Life after Pumas

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
1
28
31
Trip End Apr 06, 2013


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

AK's jungle adventure.......

Day 1

The alarm went off at 6:30am and AK was up and straight in the shower, then went to Kyle's room to make sure he was up as they'd planned to go out early to buy supplies. They bought hammocks, a pot & kettle, and a few other necessary supplies, they decided to buy the food in the small jungle town of Ixiamas four hours drive away from Rurrenabaque.
AK said one last goodbye to SJ at the hostel, told her to be careful and he would see her the week after, then headed off across the river with Kyle and Kate. After waiting for about thirty minutes, they managed to get in a minivan, but only half way to the small village of Tumupasa, this wasn't ideal but the best they could get. It took about three hours to reach Tumupasa, as the van broke down twice on the way.
Tumupasa was a nice little village, surrounded in jungle and pampas, and the people were very friendly, with no other white people in site....completely different to Rurrenebaque in that respect. It was a long wait for the next bus to Ixiamas, so AK, Kyle and Katie decided to buy a beer and a bag of coca leaves, a bag of shit coca leaves as it turned out, buy they chewed them none the less, while flagging down passing lorries trying for a hitch, but having no luck. AK and Kyle started to play with a young lads catterpult, setting up a couple of beer cans as targets, taking it in turns to try and knock them over, it turned out the kid was the only one handy with a catterpult. In the mean time Kate had decided to get her head down on the path at the side of the road....even coca couldn't keep her awake.
It was a few hours until a bus turned up for Ixiamas, so when we spotted it, we wasted no time in jumping on, taking the three seats at the back while chewing coca. By the time we arrived in Ixiamas, the sun had gone down, this meant it wasn't possible to start our trek today as the spot where we were going from was another two hour ride further into the unknown. It was decided that we would go and see a woman that Kate stayed with when she done her jungle trek with El Niño a few weeks before.
We arrived at this woman's house, not knowing what kind of reception we would get, three gringos turning up at her house in the night, wanting to set up our hammocks in her garden. Kate was confident that she would be very welcoming though, and she was right. As soon as we arrived she greeted us and invited us into her one room house, where she was sat with six children watching a film in black and white. We tried to get the colour onto her tv, which we couldn't do, then went into the garden to set yo our hammocks, then it was out to buy some dinner, and some sweets for the kids as a thank you for her kind gesture.

Day 2

Morning time came and we'd all had a rough sleep in our hammocks. Between the dusty garden, cockerels cockadoodling and dogs barking all night, it made for a pretty poor nights sleep. We wasted no time in packing up our hammocks, saying goodbye to our very kind host, and walking to the small market to buy our food supplies that would last us for the next four days in the jungle.
After buying our supplies for our trek....along with extras should the unthinkable happen, Kyle went to see a old guy he'd been told about to get his machete sharpened, this would be vital for chopping our way through the jungle. The woman who'd told Kyle about the guy who'd sharpen his machete, also told us to be careful where we were headed as there was pumas in the distant hills....this was quite a scary prospect, but a exciting one at the same time. AK already had "La Puta" (the bitch), the machete he bought in La Paz to bring to the amazon with him. Now it was time to try and get a two hour ride to the Undumo river, where we would our adventure.
The plan was to follow a trail Kate had taken with a local guide a few weeks before, this wasn't a tourist route she went on, tours wouldn't venture into these parts because of the possibility of extra danger that lurked. This is what appealed to us when we initially started talking about making our own trip, Kate was convinced that if we found the Undumo river where we she started, we could follow it to a secluded waterfall over four days.
After waiting outside a small shack in the blistering heat, for about three hours, we decided that if we wanted to make it into the jungle today, we would need to jump on a couple of moto taxi's (the local motor bike taxi's). Kyle being the only fluent Spanish speaker, sorted out a price for three of us to jump on two bikes. We were riding on the back of these bikes for a couple of hours when we came to the Undumo river, the only problem was Kate didn't recognise it...this was not a good situation. After standing round for half an hour, keeping the bikes there while we made a decision, we decided we would carry on to the next big river, which our drivers told us was about another forty five minutes ride away.
When we arrived at the next river the problem got worse, Kate still didn't recognise it & we were further into the unknown. We decided that we would get off here and just follow the river for four days....sounds easy! AK knew he'd told SJ before he'd left, that he'd be back on Saturday at the latest, but as we had a bit more of a unknown adventure ahead of us, he decided to write a text out on the drivers phone, gave him ten b's and asked him to send it to her number when he got back to civilisation....knowing that there would be a ninety five percent chance that he wouldn't.
The drivers turned round and left, there was no going back from here. Kate felt bad that she couldn't find the river where we were headed, but we reassured her that it was ok and we would make the most of our trip anyway, besides it was sort of better that none of us knew where we were, a lot more adventurous! The sun was close to going down, so we had to start making our way up river to find a camp spot for the night. At first we were unsuccessful, the river split off almost instantly, and the jungle at the side was much too thick for us to chop through in the fading light. We back tracked slightly and found a bit of a sandy spot on the river bank, by this time we had no choice anyway as the only light we were getting from the sky was the moon, albeit a very bright moon.
We wasted no time looking for dry wood for our camp fire, we needed a fire to cook our food, and to give us some light. We began to hear some quite peculiar noises from all around us, but nothing too threatening. Kate kept on returning with good piles of wood, for which she was wondering off quite far, we would shout her to see if she was ok if we hadn't seen or heard her for five minutes. We agreed that if anybody is to be on there own while it's dark, whether it's to find fire wood or use the toilet, they would take a machete with them. Two machetes between three people meant that we wouldn't split off with one person being left without one....just in case!
The fire was started with no problems, so while Kate prepared the food, AK & Kyle found palm stalks to use as sort of cooking splints. They worked perfect for boiling water and cooking food, so we did exactly that. On the menu tonight was vegetable pasta with herbs, washed down with hot chocolate. After dinner we washed the pans in the stream, and sat around the camp fire laughing, bambo's "let us waste not haste" in an olde English accent comment got us going, then we had the giggles for hours! He was meant to say it the other way round but got it wrong, for the next four days we would joke with each other by speaking in an olde English accent....the things that keep you going in the jungle! Kyle acquired his unwanted nick name "Bambo" the week before at Jacj Cuisi, when putting on his bandana, he called himself Rambo, which promoted us to say he was Rambo's weaker side kick, Bambo....never call your self Rambo!
The day had been long and it was time to go bed, we lay on the sand circling the campfire in our sleeping bags, and fell asleep to the strange sounds of the jungle!

Day 3

We woke up at 7am after a much needed good nights sleep, the sun was shining down & the sound of the jungle got us excited. Today we planned to chop our way through some of the jungle, to our next location, but first we needed breakfast. Kyle had already started to get the fire going, so we put on some porridge, and boiled a kettle for hot chocolate. We also used the hot chocolate to flavour our porridge, as we never brought any sugar, plus it was made with water which was pretty tasteless on it's own. Packing up camp was a slow process, by now the sun was so hot we were sweating without doing hardly anything. We would've cooled down by going for a dip in the clear river, but there were that many sand flies around our camp we would've got annihilated by them as soon as we got stripped off.

We eventually got packed up & it was time to leave for our hike. We walked up the river for ten minutes, then took our shoes off and rolled up our trousers to wade across it, to make an entry into the jungle. At first it was pretty tough, the jungle was pretty thick on the river bank, but once we were in, it was a bit easier....in places! We would head towards the next river, guiding ourselves through the jungle using our compass bearings, the compass belonged to Kyle, he got it from his grandfather who used it in different parts of the world many years ago, we were relying on it to keep us safe....well that and the machetes of course.

We had been walking for a couple of hours, when out of nowhere, appeared a group of about seven Marmoset monkeys. We quickly put our bags down in haste to grab our cameras to try and snap the group of cute little monkeys before they left, but we quickly found out that they weren’t gonna leave in a hurry. In fact the Marmosets were just as intrigued by us, as we were by them. They were climbing up and down the tree trunks and swinging off branches, while we were free to stand there and take photos and watch them playing. We were so happy and excited to see the small, playful monkeys up close, this is one of the things we had come for. After a good half an hour, the Marmosets stayed for a good thirty to forty minutes, and then they set and left us with huge smiles on our faces.

After the excitement of the monkeys, it was time for us to proceed with the trek, we had to keep going as we had no idea how long it would take us to get to our destination. Another hour of walking had passed, AK at this particular point was at the front, clearing a path through the jungle for the three of us to walk through. AK hacked through a bunch of vines, and about a second later, felt a sharp, painful sting right on the tip of his nose. He looked down and seen a cricket jump off his nose back into the bush, when he turned round to Kate & Kyle, they just started laughing at the fact that his eyes had filled up and started streaming profusely. AK also had a little giggle, but had to put up with the stinging for about another thirty minutes.

We had been walking for about six hours when we came across a clearing in the jungle, which lead us out onto a small, quiet dirt road. We decided to use this to help take us to the next part of the river. We assumed it wouldn’t take long to reach our destination, but after another long two hours walking, we finally reached it. Again we had to wade across another river, which wasn’t the easiest when the bed was covered in stones, and we were carrying backpacks, plus a heavy bag of food etc. We found another decent spot to set up camp, again along the river bank, and again, just as it was going dark.
AK & Kyle wasted no time in rigging up a similar cooking system as the night before, using the same palm branches and sturdy sticks. The food we cooked was just as nice as it was the night before. AK & Kyle cracked on with the main course, while Kate got to work making us some chapattis. AK & Kyle were surprised how tasty they were, using just flour, water & garlic for flavour. We spent the next few hours talking and laughing for hours, until we fell asleep next to the fire with our machetes by our sides.

Day 4

We woke up early after another decent sleep, again the sun was beating down hard. Another breakfast of porridge and hot chocolate and we packed up our camp, a bit quicker than yesterday as we didn’t want to set up tonight’s camp in the dark as we’d done the past two nights. The sun was so hot this morning that we decided we’d strip off and go for a dip in the river to cool down. We all got in with a bar of soap, and had a nice soak and swim, we then covered ourselves in mud from the river bed, and took photos of us looking like real jungle folk. After being in our underwear for about thirty minutes, we got our clothes back on, only to realize we had been absolutely hammered by the sand flies…a big price to pay for a small dip in the river. We knew from our experience at Jacj Cuisi that sand fly bites were actually worse than mosquito bites (excluding the malaria and dengue fever factors of course), the itching was more intense and the bites could easily be there for a month or more.
It was time for us to leave and spend the best part of the day trekking through the jungle. Again there were some dense parts, and some not so dense parts, but that was all part of the fun. We even had a few fallen trees to cross and Kyle took one or two opportunities to climb some high trees, he was like another monkey we could observe. Today’s trek was a lot tougher then the day before, as we came across some parts of the jungle that were so thick that we couldn’t chop through it, instead we had to go off course and make our way around them. After coming across some of the biggest trees we had ever seen, and listening to the sound of macaws flying above us, we again found ourselves at an un-passable bit of bush. Kyle was in front at this point, and as Kate followed him she accidently stood on a wasp nest and disturbed them. It was her chance to get stung today, only it wasn’t quite as funny as AK’s experience with the cricket the day before….well, not at first anyway. She instantly got stung three or four times on the bottom of her legs, we all wasted no time in getting the fuck out of there before we got involved in a full blown wasp attack. AK & Kyle managed to get away without getting stung, thankfully Kate never got any more than the initial three or four on her legs, although they were painful nonetheless. We had a joke about it afterwards when Kate felt a bit better, we said it was Kyle’s turn next.
We’d only been walking for about three hours when we randomly came across a banana plantation. We had been following compass bearings like the day before, but never expected to end up here. We walked through the plantation looking for ripe crops, but unfortunately there wasn’t any. The plantation brought us out onto another little dirt track with a farm opposite, and amazingly Kate recognized it. It was the farm she stopped off at when she done her first jungle expedition with El Nino, now she knew where she was, and we weren’t far from where we should’ve started our journey a couple of days before. We walked onto the farm and gave a shout of “hola” as we approached the old wooden, rickety house. Nobody turned up for about ten minutes, when a guy came strolling up towards us with one eye, a machete and a rifle. Kyle started talking to him in Spanish straight away, and explained that we were with Kate who had visited him before with El Nino, he seemed like a decent guy and just asked us what our plans were. Kyle told him we were taking the river to a camp that Kate knew, this is where we should’ve stayed on the first night, but we’d had our own little unknown adventure anyway so we didn’t mind.
We left the local guy to walk to the river just fifteen minutes away, when we got there we discovered, much to our surprise, that it was the first river we stopped off on the motorbikes on our way here from Ixiamas. Kate hadn’t recognized it as she’d missed a clearing on the right and got a bit confused at the time, at least now she knew exactly where we were so she knew the trail we could take to tonight’s camp. We crossed yet another river, we’d got used to this by now but not grown any fonder, it was just a pain in the arse to take our shoes and socks off and haul our stuff across…but it was necessary. We crossed the river, walked about ten minutes and were totally surprised to find we’d ended up at last night’s camp, we’d done one big loop today. Anyway Kate assured us that we were only a couple of hours away maximum from our camp, so we soldiered on.
We made good time walking along the river bank and walking through the jungle, and then turned up at a well set up camp used by El Nino. It was a nice clearing on the edge of the jungle, with the river just down the bank, also we got here about 4pm which meant we had a couple oh hours of sun before it started going dark. This gave us plenty of time to set up our hammocks and fishing lines, and also get a fire going to try and get rid of some of the sand flies and mosquitoes that were hanging round our camp. We’d just put a kettle on the fire to boil, and put our make shift fishing lines together (very badly at that), when AK seen the same guy from the farm, walking towards us from the river….carrying his machete and rifle. AK thought it was a bit strange as he approached, this spot was over two hours, probably closer to three from his farm, and he’d turned up where we told him we were coming. As he approached up the bank Kate seemed to think he would be ok. We greeted each other with a smile and “hola, como estas” then he and Kyle stared talking, it was times like this when AK and Kate wished they’d spoke more Spanish. Kyle explained to him that we were going to try some fishing, and showed him our shitty, gringo make shift lines. He must’ve instantly realized how bad they were and sat there for around forty minutes while he fixed the three of them, doing a much better job than us. We made him a hot chocolate, and then when he finished with our fishing lines we looked at them and realized he knew exactly what he was doing, and we didn’t. He left after about an hour when it was dark, he was going to fish further up river with just his machete and a torch…and one eye of course. We said “ciao”, not knowing whether he was going to return or not.
We had dinner and were chilling at our not so roaring fire, a lot of the wood around camp was damp which made it hard for us to keep it going. A couple of hours had passed when we heard this guy returning, walking up to our camp, he had bag full of fish and gave us one to use as bait. We thought this was very kind and instantly started cutting chunks off and putting it through our hooks. He never stayed for too long, and left us to get on with fishing, we said “mucho gracias para la pescano” and waved him off. When he left we wrapped the remainder of the fish up in a big palm leaf, and left it on as hot rock next to the fire to cook. Kate stayed at camp and we left a machete with her, this camp was possibly a bit more dangerous as far as wild animals were concerned, as it was in the dark of the jungle. Just a few meters away though, when you came out of the jungle and onto the river, the moon was so bright we could see everything. After hopping onto a few rocks to some deeper water, AK and Kyle cast there lines in and sat with them for a while. AK noticed that looking at the reflections coming from the rocks in the water, looked like hundreds of caimans surrounding them, thankfully though it was just reflections….we think. After about an hour of no bites, AK and Kyle left their lines in and returned to camp to sit near the low burning fire. They checked on the fish on the rock and it was cooked already, the only thing is, they realized they hadn’t gutted it prior to cooking it, also by this time Kate had fallen asleep in her hammock and we were getting some very strange noises in and around the camp. Knowing that we were in Jaguar territory we decided it would be best to get rid of this freshly cooked smelling fish. The noises were so prominent by now that AK and Kyle had their hands firmly on their machetes, waiting for some sort of animal to turn up. No more time was wasted in deciding what to do with the fish, and it was brought down to the river and left on a rock out of the way from our camp. By now the fire was at its lowest and it was so dark around camp we couldn’t see more than a few meters around us, Kate being asleep was oblivious to the activity around the camp, but AK and Kyle were definitely tuned into it. With no more light from the fire, AK and Kyle jumped into their hammocks which were side by side, they thought it best to have their heads on the river bank end so they were facing towards the jungle. They stuck their machetes into the grounds next to them for easy access, and lay awake listening to the rustling, at one point after about a minute of rustling a large mouse came from nowhere and disappeared just as quick, thank god it was just a mouse. AK drifted off not too long after but Kyle was still awake, AK was woken up not long after drifting off, to the sound of Kyle’s machete rapidly being drawn from the ground, AK grabbed his instantly expecting the worst but thankfully it was a false alarm. This was by far the most heart racing and scary night they had spent camping, but at the same time the best, as the added danger factor made it so much more exciting. They both dropped off and slept until morning.

Day 5
After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, AK woke up to find Kyle was already awake, and Kate was still asleep. We had survived the night without getting attacked as we thought we might, its amazing how much safer you feel in the jungle in the light of day, Kate woke up and was oblivious to the activity around camp during the night so AK and Kyle told her all about it. To save time we ate last night’s left over’s for breakfast, packed up our stuff, and went to go and vines to swing off. We only walked about ten minutes when we came across some vines on a steep bank, we climbed up the bank and proceeded to swing on the vines which were a lot of fun. We took videos and photos as the three of us took turns to swing out on them.
After the fun of the vines, it was time to return to camp to pick up our gear, then made the journey back down the river to the road, and eventually back to Ixiamas and civilization. As we made our way down the river bank, we noticed fresh caiman and jaguar footprints in the sand, we couldn’t believe that we were camping so close to these animals and realized we were right to be slightly scared and cautious the night before. We also realized that the river we went swimming in the day before was the same one, which meant we were swimming where there were possible caimans….if only we knew at the time. We reached the road and the guy’s farm not far from there, gave him all of our left over food and said thank you again for the fish, but quite embarrassingly had to tell him we were unsuccessful in catching our own. We left his farm and walked down the road for about twenty minutes in the sweltering heat, we’d almost forgotten how hot the mid day sun can get without the shade of the forest canopy, so we decided instead of walking we would just sit in the shade at the side of the road and wait for a lift.
We weren’t waiting for too long when a big logging truck pulled up when we flagged it down, we told the driver we were heading to Ixiamas and could we get a lift, he told us jump on top of the truck on we can ride on top. The ride was perfect, it was a slow journey along the edge of the jungle, with the sun shining down. Also one of the local guys who was also catching a ride on top, had big bag of grapefruit, we bought three for two b’s (20p), and they were the sweetest and juiciest we had tasted, so good we bought a couple more off him.
It took two hours to reach Ixiamas, we jumped off the truck and went straight to the bus stand to find out if we could get back to Rurrenabaque that day, but the woman behind the desk was very vague and wasn’t very helpful, nothing we hadn’t dealt with before though. We decided we would buy a cheap bottle of rum, and sit outside the bus stand to either hitch a lift, or wait for a possible mini bus. AK used the spare time to go to the only internet shop and e mail SJ to tell her he was ok, he was surprised to find a few messages from SJ saying that she was really worried and to get in touch as soon as he can, before she “raises the alarm”. AK told SJ before he left that he would be back on Saturday at the latest, and to start worrying if he didn’t get in touch by Sunday, it was Saturday today so SJ, who was in Sucre further south, was getting a bit worried. At least now she could put her worried mind at ease.
Eventually a minibus to Rurrenabaque turned up, so we bought three tickets, and jumped on for the four hour minimum journey back. The journey back was long and we were all really tired, we took it in turns to listen to songs on Kate’s iPod, and spoke about our great little adventure. Amazingly we only broke down once, but this was a good chance to stretch our legs and look at the amazing looking orange moon in the black night sky. We arrived in San Buenaventura late at night, and made the small boat journey across the Beni to Rurranabaque, where we went straight to a chicken place that Kyle knew, then back to our hostel where the three of us shared a room. The next day we would all leave each other to make our journeys to where ever we were going next, not knowing if we would see each other again, but that’s travelling I suppose. You meet so many great people with the uncertainty of ever meeting them again…but we had the best adventure together, and we made it back in one piece, and with many wonderful memories!!

Meanwhile.........

While AK was in the jungle SJ was making her way to Sucre via La Paz. After a fairly decent lie in once AK had left SJ got up and got ready. She had decided to visit the French bakery for the last time but first she had to find a hostel to stay in. After walking around for a bit with her rather heavy backpack in the jungle heat she settled on a fairly upmarket (upmarket for hostels in Bolivia) private room at the pricely sum of 80bs (£8).

After dropping off her bags she headed to the French bakey and had freshly baked quaissant with freshly squeezed orange juice. After a walk round the shops and after sending some time with Bruno the gringo dog she bumped into Dave, Pete and Devan and decided to have lunch with them. It was nice to catch up with them again but SJ was sad all over again saying goodbye. After some more shopping for things like peanut butter SJ headed back to her hostel to shower, pack her backpack and have an early night as she was up 6am to catch her flight.

The alarm went off and after getting up, fairly easily by SJ's standards, she was ready and waiting at the TAM office for the bus to Rurre airport. TAM is a military run airline so SJ had images of a military style plane without seats and everyone sat on their luggage. She was to be pleasantly suprised but her nerves were kicking in about flying as they usually did!

After arriving at he airport (as previously described the airport was a grapes field, a strip of Tarmac and a wooden shack) SJ paid the two airport taxes of 7bs thinking that this was just a way to rip off tourists as usual. SJ was sat in the waitin area as the plane she was to take arrived and she was pleased to see that it was a regular plane that looked fairly new and was bigger than the plane her and AK got four weeks previously to arrive in the jungle. When it was time to board SJ took a deep breath, walked up the steps and got on the plane. It was a fairly pleasant flight with only very light turbulence, a free sandwich and a drink. Toward the end of the 35 minute flight SJ started to panick when a guy rushed den the plane to talk to the flight attendant who then rushed back up the plane with the passenger. Now, the normaly rational SJ started to panick and was convinced one of the engines was on fire or something but to her relief the passengers friend had passed out and that's why he summoned the flight attendant! After receiving oxygen and a check by the guy sat next to SJ (who wash doctor or something) he returned to his seat. The doctor guy told SJ that the passenger was drunk, hence the reason for passing out.

The plane landed safe and sound at the military airport and after retrieving her backpack (it is always a tense time waiting for the return of your backpack as your whole traveling life is stuffed into that 65l bag and we would be devastated if it ever went missing) it was time to try and get a taxi, without getting ripped off, using very basic broken Spanish.

After being approached by several taxi drivers SJ settled on a middle aged, slightly on the large side guy as, should she need to, she could spray him with her pepper spray and coupled with the fact he was very over weight and had stinging eyes there was little chance he could run after her! As it turned out though she wasn't on her own in the taxi, after giving SJ a price of 60bs he went off in search of other passengers. He returned with 3 freindly girls from Israel who told SJ that they were paying 45bs.....for all three of them! Now SJ is not tight with her dosh but she hates getting ripped off so after one of the girls kindly trying to argue with the driver in spanish and him refusing to change the price SJ told him in English (had she known the Spanish equivalent she would have used it) that he 'was a fucking disgrace who brings shame on his country for ripping off a girl traveling on her own ' and that she was 'done with this fucking country and I'm never coming back here to spend my hard earned gringo money again'. SJ was not sure if he understood her, although she felt he got the gist of what she said but something worked as he only charged her 40bs! Much more than the other girls but a third less than he had quoted.

Because she was familiar with it and because we had stored a few bits and bobs there SJ decided to stay at the Onkel Inn 1886 where her and SJ had stayed last time in La Paz. So after checking in and getting the exact same bed as previously SJ headed out for some supplies and to book her ticket for the bus to Sucre. After booking her ticket for the following day at 7.30pm, buying face wash and something for dinner SJ headed back to the hostel for something to eat. SJ also retrieved the parcel full of natural insect repellant that had been delivered to the Hostel in her and AK's absence! It only took the Bolivian postal service 5 weeks to deliver the parcel!

SJ got talking to a nice girl from England called Ruth. She was traveling on her own for three months and had so far packed in loads and loads. After chatting to Ruth for a while SJ headed off for an early night.

The following day SJ and Ruth headed out to the Witches market and had a look around the street markets. After an afternoon shopping (during which SJ only bought one thing, a silver ring for £10 that AK later said looked like a power rangers ring, therefore putting SJ off it for good!) we headed out to Mario's for Chinese chicken curry. After dinner SJ gathered up her things, said goodbye to Ruth and jumped in a taxi to the 'terminal de buses'.

After arriving at the bus station, working out which bus stop was hers she checked her bags and even though she was desperate for the toilet she decided to wait until she got on the bus as there was bound to be toilets on an overnight bus! So she boarded the bus and sat down. SJ had chosen a seat on the upper floor, at the very front next to the window. She figured this would be he safest and comfiest seat as there would be no one in front putting their seat back. Before getting settled with her book SJ headed off to find the toilet only to discover, to her horror, that there was not one and that the stop for the toilet was five and a half hours away! she returned to her seat, crossed her legs and got stuck into the book.

At the point when SJ thought she would have to go for a wee right there in the aisle of the bus, it stopped and she heard the driver shout 'baño' meaning that, thank god, it was a toilet stop. SJ rushed off the toilet and into the building, asked donde esta baño?. SJ found the baño only to be confronted with a very dirty and smelly toilet, minus the seat, toilet paper or a flusher and the door consisted of a curtain that didn't preserve your modesty at all! No time to worry about trivialities like that though so SJ got on with it!

Back on the bus a happy SJ got settled down for a sleep and as it was 1.30am she drifted off fairly easily. Some hours later SJ awoke knowing something was wrong but in her sleepy state didn't know what until she realised that there was ice on the inside of the windows! She looked around at the other, mostly Bolivian, passengers and realised that they were all fast asleep under a mountain of blankets, thick coats, hats and gloves! The bus, being cheap and in Bolivia it was foolish to think they would put the heater on and in actual fact it felt like the heaters were blowing out cold air! A freezing cold SJ, teeth chattering, proceeded to promptly search for extra layers in the small backpack she had with her! As SJ's big backpack containing items such as jumpers, hat, gloves and other warm items was stored under the bus the only extra items she had with her was a thin scarf, a single fleece, and a pair of PJ's. So SJ proceeded to put on the PJ's over her clothes, wrapped the scarf around her head and put the fleece over the lot. It was an improvement but not nearly enough to keep her warm.

A cold and tired SJ arrived in Sucre and jumped straight into a taxi. SJ came prepared and had written down the address of a hostel she had booked in advance in La Paz so she handed it to the taxi driver and arrived 5 minutes later. SJ was shown to her little private room with private bathroom and apart from the fact there was no tap on the sink, there was plaster all over the floor and the window didn't have a lock on it, it was quite cozy! The owner of the hostel promised to fix the problems reported above so SJ, reluctantly headed out to explore sucre while waiting fir the room to be fixed.

Sucre is a pleasant place and is classed as the Capitol of Bolivia although lots of Bolivians argue that La Paz is the Capitol! But that's Bolivia for you! SJ had some toast for breakfast at a little cafe, sat in the Plaza de 25 watching the pigeons and then after a few hours headed back to the hostel. The room was ready and SJ got settled and headed out to the supermarket for supplies. Supplies included noodles with broccoli for dinner and a can of Diet Coke which is very hard to come by in South America so SJ was very happy with her purchases.

Before dinner SJ watched a couple of chick flicks, Dear John & Pretty Woman for the zillionth time. It was while SJ was chilling that it started to dawn on her that AK had gone off into the jungle, with out a guide and she had no way of contacting him until he was out! She started to worry but thought that she didn't have too long for news as AK should be out the jungle by the following evening evening and had promised to email her. He had also said that if she had not heard anything by Saturday to start worrying so she decided not to stress too much and after noodles for dinner she headed off for an early night.

Back Together, ahhhhh ............


After a great lie in SJ woke up happy that today AK would be out the jungle and would email her that evening. Breakfast was peanut butter on bread and then SJ headed out to explore again. After a look around the shops SJ settled in the Plaza again to watch the locals, stroke the stray dogs and feed the pigeons. About 20 minutes after SJ got settled she was approached by a young local guy about 25 years old. He asked if she spoke Spanish and after SJ answered in English that she didn't he started to speak to her in English. After a short conversation he asked if she could help him practice his English. SJ was sceptical as she had heard about scams that started just like this one so she said she could help for a little bit but then she had to leave. At this point an older local guy came and sat between SJ and the younger local guy. SJ was initially relieved until the older guy started to ask her if she liked Sucre and if she was traveling alone. It may have all been innocent but that fact he took SJ's hand and proceeded to kiss the back of it several times made her think otherwise! She promptly left and went to an internet cafe to catch up on emails.

SJ bought ingredients for sardine & tomato pasta (it sounds disgusting but as long as you remove the little bones it is very nice) and headed back to the Hostel. A quick check of emails found nothing from AK so after dinner SJ watched Forrest Gump in her room and after another check for emails yielded no update she went to bed rather worried.

Saturday morning came and SJ was convinced there would be an email from AK overnight so when she seen there was nothing an the fact it was Saturday, the day to start worrying, the panic started to set in. After a shower SJ headed out to the Plaza again to try and pass some time with her book. She sat with a little companion in the form of an elderly and rather smelly little dog (not that SJ minds and in fact much prefers companions in the form of dogs rather than humans a lot of the time) and got stuck into her book for a few hours.

SJ decided to return to the hostel and check emails, sure that AK would have been in touch so when again there was no news SJ decided to call AK's brother Andrew for advice. It was during this call that an email pinged into SJ's inbox and upon opening it SJ was relieved to see it was from Alan. He was out the jungle, late but safe and was heading back to Rurrenabaque for the night before heading out the following day for La Paz. SJ went to bed that night relieved and happy that AK was safe and she would see him again in two days.

Sunday was spent doing much the same as previous days in Sucre and SJ had time to upload some pictures before spending 5 hours on Skype catching up with people. After a nice relaxed day SJ headed off to bed excited to see AK in the morning who had arrived in La Paz, headed straight for the bus terminal and took an over night bus to Sucre.

AK arrived tired at 8.30 the following morning and after checking into another double room SJ and AK moved their bags, took a shower and headed out to meet Hayley, the girl we met in Cusco and who we hiked Machu Picchu with. We decided to go up to the Mirrador for lunch and to admire the view over Sucre while catching up with Hayley. After a lovely lunch and a walk around the market where we bought the most amazing fresh fruit salad with yoghurt and cream for the pricey sum of 80p each we headed back to the hostel.

Hayley had recommended a little pub that shows films and documentaries either in English or with English subtitles so we headed off there at 8pm to watch a documentary about a little Bolivian boy who worked down a mine. We got settled down with our beer and watched the sad but interesting documentary about a 14 year old boy who spent up to 20 hours a day working in a mine looking silver. The conditions these kids work in are similar to that experienced in 19th century Britain before laws were brought in preventing what was essentially child slave labour. So to see these poor kids working the mines in the 21st century was heart breaking. The boy in the film had worked there since he was 10 as his father had died and there was no money for them to live so he had no choice. SJ found the film upsetting and started to cry when the boy said that all he wanted to do was go to school as it was like a vacation compared with the mines but he was sad because no one talked to him if they knew where he worked. Kids back home do not know they are born. AK and SJ vowed that, should they be fortunate enough to have them, their children would be made to watch the film should they ever complain about school! we headed off to bed slightly subdued.

AK and SJ had decided to leave sucre for Uyuni on Wednesday so after a good sleep they got up and headed out to post a parcel home and meet up with Hayley again. After getting a price from DHL of £130 we decided to try the Bolivian postal service! At a cost of £60 there was no contest so we sent our souvenirs and other bits and bobs home with or trust that, on this occasion, Bolivia would not let us down. We shall wait and see.

We met up with Hayley who had decided to come to Uyuni with us so after agreeing to meet up at 6pm to buy bus tickets we headed out to buy SJ new trainers and to Skype Gladdy & Caroline which we were both looking forward to as we had not spoke to them since we had been away.

In the evening we met up with Hayley, booked our bus tickets for the following day, leaving at 9am and returned to the hostel to pack up our bags, make dinner (sardine & tomato pasta again) and had an early night in preparation for our 10 hour bus ride the following day.

We woke up early and SJ headed off to pick up our tickets from the tourist office while AK checked out the Hostel and paid our bill. We then jumped into a taxi and headed to the bus terminal where we were meeting Hayley. We all met up, checked our bags and boarded the no so luxurious bus with small cramped seats. We were not too worried as it was a daytime bus and it is really the night time buses that you need the extra comfort! At £6 each we couldn't really complain.
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