We last heard from our South American expedition team as they summitted the snow caps of Pequeño Alpamayo in Bolivia, and scaled down the other side for hot Rum toddies to warm their cockles. Here is the next installment of their epic adventure:
Lonely and without a bus, senor mule boy led us to where
he thought the bus would be waiting… It did eventually arrive, just a couple
of hours later. We were treated to the soundtrack of our lives on the bus with
a pop diva medley – Emma particularly enjoyed the excerpts from Taylor Swift. Arriving back in La Paz and after the excitement of getting laundry done (our
group gets extremely excited by the prospect of clean clothes), camping was not
quite finished as soaking tents were hung out. We could then all relax in
preparation for the next hectic week ahead – consisting of a steakhouse for the
boys, pizza and a movie for the girls.
Saturday – We woke early to ensure time for the unlimited
pancake breakfast, and made our way to the top of La Paz to begin our death
road experience. Armed with helmets, super suspension bikes and a sip of 96%
alcohol (apparently a tradition), we set off down the first 30km of paved road
to get a feel of our bikes before the more interesting terrain. Despite a few
cuts and grazes, we reached the bottom mostly unscathed feeling like we had
cheated death once again! A select few of the group took to the largest and
coolest zipline in South America (as you can see we like to go all out here, no
halfhearted adventures) where Bobby took a superman stance, while the others
experimented with upside down monkey ziplining.
Finally we arrived almost at the doorstep of hotel Esmerelda in Coroico, where a great buffet lunch was waiting for us. The
evening split the group between those in bed by 7, and the hardcore party-goers
hitting the only club in town, leaving late with a few stories to tell…
Sunday – the day of rest, swimming diary writing,
sunburn and a legendary sauna session (you know, standard gap yah!). In the
evening we located the traditional jungle cuisine in the form of a fondue
restaurant, followed by brownie ice creams and money changing in the same
place… Bolivian corner shops do absolutely everything!
Monday- THE JUNGLE BUS!
Much anticipation was felt about the length of this
journey – estimated at anywhere between 11 and 52 hours. At 3am – peak hour for
the drunken Bolivian, we sat like homeless in the central plaza, seeking
shelter on church steps while drunkards lectured Pete on how he was stealing Bolivian employment and was effectively the reason for the second world
war… Almost entertaining, had we not been wet and very tired.
Due to a
landslide on the road further below, we took alternative transport to meet the
bus, and finally started the real journey. 3 hours and a selection of broken
seats later, we stopped in Caranavi, a town on the way into the jungle. It soon
became apparent however that this stop would not be brief, as roadworks on the
road meant it would be closed until 4pm that afternoon, leaving us in the world
town ever, resulting in hours spent in slow internet cafes, and early day
drinking. As 4pm rolled in we were back on the bus for the next stage of our
adventure. Lets just say by the time we arrived in the jungle and ended the 29
hour journey, we were minus three rear seats, lacking a front window (which did
provide extra ventilation) and accompanied by very bruised bodies… We vowed
not to enter another bus for a very long time.
Tuesday & Wednesday – We visited Quest’s Wild Animal Sanctuary project, deep in the Bolivian jungle, tired but ready for two days of hard work! This project is set up to look
after animals that have been maltreated, often being sold through illegal black markets. We were working in the newest park which is being developed
to house monkeys, in the hope that these can be reintroduced back into their natural habitat. We embraced the simple living conditions and tough climate of
the jungle and in only two days managed to accomplish a great amount… Clearing
the choco land ready for agriculture, carrying stones to make a pebbled patio
area and building the Quest toilet for the soon to be arriving Bolivia Gap volunteers. All
our hard work was made worthwhile by a jungle roast dinner and an epic apple
cookie crumble that made the long term volunteers really pleased!
Pampas – We then traveled to the Pampas where we were
treated to great food, wildlife sightings and quick dips in the “amazon
basin”. The group were lucky enough to see Kayman alligators, toucans, pink river dolphins, and even played with monkeys and caught a piranha! On the
last day the sun decided to make an appearance to finish the tour off on a high.
Pete and Rowan also managed to pull off a suprise – instead of having to endure
another jungle ride we were flying back to La Paz!!