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marge & ian’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 09 Feb 2006

Location: *Madidi Jungle - BOLIVIA*, Bolivia

Map*Madidi Jungle - BOLIVIA* 09/02/06 - 13/02/06

09/02/06

Got up at the crack of dawn, and the hotel arranged a taxi for us to the airport. We were glad that someone saw us get in the taxi as La Paz can be really dodgy in the early hours, especially when the concierge told us to lock the doors as soon as we got in the cab! It was a pretty frightening journey with lots of blokes milling around the taxi everytime we stopped at traffic lights, what the hell were they all doing out at 5.00am!! probably on the rob!

After all the formalities we walked out onto the tarmac to see our 12 seater plane, we were both very excited to be going in such a small plane. We knew we would be travelling over the mountains but unfortunately didn´t see much because of the clouds. The most noticable part of the journey was the lack of oxygen and cold temperature as the cabin was not pressurised. When we descended through the clouds after 50 minutes, our eyes were filled with a mass of broccoli below. We had arrived in the jungle!

The plane langed on a grassy airstrip and it didn´t take long to walk through the terminal as it was basically a big shed. We were sweating buckets immediately as it was so hot and humid, very different from La Paz. Our boat to the jungle was not until the next day so we spent the day relaxing in hammocks in the hostel. We didn´t have any energy to do anything else with the heat.... except go to the "Moskkito Bar" in the evening and drink many many cocktails. It was a great bar, very chilled out. Got back to bed at about 2.00am.

10/02/06

Woke up at 5.30am still a little drunk. Had freezing cold showers which woke us up a little. Over breakfast we got talking to an american jungle medic. I was raving on about how exciting the plane journey over was, my bubble was very quickly burst when the guy pointed out the now very obvious dangers of single propellar planes!! Basically if the single engine fails over the mountains you are screwed because there is no-where to land. The "Amaszonas" company that we flew with had lost two planes last year in this manner - omigod REALLY didn´t need to know that!! I started panicking about the flight back and it was still 3 days away!

We headed to our "dugout canoe", for our 5 hour journey into the deep jungle. There was only one other person on our trip so there were 4 of us including the guide in total.

We travelled up river for an hour before having to dock to get our passes into the "Madidi National Park" and for a wee. I came out of the toilet only to meet the rangers pet.......a Giant Anteater called Lisa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wouldn´t go near her, she was well creepy, I had never ever seen one, let alone just walking around. Also she was strange because she was like a kid/dog, the way that she clung onto the rangers leg as if scared! The ranger then picked her up and she wrapped her clawed paws around him. You will see in the photo´s that Ian wasn´t very keen on picking her up but because she smelt! He did get his leg hugged though!

Almost immediately after getting back into the boat a tropical rainstorm broke out. We were at the front of the boat and despite wearing ponchos got drenched for the best part of 4 hours.

After a short hike through the jungle we arrived at a clearing which was "Chalalan Eco Lodge". This is an entirely community based project, which supports local villages. The accomodation was fantastic, set on the side of a lake surrounded the primary rainforest. There were nets and meshes everywhere to stop the creepy crawlies getting in - I was suitably impressed!

Soon after dumping our bags the guide took us onto the lake in a canoe. Within the first 10 minutes we had seen "Cappuchin Monkeys", "Red Howler Monkeys", and my personal favourite, "Common Yellow Squirrel Monkeys", they were all over the place just jumping around from tree to tree and they came pretty close to have a nosey at us. We never imagined how noisy a group of 100 cheeky monkeys could be! I was in my element and LOVED every minute.

The guide knew the noises of all the different birds, Macau´s, Parrots etc.. and could make these respond to him by mimicking them - pretty impressive. The jungle was alive with noises.

After dinner, Ian went on a night jungle walk with the guide, with nothing but his courage and a torch, I opted for obvious reasons! He saw frogs, toads and rats - glad I didn´t bother!

11/02/06

Went on a 5 hour jungle trek - very hot and sweaty and quite unpleasant, but we saw lots of tracks for wild pigs, these are the primary food for the jaguars and pumas that live in the jungle. Massive electric blue butterflies, parrots, more monkeys, gigantic 24 hour ants, iguanas and our favourite a small green python.

In the evening Ian took the opportunity to go out on the lake in the dark again with the guide looking for "Cayman" (these are south american crocs). You can see them looking at you out of the trees at the waters edge by shining your torch. All you can see are two red dots looking at you. He was disappointed to only get to see two baby Cayman of about 1ft length each, mummy wasn´t around (they can be up to 3m long).

12/02/06

After breakfast we got our boat back to Rurrenabaque, a much nicer journey, no rain. Hung around in the hammocks again as it was far too hot to do anything.

13/02/06

Got up way to early, didn´t realise it was only 7.30am. It was to our advantage that we had got up so early though as we managed to get on the earlier flight instead of the 2.00pm one. There was me and Ian and a Canadian guy called Mark who managed to get on the earlier one.

Got to the airport, I was cacking myself before I even got on the plane. It eventually turned up and I thought that I was going to soil myself I was that scared, I have never ever been so scared of a flight in my life. To make matters worse we were behind the pilots so I could see their every move. I felt sick. The journey went smoothly apart from the last 20 minutes which were bumpy because of the low cloud. We couldn´t see anything out of the windows and I had images of crashing into the mountains, not very good. What realy worried me was when I saw the pilots putting on thier oxygen and looking out of the window as if they were looking for ANOTHER plane! With hindsight I think they were looking or La Paz airport though the clouds I hope.

After saying our goodbyes to Mark we checked back into our loveley hotel and Ian went to try and get some flights to Montevideo in Uruguay. He spent 3 hours searching for ANY flight out of Bolivia and could not find even ONE within a weeks time. He tried Buenos Aires, Sau Paulo, Rio, and even some obscure place in Brasil. No Joy. In the end he booked a 3 hour bus journey to a place called Oruro (more of this place later) with a connection to an overnight first class train to the Argentinian boarder. Sounded easier than the altenative MINIMUM 40 hour bus journey though Bolivia and Paraguay on roads that are prone to landslides in the wet season (we are in the wet season). We were looking forward to getting out of Bolivia.