Adventure travel Travel

A Visit to an Amazon Community

July 20, 2015

Amazon Day 1: San Miguel del Bala

It is 10pm and as I lie in bed the only light comes from the face of my watch. All around me is pitch black. Although I can see nothing, I can hear the noises of the forest.

This is the Bolivian Amazon. Insects chirp and buzz. Birds call and animals rustle in the undergrowth near my cabin. A bird flaps its wings on the roof and the sudden noise leaves me momentarily terrified. Today I have come upriver to visit the traditional Tacana community of San Miguel del Bala. Apart from a gentle walk and a craft-making demonstration, the native guide has taken us to a narrow canyon. Fruit bats flew overhead and tarantulas and poisonous frogs clung to the walls. It was waist high with water at times and I went for an involuntary swim. My camera went swimming along with me and this had horrendous consequences for my photos. Tomorrow will take us deeper into the Amazon and we will visit Madidi National Park, one of nature’s treasure chests.

My jungle cabin

My jungle cabin

Day 2: Parque Madidi

It is 9pm and I am lounging in a hammock on the porch outside my room. It is dark around me and I am gazing at a star studded sky.

All around me I can hear the sounds of the jungle. Frogs croak near the river and monkeys call to each other. The forest is alive with the sounds of insects. Occasionally, a shooting star races across the heavens or a firefly lights up the night.  Today we went upriver to a jungle camp. Capuchin monkeys and electric blue butterflies greeted our arrival. After a scrumptious lunch, we set off into the forest where we learned about the flora and fauna of the region.

One moment will stay with me forever. I was walking ahead with the guide when he suddenly stopped to examine a footprint on the path. It had been made by a jaguar, he explained. They apparently live in the forest where they hunt wild boar, but they only pick off the weakest of the pack. It seems that boars are quite capable of making a meal of the jaguar. To think that I was walking in the footsteps of wild animals! My fascination with the Amazon grows with every passing day.

The river at dusk, Amazon in Bolivia

The river at dusk

Day 3: Return to Rurrenabaque

Today did not start well. I awoke at 5am with my stomach doing somersaults.

A Bad Start

With only the light of my iPod Touch to guide me, I stumbled through the pitch black. Finding the toilet block, I fully evacuated my aching bowels, or so I thought, until my hasty return at 5:30 am. However, no matter how bad I felt, my cameras were feeling infinitely worse. One was full of condensation from its swim in spider canyon while the other was flickering on and off.  Luckily, I didn’t discover the fate of the second camera until later in the morning. An obligatory ice cold shower preceded breakfast. I’m not convinced it made me feel any better.

The Wall of Parrots 

Today we were to visit a wall of parrots, build a raft and sail downriver.  There were quite a few tourists at the wall of parrots, but not too many parrots. However, there was one pair of prominent lovebirds, so we got the idea. These birds mate for life and remain on their own when their soulmate passes on.  By the time we started to build the raft, I had discovered the strange death throes of my second camera and this did not improve my mood.

Memories of a Bolivian Amazon Community

My traveling companions took off downstream on the raft while I stayed on the boat desperately trying to fix my ailing electronics. To be fair, I don’t think I would have wanted to do anything today, given my stomach problems and the headache with my cameras. Lunch was fresh fish from the river accompanied by lime and lemon from nearby trees. It tasted divine but, taking no chances, I ate as little as I could.  Cramming my things into my bag,  I daydreamed about that new backpack I was going to buy in La Paz. The Amazon may have killed at least one camera and erased three days of photos, but it has left me with memories forever.

PS: It seems that I have lost my photos of the Amazon, but one camera is now drying out and seems to be on the mend.

PPS: Due to the sudden death of my laptop from altitude sickness in La Paz,  this post was brought to you by my iPod Touch!

View of the Bolivian Amazon from a plane

Arriving in the Bolivian Amazon by plane

Practicalities

 The San Miguel del Bala office in Rurrenabaque organised this trip. See below for details. 

Website: www.sanmigueldelbala.com

Address: Comercio, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

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