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, but although I can see nothing, I can hear the noises of the forest.
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. This is the Bolivian Amazon. 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 where 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, as did my camera with 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.
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, monkeys call to each other and the forest is alive with the sounds of insects. Occasionally the scene is interrupted by a shooting star racing across the heavens or a firefly lighting up the night. Today we went upriver to a jungle camp where our arrival was greeted by capuchin monkeys and electric blue butterflies. 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 try to pick off the weakest of the pack because the boar are quite capable of making a meal of the jaguar. To think that I was walking in the footsteps of wild animals!
Day 3: Return to Rurrenabaque
Today did not start well. I awoke at 5am with my stomach doing somersaults.
Stumbling through the pitch black guided only by the light of my iPod Touch, I found the toilet block where I fully evacuated my aching bowels, or so I thought, until my hasty return at 5:30am. 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. Breakfast was preceded by an obligatory ice cold shower. 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. 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 lightly. 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!
This trip can be organised through the San Miguel del Bala office in Rurrenabaque.
Address: Comercio, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia