Rurrenabaque – Bolivian Amazon
Being woken up to the roaring of the howler monkey harmonising awkwardly with the snores of my boyfriend is not a morning alarm call I expect to have the pleasure of waking up to again.
Again, who would have thought that I was to have two of the best sleeps I’ve had in days, in the middle of the jungle. Or that I was to be exhilarated by the hunt for giant worms, crane my neck to see monkeys dancing in the trees above me, develop an egg-sized lump from carelessly stumbling into a low hanging vine as thick as my wrist, spy Caiman eyes in torch light on a returning to camp after a failed fishing trip or be sat on the cliff edge of a jungle mountain watching rainbow maccaws showing off their brilliance with the partners over the leafy tree tops. I liked the jungle and stalking across her leafy, mulchy paths past larger than life tree monsters, walking pines, spiky, web coated flora. For two days I got to feel like an adventurer traipsing the weird and wonderful worlds that existed between my favourite fantasy novels and reality. I KNOW. That’s just the ultimate geek speak. But that’s what a taste of the bolivian amazon felt like to me. Besides our guide was pretty stoicly silent the entire time so my mind had no excuse not to run free.
We flew to Rurrenabaque, heeding the warnings of travel blogs and travellers past about the bus from La Paz, toted to be nothing less than the stuff of nightmares. So a small, 18 seater plane it was. She was a bumpy ride, and to break the clouds and see mountain peaks at your window level, well… thank the clouds you’re flying next to them and not straight into them. On landing, the warm, oozy, thick air welcomes you back to earth and is a relief from the sharp dry altitude of La Paz.
Rurrenabaque is small. You could walk around it all in an hour or two – keeping your eyes on the haphazard, uneven, hole-filled and patched up paths. But just because she’s small doesn’t mean she can’t throw one hell of a party. From 8pm until 8am when we left for our jungle tour the next day – and probably, according to our hostel receptionist, continuing on to at least noon regardless of if there are only 2 drunken Bolivians still left standing or more. Between the top 50 pop hits, the Latino big 5, Karaoke, emotional speeches, jazz bands and a deejay, you name it they had it. Inappropriate for anyone with an early start the next day (the entire guest population at El Curichal), but at least the message was clear – nothing gets in the way of a Bolivian jungle party, especially one in celebration of 50 years of having a football team. Yep.
Rurrenabaque is also expensive, both to get to and to hang out in. So if you find that you’re a bit low on cash when it’s time to leave and you’re frantically calculating how many nights you’ll be eating bread and jam for in order to fly back to La Paz…RELAX. The 70 boliviano bus ride from Rurrenabaque back to La Paz is completely legit. Well, a bit windy, but nothing like the feared bumpy, cliff riding journey on the way there. The ladies I bussed back with happened to have caught the bus both ways and agreed it was almost a different road leaving. I slept most of the way (with the help of a sleeping pill). So there you go. Take the cheap bus, enjoy the hooliganesque style of Bolivian bus drivers and treat yo self at the end of the ride to a nice dinner and bed.
Must eat: Any pastries from the French bakery. Find it, consume it, bathe in the buttery glutinous glory of it all.
Tour info. Just as an FYI, we chose to jungle tour with Max adventures who have rave reviews all around. However I have to admit I was underwhelmed by the Max Adventure team. I feel the company is deceptive in their drive to retain a bulk amount of the competition and I was potentially cheated out of a more authentic experience. Of course, maybe I am playing the blame game and my own folly should be placed the chair to be judged as well so I will try not to get personal. The main issue, that was shared by many in my group, is that we were promised an English speaking guide, who from the get go quite clearly did not speak English. So it was three days of quite empty silence, or awkward struggles to try and ask a question/interpret an answer. I refuse to blame the guide as he was an animal finding guru and in all honesty, we was probably roped into the game just as badly as me and my English speaking tourists were. I mean if someone had asked me to take a Spanish group, knowing that I could say a few basic spansih phrases, well I’d be freaking the fuck out about it and I’d be awkwardly silent too. He tried and that I appreciate. Yet, everyone I know that just went with the Spanish guide and had an interpreter in the group had a much more free, open and real experience. A win-win for guide and tourist. Max adventures, I suggest you just admit your guides speak basic English but provide an interpreter and watch a more consistently positive outcome from your customers.