I won´t give up that easy. I´m getting ready for the big battle. I´ll meet Monday and I´ll beat it to death. Watch me!!
La Paz is a very strange city. It´s like a hole surrounded by mountains. Streets are very steep and you have to “climb” them instead of walking them. The traffic is crazy and you have to be very careful when crossing a street. Cars won´t stop.
When I arrived, there were protests against the government. I was in the middle of them, just by chance. I didn´t feel threatened since I´m kind of used to protests. I have plenty of them in my country. But some people just stopped me in the street saying that I should avoid the crowd, that I could be robbed. I thanked them but it was impossible to get out without running into a group of protesters.
But yes, you have to be careful in La Paz. Not because of the protests if not because of the thieves. I was sitting in the main “plaza” with my bagpak on my lap. I just had my glasses on my hands. A little girl came and looked at me. Next thing I know she was hugging me. What do you do if a little girl hugs you? It´s very sweet, isn´t it? But it is not. The little one just tried to get something out of my bagpack and as it was zipped and she could´t open it she tried to grab my glasses. I said “hey, I need my glasses to see” and she smiled and tried to reach them, sort of struggle there till I finally got up and said “get off me”.
I walked and sat somewhere else but I saw the little one with two adults from the distance. They were saying something I couldn´t hear and the girl was listening to them. Later I was told she was being trained to steal.
You have plenty of handicrafts to see and beautiful fabrics, generally very very colorful. You can spend hours and hours browsing in those stores and you never get tired of the colorful designs.
At night I went for my last meal in Bolivia. The following morning I was coming back home.
My days in Rurrenabaque were very peaceful.
During the day, I went to the swimming pool and worked on my tan. When the sun was going down, I went visit my friends in town as if I were just another old friend or neighbor. We shared gossips, thoughts, beer and pizza, laughs.
When I went for a walk with the intention of taking pictures I ran into somebody, chatted for a while and hours went by so fast that by the time we said “see you later” it was either too hot to keep walking so I went straight to the pool or it was too late to take pictures and went for a beer.
In short, lazy days, living the life of a countryside girl (woman). Absolutely enjoyable.
La Pampa was an extraordinary experience, different from the jungle. It´s four hours from Rurre on an unpaved road and then 1 1/2 hours on a boat.
The lodge was very similar to that of the jungle and had more bathrooms and showers and we had a space with hammocks, which was our favorite spot at night after dinner.
The first day we went to see the sunrise while enjoying a fresh beer. It was really peaceful and magical.
The following days we had the chance to see lot of different animals, birds, monkeys, we went fishing and got piranhas for dinner, and swam with pink dolphins that are the ones that live in the rivers.
We didn´t find the anaconda, it seems that she was shy 🙂
On our way back, all of us were already missing La Pampa.
I live in a large city with all that it implies: noise is at the top of the list. There are no much green spots, it´s a jungle of concrete and tall buildings that are spreading all over the city at very rapid speed. There is a river, the widest in the world, but it´s contaminated. Funny thing? the city has grown giving its back to this river. Just recently a new area was developed next to it. There are 40-story buildings with the best view but again, they add concrete to the landscape, no real gain for those who enjoy being outdoors.
And here I´m. The type of person that pines for open spaces, rivers that are not contaminated, lakes that are not artificial, mountains that are not made of concrete, green spots where you can hear birds chirping instead of cars honking, animals at large instead of in cages.
And there I go, every time I have the chance. I like getting to know new places, cultures, environments. But I also like to spend some days in a quiet place where I can hear the music I like: nature.
I make miles and miles in hopes of finding the quietness I need but then there comes the always unexpected factor: people. I assume – and sometimes I´m very very wrong- that people who travel that far are people who have certain appreciation for nature. You don´t expect to find a person in a jungle complaining about mosquitoes or yelling because the accommodation doesn´t live up to their expectations. You know beforehand that you won´t have your creature comforts, that you won´t always find a bathroom when you need it or the food you like or a proper bed.
What you expect is to find people who appreciate what is around them and who are willing to learn, to see, to smell, to hear, to touch, to taste new tastes, to observe, to make use of the senses in a way that you don´t normally need to.
When I was at La Pampa (that will be the next post) the bathrooms where outside the bedrooms and you needed to walk on a plank to get there. There was no electricity so you needed to adapt your eyes to the darkness. And you needed your ears too because there were crocodiles that you could hardly see in plain daylight because their color was the same color of the water so imagine at night. You needed to hear them to know they were there, that was your alert. And that was one of the many things you learn while being in a foreign environment.
Now imagine that you cannot hear because there is someone with a radio at full volume in the bedroom next door ? And believe me, it happens more often than you think. And you cannot understand why a person goes that far to hear the same sounds they hear in their daily life. Why don´t they want to try a new music? the music of the place they are in? Why do they complain about the lack of comforts instead of enjoying what the place does have to offer? If they miss so much their daily lives, why traveling?
When I was in La Pampa I spent a morning in the hammocks while my group went for a walk. It was about to rain, you could smell it in the air, you could tell from the sky. And I decided to stay in the camp, not because of the rain if not because of a burn in my leg that had me in pain. And then the rain came and it was just beautiful to hear the drops and to feel the breeze (a blessing since it was extremely hot) while swinging in the hammocks. Then the group came back and I waited for them at the dock, helped them with the ropes and we had a nice coffee while chatting about our experiences.
One of the topics we dealt with was precisely what I´m telling you now. And we all agreed. We all had found people in our travels that should have chosen a different experience for their holidays and not one in which they miss so much their homes.
Dón´t get me wrong. I was lucky because I met incredible people who made me feel very comfortable. Sometimes I think that I´m getting old and that´s why I´m bothered about certain things. Then I meet people half my age who are bothered about the same things and I feel better. It´s not an age thing if not the way we perceive things regardless the passing of time.
Sorry about my ramblings but it´s what it´s in my head while I travel and in that sense, part of the story too.
After my “airport adventure” I finally managed to get to the jungle!! I really don´t know how to start describing the experience.
Being in the jungle is very strange. Everything is foreign. Plants, animals, climate, sounds. It´s a challenging environment since you are not used to it. You need to observe, you need all your senses by your side.
The area is protected now and it´s known as Madidi National Park. We went to the Madidi by crossing the Beni river and going up the river Tuichi.
The lodge had just beds and the bathrooms were outside. We had water to shower but no electricity so we had to use our flashlights or candles.
We went for long walks with our guide. He was a native and knew the area pretty well but he was not a “guide” in the sense that he didn´t take care of the group as a trained one does. You can imagine that I wanted to take pictures so I stopped more than once. And then he was not there and I couldn´t see the path. I had to shout “hey, where are you, I can´t see you”.
We learnt a lot about plants mostly. Their medicinal uses and what part of the plant you needed for that purpose. We walked in silence since you need to hear the sounds of the jungle, you can´t ignore them. They give you the location of the animals for example. We knew that there was a herd of wild pigs that way. And it was pretty scary! so much so that I didn´t dare grab my camera. We stayed in silence, witnessed them and let them go!
There were lots of ants, spiders, bees, mosquitoes of course and butterflies. They were pretty hard to get!!
We also learnt how to make rings and necklaces out of seeds. It was pretty fun!
Our group was multicultural: three English girls, one guy from France and another guy from Switzerland and our guide from Bolivia or course. And me.
We had dinner with candles and then we just chatted or stayed out if the mosquitoes allowed it. We also went for walks at night.
We had to cross rivers on fallen trees and the girls practiced their skills in the lianas, but just for fun!!
It was a marvelous experience!! Later, I learnt that you could share some time in the native communities so I wrote down the web addresses for another time. It would have been pretty interesting to share some days with them (and practice my poor Quechua that consists of some words I still remember from a course I took some years ago).
We went back to Rurrenabaque since there was another area to explore.
From Buenos Aires, Argentina to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia.
Estimated time: 7 hours 15 minutes
I have to catch the first flight from Buenos Aires (Argentina) to Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia). Get to the airport, hop on the plane, go back to the boarding area an hour later, stay there … hours till the airline finally announces that the flight gest cancelled due to mechanical problems. I lose the connecting flights.
First flight on time. I´m in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. I wait for the next flight to La Paz. Delayed. Nobody knows for how long. Hours. I lose the third flight.
I cannot take an early flight, I have to take the last one. I get to Rurrenabaque late in the evening.
The most impressive thing? The alternate world, when the plane crosses an imaginary line between the real world and the imaginary world … a really peaceful one.
I would have needed just 12 hours (counting the time between connecting flights) to get to Rurrenabaque. Instead, it took me three days. I would have come and gone to and from China in that time!!