for 4 hours to Rurrenabaque. The families used to have many children, but now it is different. Many of the young people work in the eco lodges like ours or in the city.
The main problem in the jungle is that it is the perfect place for the drug trafficking. It is almost impossible to find the criminals in it. If you make the mistake of crossing by boat the unmarked border on the river, you could be in danger of disappearing. There are rumors of illegal airports and whatnot in the jungle. So, even if you are not scared of the exotic animals and plants, don’t go in the jungle alone, because the huge ants, the jaguar and the moving lianas are not the most dangerous creatures there. The locals know where to go and which places to avoid. There are rules.
The last day brought us what we wished for – rain!
It is weird to spend several days in the rainforest during the rainy season and get no rain! We were about to call ourselves meteorological phenomenon (rain in both Atacama Desert and around Nazca) and drought in the jungle. However, we finally reached the nirvana of drifting off in the hammock to the sound of thousands heavy raindrops and lack of mosquitoes! The plants were growing bigger by the second, being revived after days of drought. Little by little the jungle was restoring its strength!
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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