Travel South America

Off The Beaten Track In The Bolivian Amazon 

January 13, 2016
San Buenaventura street near Rurrenabaque

 

‘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!

View in the plaza

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.

The Central Business District in San Buenaventura

 

This article has now been published on the Indian Footloose Magazine. Click on the link to take a look.

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15 Comments

  • Reply 1world2feet January 14, 2016 at 01:35

    Great photos!

    • Reply Unlatinoverde January 14, 2016 at 09:12

      Thank you for liking the photos on my recent posts. I’m glad that someone gets enjoyment from them. I’ve been to your website and I love your conservation message, so I’ve started following you on Facebook, instagram and on Twitter.

      Have a great day,

      Unlatinoverde.com

  • Reply WyldfamilyTravel (@wyldfamtravel) February 10, 2016 at 19:44

    looks like a great place, very interesting what a pity you missed the festival.

  • Reply Rob Taylor February 10, 2016 at 23:51

    I love your narrative. Sometimes doors are closed so that you can just relax.

    • Reply Unlatinoverde February 11, 2016 at 23:18

      Thanks Rob. I love your blog, so it’s nice to get such positive feedback from you. This is one of those posts that I really just enjoyed writing. It’s not ’55 things to do on a beach in Brazil’, but a narrative of a quiet day off the beaten track.

  • Reply Melody Pittman February 11, 2016 at 01:24

    Bolivia is way up on my bucket list. I want to add as many countries in South and Central America as possible over the next couple years. The salt flat pictures are the most enticing for me but this is an interesting area you’ve posted about. Nice rainbow picture, we have double rainbows daily this time of year in Panama. 😉

  • Reply sellallyourstuff February 11, 2016 at 02:31

    Sounds like a fantastic tranquilo town.

  • Reply Ami Bhat February 11, 2016 at 02:43

    Interesting but incomplete is how I felt about it. Wish you could have seen the sights 😀

  • Reply Vyjay Rao February 11, 2016 at 07:57

    It seems like you reached the place just after the ‘storm’ was over and the calm set in, but nevertheless an experience of a different kind and that is what travel is all about.

  • Reply Travelure February 11, 2016 at 17:45

    Sounds like many-a-place up in the hills in India! Interesting!

    • Reply Unlatinoverde February 11, 2016 at 23:15

      I must visit India sometime. Himachal Pradesh and Darjeeling are places that really attract me.

      • Reply Travelure February 12, 2016 at 04:12

        Those are the ones like what you described here!

  • Reply whereisnoodles February 11, 2016 at 19:56

    Such a shame that you missed the festival. Central and South America are next on my list. I’m looking forward to reading some more of your posts.

  • Reply elizabeth February 11, 2016 at 23:09

    When we went to the rainforest it wasn’ that quiet. The bird and animal life in the rainforest can be amazing. (and noisy)

    • Reply Unlatinoverde February 11, 2016 at 23:14

      And dark. I stayed in a traditional Amazon community where there was no electricity after 8pm. It was like seeing the night sky for the first time…shooting stars. That’s all in another post 🙂

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