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Heading Upriver

Written on: Friday December 21st, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Rurrenabaque, Bolivia 

Author: Julie 

Hola! 

We found out this morning that we are confirmed to head to the lodge on the 23rd. Rosa Maria was able to find a skeleton crew to work over Christmas for us. We were ecstatic to find out that we would be in the rainforest for Chstimas time and not stuck in the city of Rurre. We couldn?t wait to leave, but we still had two days before we could. 

We walked over to the Madidi Travel office to pay for our accommodations and at the same time met our guide Eric. He was born in a community located 8 hours upriver from Rurre and now worked for Rosa Maria as a bilingual guide. He could speak Quechua, Spanish, English, French and German. We had been wondering what to do with ourselves for the next couple of days since Rurre was tiny and there wasn?t much to do. We would be heading downriver to the private reserve so we inquired if we could do a day tour upriver. Rosa Maria called Eric who owned his own boats and motors and we met at 10 AM for a drive up the Madidi River. He was a little late for our meeting and we were getting impatient waiting. When he finally arrived 30 minutes late, we found out someone had untied one of his boats and he spent an hour chasing it down river to drag it back to his place.  

We boarded the long dugout canoe and motored our way up the river. It was a great ride and we enjoyed the hour it took us to get to the entrance to the Bala section of Madidi National Park. We tied up to a tree and walked up to the Park Rangers hut to sign in. The park ranger showed us a scale model of the park and explained the various nature zones. It was interesting to see that the park ranged across so many geographic and nature zones; from mountains to grasslands to jungle. Eric wanted to take us along a hike but the bridge that crossed the river had been severely damaged by flooding the previous week.  

So, we hoped into the boat and headed back down the river a bit to a trailhead leading to a waterfall. Mark was in front of the boat and hoped out to hold the boat down but he sank up to his calves in mud. The flooding of the previous week had raised the river?s level by two meters and the shoreline was still muddy. Eric had a couple of portable wooden ledges to keep things dry on the bottom of the boat. He threw those down in the mud and we were able to get out of the boat without being covered in mud. We headed into the second generation rainforest with its thick brush and large trees. Many of the trees were covered in large, strangling vines. The hike took an hour and we walked along a small, gurgling stream with cold water. Along the way we saw lots of soldier ants, millipedes, and spiders. The hike was interesting with a few rock scramble sections and one slippery, muddy downhill where we had to hold on to ropes to keep our balance. I loved it. It was nice to be active again. We finally arrived to the cute little waterfall. The flies were very bothersome but we were lucky that they weren?t mosquitoes. Eric called them sweat flies and they liked to land on our skin and drink the sweat. Kevin and I quickly stripped down to our bathing suits and got into the water. It took me a while to finally get submerged; the water was very cold on our hot skin. Plus, everyone who knows me know that it takes me forever to get in water. I hate feeling cold! The floor of the pool was made of soft sand and little water skitters danced across the water. We spent a half hour there while we soaked in the water then ate our small lunch, but the sweat flies were getting too bothersome so we packed up and left quickly. The hike back was slower going with us having to climb down all the rocks then climb the rope trail. I was first after Eric and as I grabbed the rope I felt a sharp sting in my finger. I thought it was a sliver from the nylon rope but when I grabbed the rope again I felt another string. At the same time, Kevin felt one too. There was a long line of large ants using the rope as a way down the hill. Luckily, they weren?t poisonous and we walked away with only two red spots were they bit us with their pinchers.  

The boat ride back was too quick for me as I loved just sitting there while the breeze cooled us off. The beauty of the landscape passed by us with its mountains and lush vegetation, and the occasional boat loaded with boxes, bags, and people who lived on plantations upriver. The boat fought the currents of the high river water and rocked us into a relaxed lull. Our arrival back to Rurre was a bit of jolt with the many sounds of people yelling their wares, honking, and the sound of the many motorbikes which are the main form of transportation in the jungle.