Thanks to Natalie and Stephanie for the latest update.
After surviving the perils of the Colca Canyon trek – in cluding earthquakes, landslides and one very hungry alpaca – we headed back to Arequipa for a day. There, we took delight in sleeping in real beds and eating food that wasn’t trail mix or porridge! Some of the group had their first try of alpaca and cuy (guinea pig), which they immensely enjoyed.
We were on the move again soon enough though, with a 9-hour bus ride to Puno, where we would walk across the border into Bolivia. First though, a sample of some street food – with a choice of either a bucket-sized portion of meaty soup or what looked like an entire chicken with rice and potatoes. Bear in mind that it was only 7:30am!
Once in Bolivia, it was another coach trip to La Paz, which is 3600m above sea level. Some of us were already feeling the change in altitude, which we need to get used to for our next trek in a couple of weeks! We had lunch (which consisted of fried eggs for vegetarians Matty and Natalie, but of even more meaty soup and half a chicken for everyone else) and explored the town, coming across the famous Witchy Street where preserved miscarried llamas are sold as good luck objects (???)
The next day, our next adventure started – we were off to the jungle! But first, we had to get there…this time, our coach took 17.5 hours and drove along an extension of Bolivia’s famous death road. It was a long and bumpy ride! However, we arrived safe and sound in Rurrenabaque, and headed to Parque Jacq Cuisi, where Quest’s wildlife project is found.
This project has rescued some pumas from people who had bought them as pets, presumably before realizing that pumas grow rather large and don’t exactly flourish in houses! They are brought to Jacq Cuisi where volunteers care for them and take them for walks – sadly the pumas cannot be released back into the wild because they are too humanized. The job for our Quest team to do while we were there was to help prepare the site that will soon become monkey enclosures, for rescued monkeys. We all helped shift sand and (heavy!) rocks, which will be used for building, to the enclosure site. It was dirty tiring work, but we were rewarded that evening with a refreshing dip in a nearby stream and a barbeque over a fire pit.
Bedtime was an experience – we were staying in a hut in the jungle with bunk beds, straw mattresses, mosquito nets (of course) and a ‘jungle john’ (i.e. longdrop) round the corner! Still, we were too tired to think much of it – although there was a moment when Misha discovered a cockroach on her bed and Emily whacked it with Helena’s copy of Nineteen Eighty Four.
The next day, we were back on the construction site, then in the afternoon we had a relaxing walk through the jungle. Well, in theory…in actual fact, Emily strayed off the jungle path and got a bit lost. Thankfully she was quickly found, thanks to her not-so-subtle calls for help.
Soon, it was time to head back to Rurrenabaque…but in true Latin American style, with everyone sat in the back of a pickup truck!
The ride in the flatbed truck started off as hilarious. The terrain was super bumpy, resembling the ride from La Paz. Backs and behinds were bruised as we endured the hour long journey to the riverside. Back in Rurrenabacque we showered and changed then headed out for a gorgeous meal. Most people ordered the steak with blue cheese, which was delicious. Oreo cake for dessert was equally as yum. After dinner we decided to head to Luna lounge, a cool bar with a tiki vibe. Two for 40 Boliviano cocktails went down a treat.
Next morning we woke early to head down the street to the famed French bakery. A selection of different pastries and milkshakes were on offer, and everybody tucked in. Then we divided up into taxis and drove the long ride to the pampas. Huge dust clouds rose from the road as we drove, making it impossible to see at times. Eventually we pulled up to a muddy slope of riverbank, where we unloaded the bags and jumped into a motorized canoe. It took us down the river to small resort with ecolodges and hammocks. In the evening we went for a boat ride for a couple of hours. Cayman lined the banks, jaws open wide to reveal toothy grins. Birds of all sorts ducked and dived, capybara sat on the shore, brooding. At times we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of monkeys, high up in the canopies. Dinner and some intense card games later we were in bed.
We rose early next morning for breakfast before loading into the canoe for a long day of wildlife spotting. We saw more of the same animals, but this time we had the privilege to jump in and swim with the pink river dolphins. They seemed shy of us though (or maybe we were too scared to swim close) but they kept their distance. All the while we were conscious of the watching caimans.
Only Misha, Pete, Helena and Immy braved the water for a third time in the afternoon, but this time the dolphins were a little further away and a couple of caimans lurked nearby in the water. That swim was short-lived when they thought they felt things nibbling! After a siesta in the hammocks back at the eco park, we hit the water once more for some piranha fishing . Some of us were more successful than others, but some decent sized fish were caught.