‘It’s going to be quiet’, the German girl remarks.
I am sitting on a glorified canoe between Rurrenabaque, the tourist nerve center of the Bolivian Amazon, and its tiny sister, San Buenaventura. We are among a handful of tourists making the short journey across the river. All around us sit locals carrying plastic bags crammed with basic supplies such as vegetables and noodles from the shops and markets of bustling Rurrenabaque. Clearly, although I have yet to set foot in San Buenaventura, I get a distinct sense that this is not going to be a buzzing metropolis. The German backpacker starts to talk again.
‘It was so busy last week for the festival’, she continues.
It seems that I have arrived a week too late. Apparently people had come from all around the Amazon region and there was singing and dancing in the streets. I ask if there are any unmissable sights and her reply is not exactly encouraging. There might be a museum open…but she is not too sure. It sounds like some form of museum of local Amazon culture. In the heat of the day I vaguely remember reading something in my Lonely Planet. How do I get there? It’s up on the left somewhere, it appears. ‘You won’t get lost in San Buenaventura’, she reassures me, but I am now wondering if I have made the right choice in coming here at all.
On disembarking I make my way through the crowd waiting at the dock and I turn to the left. Away from the small port there is nobody in the street.
Street is almost hyperbole as mud track is probably a more accurate description. Traffic must never be hectic here, given the number of dogs basking in the sun in the middle of the road. It is hot and the village, like its large canine population, appears to be asleep. Climbing a road I come to what must be the museum. And it is closed!
Time to go exploring…
I find a small plaza with a church and a few children playing. Due to the heat I decide to sit on a bench to drink some water. A short time later I am joined by an older man with a plastic bag containing a towel. The baths are closed and he cannot be consoled. He had knocked and rung the bell many times, but there had been no answer. I ask about the museum and he has no idea when it might open. In any case, he has no interest and is completely fixated on the baths. We chat for a while until I decide to look for a place to have a cup of coffee, so I leave him to brood over his cruel fate.
Coffee is a quiet affair in a local bar with plastic seats.
Let’s just say that it has a bit more local charm than your average Starbucks. However, it is good just to be able to pass the time without a care in the world. Having had my caffeine fix, I set out again through the mud roads. Despite its backward feel, it is hard not to like San Buenaventura. The vegetation is lush and luxuriant. This, combined with the absence of traffic and the oppressive heat, gives it an almost hypnotic feel. And then there are the dogs…They are everywhere, some sleeping in the shade and others in the middle of the road. Eventually, having made a circle of the entire town, I am back at the little harbour and it is time for one last coffee before I head back to Rurrenabaque. Although it is not quite New York or Paris, it is The Big Smoke in comparison to San Buenaventura, a place where I finally met the sleeping dogs I had heard tell of and I did indeed let them lie.