Welcome to the jungle...
Trip Start Feb 28, 2010
41Trip End May 17, 2010
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Where I stayed
As in Uyuni, Rurrenababue hosts close to 10 000 tour guides and 10 times more tour agencies, so upon arrival, we were once again met with choices. With a shrinking wallet we were not sure if we could warrant a splurge on the most environmentally friendly and subsequently expensive tour agency, Madidi Travel, however the pictures outside their tour office made up our minds. There were pictures of exhausted anacondas being draped around tourists´ necks, baby caiman being shoved into a smiling girl's mouth for photos, and a pic of three Israelis humping an endangered species of walking palm tree. These were some of the many treats we were able to look forward to with the other, cheaper, and much more crowded tour groups.
So we decided instead to go with Madidi Travel, the profits of whom are invested in conservation and community work
When we convinced one of the agents to give us the upgraded package for the lower price, the deal was closed, and with our pockets empty but consciouses at ease, we stepped onto a wooden raft to begin our journey. Unlike on the other, more dodgy, aforementioned tours, there were only two other people in our group: Scott and Emily, a newly wed couple from the land down under. And once we had communicated the fact that their country was far inferior to ours when it came to all categories of sport, cuisine, wildlife, and just life in general, the two Ausies were really not that bad!
We travelled along the Beni River, one of the most interesting headwaters of the Amazon, for about 3 hours, and witnessed a great variety of tropical birds along the shores as well as scattered members of the Esse Ejjas tribe (amongst the last nomads in Bolivia)
Some time after we stopped for a delicious packed lunch, although for the life of me I could not tell you what it was, we finally arrived at Serere´s banks. We climbed up 2 meters of mud, and then began a 30 minute walk into the jungle to base camp on Lake San Fernando. A flood of thick heat and mosquitos hit us like a concrete wall only seconds later, and didn´t leave us again until our departure in 116 hours time.
Tupila, the worlds cutest orphaned spider monkey, was waiting at the main house to greet us. Initially so shy that she would trip over her exaggerated limbs scampering away, she grew so comfortable with the four of us that she could always be found in someones arms, pulling at their fingers or wrapping her long tail around any limb our ours she could find. Some of my favourite time spent at Serere involved three hours with Tupila, up on the hammock deck, where we lay and played in an abandoned canoe. We literally played tag for hours, then tickled each other, then she started cleaning my hair and scalp, and then fell asleep in my arms. If some day in the distant future I end up giving birth to a spider monkey instead of a cute baby, I don´t think I´d mind too much
I wanted to cry when we walked through the door into our bedroom for the first time. There were no walls, no TV, no curtains and no decoration – it was perfect. The first night that we climbed into bed, exhausted from the days hiking, we lay with nothing but a mosquito net and a thin sheet of transparent gauze between us and the animals we´d spent the day tracking. We fell asleep listing to the sound of oversized crickets and cockroaches, grew wrestless listening to deer, squirrels, tapir, agouti and night monkeys moving outside our hut, and awoke to the loudest sound of all: the howler monkeys. Like clockwork, at sunrise everyday the howler monkeys would start their screaming, and delivered a sound that no words can describe. When we first arrived, we thought that there was a helicopter pad nearby, or really noisy hippos. I suggest you listen to them on u-tube or something, although it´s probably better to go to the Bolivian Amazon to listen to them for yourself, he he...
Overall, I think it is the sounds of Serere that will stay with me the longest. And these cannot be described, note ven in a non-blog. When darkness fell over the river, what Thor Heyerdahl termed in my current book, ´Kon-Tiki´ as an ¨ear-splitting orchestra¨ struck up on the banks. Toads and frogs, crickets and mosquitos, croaked or chirped or hummed in a prolonged chorus of many voices. Now and again the shrill scream of the howler monkey, or perhaps something worse, rang through thedarkness, and soon another, and yet another, from birds scared into flight by the night prowlers of the jungle
One evening in which we decided to go for a late night walk was particularly memorable. We had been begging Mosquito to accompany us for days, and by the time he finally agreed, we had been joined by a third couple, this time from the Queen´s Motherland. They were round the same age as us, very experienced travelers, and very cool. We had been wlaking for about 45 minutes when Misquito suddenly signalled to us to turn off our flashlights. While everybody else quivered with fear brought on by the strange nosies gathering around us, I was overjoyed with the fact that, with no light, the gigantic Amazonian moths had less reason to be drawn towards we. Three minutes later however, the torches would be flicked back on and we´d continue our hunt for a Jaguar viewing. Another hour later, Scott and the Brit guy (who was now at the back of the crouched team) simultaniously claimed they had heard a roar. The lights were quickly and nervously extingished and we huddled closely together: Two Ausies, two Brits and Keiron counting thir breathes till the inevitable Jaguar attack, me counting the minutes untill I´d have to begin fighting off the moths again
Unlike the two Brits, thankfully Keiron,myself and the two Ausies had spent a fair deal of time walking through the jungle with Mosquito before this faitfull night, and had grown to expect such creul tricks. He always seemed to point our the largest buttiflies and moths (my greatest fear) to me, and a grwat assortment of Turanchillas to arachnophobic Emily. We also got so see him pettrified, however, when we spotted a 6 meter long caiman on one of our visiits to the far end of Lake San Fernendo by canoe. When Keiron pointed the enormouse creature´s menacing eyes out to us, Mosquito´s caiman stories suddenly dissapeared, his Indian face turned whiter than ours, and he started paddeling rather rapidly in the opposite direction. He must have glansed back at our new friend every thrity seconds before we finally reached our lodge´s banks 2 hours later.
Trips such as these were typical of our stay at Serere
Our time in the jungle can be described as nothing but blissfull however. We were surrounded by more animals than homeosapians (always a good thing) and ate like kings. It was an absolute splurge but completely worth it. 15 prepared meals: R400. 4 Nights in a jungle hut: R800. Transfers to and from Serere: R300. Too many beers R325. Escaping the Gringo trail for 5 days – priceless.