With our return to Rurrenabaque after the Pampas trip it was time for the Election on Sunday. As Jan mentioned Evo Morales and his party won easily…not surprisingly.
We had already booked with Berraco de Madidi (a small sustainable organisation run by people from one community in the jungle) to go into the Madidi National Park for 6 days at their camp deep..and I mean deep in the Primary Rain Forest. During the evening before we left and as we watched the election celebrations in the square outside our Hotel (Oriental!) we met Ben Box who writes Footprint’s South American Guide!
Had a chat and then he asked for our views on Berraco de Madidi.
So here it is…adapted for the blog..
Six hours by fast well kept launcha up the River Beni and then the River Tuichi, all passengers and crew in life jackets.
Expert navigation through rapids and past sandbanks (the river is low at the moment) and rocky areas.
Three covered platforms with fully enclosed modern tents with mosquito screens.
Firm mattresses, cotton sheets…..
Separate, extremely clean loos, cold showers and hand basins (2 of each)
Covered dining/communal area with well equipped kitchen and superb cook..Erica.
Sunrise views over the river.
Well run professional organisation.
Explorations were on foot led by Leo with a machete.
It was unremittingly hot and humid during the day. At night however it cooled and the early morning was just perfect. The night sky could be glimpsed through the tree canopy and the stars were clear and bright ..you felt you could touch them. One morning up at 5am to see the dawn unravel across the river by our feet and over the distant mountains whilst the jungle woke up. It is a pristine jungle and fascinatingly beautiful. Trees of all sizes with the large ones soaring up majestically. The canopy is way above and it took us a while to realise that there are no flowers at ground level. They are up there. Incidentally there was a slight wind one afternoon which caused a little local difficulty for Leo. The first sense to be used, in tracking animals and birds, is hearing and the wind in the treetops didn’t help.
We explored different parts of the surrounding forest. Either walking or on viewing platforms. Also very successful fishing and unsuccessful Jaguar spotting ( we saw very fresh tracks on three separate occasions and fresh poo too.) After 3 days we were given sticks, presumably to fight off said jaguar. Leo who spoke mainly Spanish with some English was excellent. Even when things were quiet on the wildlife front he gave lots of explanations of trees, life in the forest, natural remedies and so on
Wild pigs…very excitable and always on the go
Loads of insects and creepy crawlies
Wonderfully huge fire flies
Bats and bees
Butterflies and moths…all sizes and colours
Squirrel, howler and cappuccino monkeys
Edible caterpillar/ bugs…don’t ask!
Red and Green Macaws
Toucans – flying and heard
Blue and yellow macaws
Vultures and other large birds in the sky
Rufus Motmot (pair)
And something most unexpected (and we have all seen one or two or three..)
Jehovah’s Witnesses (2) Australian variety..have moved to Bolivia to do you know what! But they were on holiday when we met them!
Oh and loads of different trees, including a garlic tree. A sliver smelt and had the texture of garlic..amazing!
The Madidi is massive from the steamy jungle to the Andean Peaks… 44% of New World animals, more endangered species than any other Park in the world, 1000 different types of birds etc.
Other activities available included:
Night walks (we skipped this)
Raft making (ditto)
Visit to the Community mentioned above.. Another 3 hours upriver.. fellow English explorers..one a Geography teacher..the other Mr Gadget Man from Bristol went for the day including lunch. Thought it very rewarding and recommended it to other explorers.
We did not take it up. After nearly a week of continuous activity the heat was getting to us and
we decided to get the most out of the experience we had to slow down i.e. have a siesta in the afternoon. If you are wondering…the jungle never really sleeps fully but we did!
Making jewellery from natural materials
Fishing for your dinner. We caught 5 fish in just over an hour. I guess each one was 2/3 lbs and one about 5 lbs. Jan’s fish was huge.
It was a quicker but hot and sunny trip back downstream in the afternoon of the 6th day. Exhausted plus a few bites here and there!
Throughly rewarding, we can fully recommend the experience and the company, who seem a very happy bunch. Brigitte in the office was easy to work with and was very welcoming when we arrived in town.
..and Rurrenabaque remained steaming and hot for another two days before we flew to Arequipa for the next part of our South American adventure.
A Post Script about Erica.
She was the only woman we saw working as part of a Tour Group in the Pampas and the Jungle.
Really top class food! Very well presented, interesting and enjoyable. Catered for Jan’s veggie plus fish requirements without resorting to the usual cheese options. The beef steak I ate was superb!