Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Rurrenabaque 11.11.09

From Coroico I wanted to go to Rurrenabaque, which looks obvious on the map. But in practice one has to take a transport 8km down to the dusty transport junction Yolosita (not to be confused with the nearby Yolosa) and then wait until the bus passes by at some ill defined moment after 2pm and run for it! There were three other foreigners waiting, 2 Germans and a Canadian girl but when the bus finally showed up there was no space! They had no record of our reservations and furthermore, I had not been issued a proper ticket and had to argue heatedly with the lady-conductor who was disinclined to let me on the bus. Eventually I convinced her to call the agent to try to confirm that they had sold it to me. The driver came too but no-one was answering the phone. Eventually they let me on anyway and found two seats, two others sat up the front with the driver and everything was fine. 15 hours later, after a long, excruciatingly bumpy bus ride I ended up at the same hostal as Jessie, the Canadian girl, by chance and convinced her to come to Serere – the rainforest eco-lodge which Andre recommended.

The next morning we went to the Madidi Travel office, where the back garden gate leads directly to the river and we took a boat two hours up the Rio Beni. They gave us a ´box lunch´! along the way.
When wee arrived we went to our cabins and unpacked and then went to the Casa Grande for a drink and a rest in the hammocks before our first trip at 4pm. The cabins are far from the Casa Grande and the lake, in the middle of the rainforest and are floor to ceiling walled only by insect netting. So it is protected but at the same time open to the forest. There are two pet Macaws, one red and one blue one, and a spider monkey with a baby which it carries all the time on her back.
Our first trip was a canoe ride on the lake by the Casa Grande where we saw a lot of different birds, squirrel monkeys and far off in the middle of the lake, a Caiman´s head.
After dinner we went for a night walk, but didn’t find much, one nocturnal monkey up in the trees. We just saw its eyes, glinting in the reflection of the torch light. We also found a lot of huge spiders, out hunting, with their massive, elaborate webs.

In the morning we started out early on an interesting walk in which our guide, Nilo, pointed out various medicinal plants, and one highly toxic tree which they used to make the poison darts from. We saw a colony of tiny fruit bats, just big enough to fit in the cup of your hand, nestled amongst the folds of the huge buttress roots of a fig tree, chattering and squeaking away. We visited a nesting caiman (like an alligator) who stays in the water submerged, by the side of the nest, a huge mound of sticks and grass and mud in which there are about 80 eggs. As soon as we approached, her head came up, eyeing us suspiciously. A little bit closer and she shoots up out of the water onto the nest, looking rather aggressive. After a while we decided not to push our luck and to leave.

to be ctd...

Coroico 6.11.9

I came to Coroico and holed up in a beautiful retreat, Hostal Sol y Luna, a long walk out of town, but well worth it. It is set in the midst of a colourful, lush tropical garden. There is a pool and a restaurant, the rooms are lovely and the whole atmosphere is sheltering, comfortable and relaxing.

The road to Coroico is a little hairy - according to the histrionic Lonely Planet writer, it is ´the most dangerous road in the world´. I went in a combi full of locals, which is cost me a bit of time to find, as they leave from a fairly obscure location in Villa Fatima, a suburb up the hill from the centre, and the taxi driver left me in the wrong place (next time, ask for Transportes YungueƱa I think it was called). I got the usual curious stares and questions and was then mostly ignored. The road is extremely narrow, rough dirt and with a 1km drop off the side down into the canyon. In places it was barely wide enough for the mini-van to pass. I only felt nervous when we had to pass other vehicles - once a larger bus and we were just a hairs breadth away from the side of the cliff. A couple of times we passed beneath waterfalls spilling over the side of the road. The Yungas - a transitional region between the Andes and the Amazona - are beautifulk. Still a dramatic mountain-scape but covered in lush sub-tropical vegetation, ferns and tall trees carpeted in furry mosses and lichens and others adorned with pink tree orchids.