Once in the rainforest why not do a 3 Day survival trip? I needed some stuff to figure out for myself and thought this was a great opportunity to get to know my limits better and to learn some survival techniques.
We got picked up at our hostel, hopped in a Jeep and drove to Fluvial office, where we got our gear: a mosquito net, a blanket and rubber boots.
We had to bring our own soles for the boots, which I had not. So I rushed away to the market and tried to get some. I freies to explained it with hand and (mostly) feet and got hushed away by some angry Bolivian women, who had about the same mood as me in the morning.
I finally found a small store who sold them for 15 BOB. I paid, played with the little dog a big, which was wearing a pullover and chased it around the store. The owner did not like it that much and I wondered why he was so unfunny, but got a pullover for his dog.
Anyways, I rushed back to the office, where everyone was waiting, got in my boots and we carried out backpacks towards the river.
The girl from the office handed us a pink boat ticket and we got on the rather small ferry, that shipped us on the other side of the road.
Another Jeep was waiting for us. Our new tour guide Jose introduced himself to us. He took time to make eye contact whilst asking for our names. He was genuinely interested in the group and I liked him.
I guessed we would survive somehow.
The ride in the Jeep took about an hour and I got to know some of the people I was doing this trip with a little bit better.
We were 6 people and came from France (2), England, Taiwan, Amsterdam and Germany/Brazil plus our guide who was Bolivian.
We arrived at a small hut at the corner of the National Park and divided the food portions we had to carry. Which was basically rice, flour, oil, salt and some plates plus cutlery. We were handed some machetes, which we were trained to use – kind of.
I had been using machetes daily when I lived in Hawaii, but the ones we got were the (not so sharp) tourist versions. It was alright though as our guide happily chopped open all the coconuts for us.
I have had a massive hangover from the night before, where I played beerpong with some guys from the hostel and was more than happy about the coconut water. It actually contains so many minderals, some 10 minutes later my hangover was gone.
And then we found a spider in a tree. A big massive tarantula. Yes!
We got it on our machete and blew cigarette smoke on her to calm her down. Our guide said that they will bite if you don’t do this. I got her on my arm and was surprised how light she was (it was a girl). And I have to say that I liked that spider.
My guide told me to not to any quick movements or I’ll get bitten, when the spider jumped and I quickly pulled my arm back. She cloned to the bottom part of my arm and slowly walked back up.
I guess that was a scary moment for the both of us.
After this we walked through the jungle to find and set up our camp. We were in the Rainforest for about 2 hours I guess and saw a lot of ants. There were some massive black ones (not the bullet ants) who can actually cure muscle spams when bitten. On the other hand they do cause those muscle spasms when you’re healthy. Steven Hawking would have loved them.
There is so much medicine in the Rainforest: plants that cure malaria or ointments you can make from branches that heal mosquito bites. I instantly volunteered as all those bastards had been circling around me and the guide rubbed some slimy transparent gel on my bites. They instantly stopped to itch!
We walked along towards the river and spotted a group of spider monkeys who were playing in the trees. They were swinging from one branch to another. Normally they only occur in the mountains, but sometimes come down to the jungle to look for food. I guess we were lucky that day.
(I’m just writing this in the Rainforest whilst everyone is sleeping and a huge spider has build a net around me! Hahaha what a fucker!)
And then… wait what! There was a huuuge Liane in the rainforest we could swing on! How awesome is that! This filled my tourist heart with joy and I hopped on it to feel like Tarzan! Or more like Jane (the more adventurous one).
On our way we collected some mushrooms to eat later.
We walked on through a small river and no one could stop us with our rubber boots. I felt like Superman with invincible shoes. Snakes? Pfff… I got those rubber boots! Spiders? … Rubber boots! Water? Hello yeah I’m rubber boots Jesus!
We soon reached a spot close to the river where we set up camp. We hadn’t eaten yet and slowly started to get hungry. But first we needed to prepare the sleeping area.
So we went into the forest and chopped down a palm tree. Yeah you heard right. Not one of the small, but one of the big ones. We took turns and chopped it with out machetes over and over until it finally fell down. We cut off the huge leaves and carried them through the jungle towards our sleeping place. We needed them to sleep on.
When the beds were set we created a table made out of big stones we found by the river.
Now we needed to get food. We had some rice and salad with us which two of the girls prepared. I was walking around to collect worms for fishing.
We had been taught how to make a bag out of banana leaves and where to find the larves. They live in bamboo trees and you can find them if you look for white poop. Then there’s a hole in the bamboo you can cut open with a machete and peel them out. Uh we got some thick ones and we’re ready for some fishing.
Our dinner (which was the first meal of the day) consisted of rice, chili, some salad and awesome white mushrooms we had found in the jungle.
There was no fish on the plate yet, because the big ones apparently only come out at night. So do the shrimp- which meant (hopefully) fish for breakfast.
Late at night we went out with our torches to fish and collect some shrimp. We walked through the jungle for ages – always following the river. And we caught shrimp, crabs and fish on the way – all with the machetes.
As I was not really good at catching fish – Meaning I let them all live- our guide asked me to hand over my (really bright) torch to one of the machete fish hunter guys. Hahaha made sense, but if you know me, you know I am terrified (!) of darkness, which is why I ended up carrying the bag with the caught fish and tried to be behind someone who had some light running back and forth to collect half dead fish into my bag of horror. It would only be fair if I ended up as a crab in my next life who has it’s half dead friends fall upon him whilst snapping its claws.
Damn that was aweful, but we were hungry.
We waded through the water when our guide heard some noise and told us to quickly shut off the lights.
“TAPIR!” He whispered excitedly.
He whistled and the Tapir answered. This was so crazy- it was just around the corner!
I remembered when I had last seen a tapir in Costa Rica whilst working near a jungle. They have funny noses that wiggle up and down whilst they walk. I love them!
This one in the Amazonian Rainforest remained in the dark and was probably walking past us with his family somewhere.
We were all really quiet whilst our guide flashed the light on one side of the forest. A huge wall was in front of us covered with trees. And I saw a brown silhouette of an animal up there.
It was the jaguar watching us.
Just where our camp was. No one actually knew how we ended up getting back to the camp as everyone thought we had walked a straight line all the way, but there we were.
Back at the camp. With a neighbour.
The night ended with us sitting at the camp fire listening to frogs and all kinds of animals until we fell asleep under our mosquito nets.
After a quick shower in the river we had a breakfast that consisted of flower and salt deepfried in the pan. It made some wonderful pancakes, which we ate with some horrible fish. I guess the crabs had been cooked alive which kind of made me not want to eat it, but we were so hungry all of us did.
After some fishy breakfast we walked through the jungle for an hour (swearing like crazy, wading through mud, pushing the flies away) and found an Acaii tree, which we chopped down to eat the fruit. Unfortunately it wasn’t ripe yet, so we eat the heart of this palm tree (Palmito) instead. I know it from salads in Brazil, but never liked it. This day I was happy to have some food in my stomach at least.
We walked up a mountain (meaning: I struggled to breathe and almost drowned in my sweat) and enjoyed the view over the Amazonian rainforest.
Juan our guide, showed us a factory that was destroying the rainforest in the far back. His face looked sad- mine angry.
Our walk through the jungle continued after we got rid of hundreds of ants crawling on our backpacks. I remembered my scooter helmet in Lombok that had looked the same some months ago and thought it could be worse. Nonetheless was I cursing like a sailor.
Our walk continued for another two or three hours, first through the jungle, then along the river. It was hot and my back hurt from my heavy backpack. I was sweating and exhausted. And hungry. No real food since breakfast. When we reached our second campsite everyone was happy to have a shower in the waterfall right next to us. It was so cold but at the same time so refreshing. We were clean again – at least for a bit.
But there was no time to relax. Food had to be prepared, firewood had to be collected and the sleeping place had to be set up. Everyone did something and some 2 hours later we were able to eat.
Overcooked spaghetti with vegetables it was this time and self made fries. The spaghetti tastes more like a starch soup but everyone was so happy to eat, we were so full after, noone would move.
We had collected some parts of a tree that was said to help against pain in the back. I desperately needed it and drank a lot. It tasted bitter, but felt good in my stomach. Apparently this medicine works if you drink it once a day for a week.
There are so many medicinical plants in the rainforest, you can almost cure everything. It sometimes just takes a little bit longer to heal.
In the evening we went out to hunt again. We collected frogs this time we would eat for breakfast. We walked around the jungle for ages and by the time it was eleven everyone was so tired all we wanted to do was sleep. Tired we fell in our “beds” just to be woken up by our guide who told us we had set up a camp on a dangerous ants nest.
The ants were the ones that could paralyze you.
Alright. Not good! Not god at all I thought while I saw those massive black ants crawling up my mosquito net.
Below our mats was a huge hole where they were all coming out, biting through the nets. Our guide got some earth and covered the hole.
“Alright.” He said.
I was too tired to complain and fell asleep.
No shower this time. It was cold, there was no sun yet and we had to walk for 3 hours to get back to our starting point.
Breakfast was frogs. Our guide killed them with a stick until the blood was running out of their eyes and wrapped them in a banana leaf after. Te banana leaf package was put besides the fire for some 15-20 minutes.
We got the frogs out and scratched the burned skins away with a knife. Breakfast was ready.
I haven’t had frog this time. I knew how well it tasted when I had eaten it in Cambodia, but didn’t want a frog to die for me. They were actually really cute.
With a rumbling stomach we made our way back to the starting point. We walked through river and through the jungle, saw a lot of butterflies and traces of animals.
The trip was very rewarding, but also extremely exhausting. The backpacks were heavy and there was not a lot of time to rest. Every time we arrived at the camp we had to get food, set up the camp and collect firewood.
I’ve learned how to survive those few days and that I can rely on myself. And though traveling can be lonely sometimes and there are moments you wish to share this with another person, sometimes all you have to do is to walk on by yourself, realize that some things in life are just not meant to be, until there will be one person who wants to join in on your way.
Back in Rurrenabaque I was looking forward to take a shower. But there was no water in town.
Awesome. The next day I was heading to the Pampas, where I was to swim with pink dolphins, would eat Piranhas and saw massive crocodiles.
More on that on my next post.