View from the hill!

View from the hill!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Route to Rurrenabaque

I knew the journey that lie ahead was not going to be an easy or fun one. On Saturday morning at 9 am Nikki, Anna and I made our way from the Wild Rover Hostel to our bus to Rurrenabaque. The bus trip would be 19 hours on a local bus. What this means is that the locals and ALL of their belongs come along for the journey. The buses are not fancy, are the most basic, hot and stinky buses you can imagine. After waiting for over an hour on the crowded polluted street our bus finally arrived. As soon as it pulled up the loading began. Bags of potatoes, onions and corn were piled on top of boxes of chickens. All of this went along side my backpack underneath the bus. On top of the bus were huge bags of who knows what! Inside the bus were many families, 5 puppies, a box of baby chicks and then Anna, Nikki and I. It took a while to get out of the crowded streets of La Paz and soon after we were out of the city we arrived at our first checkpoint. Some army officers got on the bus and yelled something in Spanish. Apparently they wanted to see our passports, Bolivian entry papers and to search our bags. After almost an hour at the stop we were on our way once again.

Now we were getting onto the roads that we would follow for the next 18 hours. The narrow, twisting Andean roads had sheer drops and no guard rails. The road to Rurre was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Our huge bus was flying around these corners and would suddenly come to a halt and then begin backing up. As you looked out the window all you could see was a cliff, lines of crosses marking past accidents and nothing protecting us from dropping into the cliff below. The road appeared to be one way, but was indeed 2 ways as we were reminded every few minutes as we had to back up to allow the other large trucks and buses to pass. Being rainy season we passed through some very muddy sections and were lucky that we did not get stuck or have a breakdown, it is common for the buses to break down and leave passengers stranded for hours. We stopped in several towns along the way and each one was a little more humid and a little more mosquito filled than the previous.

The puppies in front of us had a few accidents, sending streams of pee down to the back of the bus and coating our bags along the way. The smell on the bus was a mix of puppy poop, fried chicken and BO...a great combination! Before we knew it we had arrived at our dinner stop around 9pm. A 1/2 hour stop at a little restaurant that finally had a decent bano. Previously we had to relieve ourselves at these stops which had holes in the ground which were flooding with piles of poo all over the ground, the worst part was that we were forced to pay to use these banos. I decided to forego eating any of the food at these stops and snacked on the rolls I had taken from our hostel. After a sleepless night we arrived in the town of Rurre at 6 am. A quaint little town, the bus station was a good 20 minutes walk from the center of town and our tour office. We were told we would be greeted by someone to drive us to the office, that person was there but he was trying to charge us for the ride, we decided to walk instead. This was the first of many lies the tour agency told.

After a quick change of clothes in the tour office and after applying some bug spray and sunscreen we found a quick breakfast then were ready for the next leg of the journey. Next up was a 3.5 hour trip in a crowded 4x4. 9 of us, the driver, our bags and enough food for 3 days was piled into the ancient Land Cruiser that looked as though it would fall to pieces at every bump we passed. The 3.5 hour drive was on a very rough dirt road. We had frequent stops to let horses, cows and families of pigs cross the road. Despite the extreme bumps all three of us could not manage to keep our eyes open. I am surprised none of us got whip lash on the ride.

The dirt road then disappeared and turned into the river Beni. This is where we would meet our guide and journey 3 hours up the river to our camp.

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