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Rurrenabaque - Madidi National Park

Chalalan Ecolodge

sunny 35 °C

So we booked 4 days 3 nights - which is really only 2 days in the jungle - with Chalalan Ecolodge. Supposedly one of the best and most ecologically friendly jungle forest lodges in Bolivia and possibly South America. Created and run by the local tribe the people of San José de Uchupiamonas - apparently they are the epitome of ecotravel. The lodge was built, maintained and employs the local people. Does not upset or disturb local wildlife and is pretty much self sufficient.

We flew to Rurrenabaque - the closest town to the park in a small plane. Only fit about 20 people and we could see the pilot. The views were cool though because we went right over a mountain then over rainforest. The flight, happily for me, is only 40 minutes. The runway in Rurrenabaque is a grass field and the airport pretty much a large shack. The weather though is amazing. Tropical - about 35 degrees. It´s lush and green - a complete change from what we had been seeing lately. So hot. We were shuffled into a van thing to be taken to the Chalalan office. We got a flat though a few minutes in. Strangely a frenchman suddely rode up to us in a motorbike selling fresh croissants and pan au chocolat. We were hungry so we bought a couple and jumped into another van. At the office we were explained the way of things. We were at a hotel for tonight and then tomorrow morning our guide would take us in a river boat up the Beni then the Tuchi River for about 5 hours to the lodge. So we headed to our hotel nearby. It was pretty decent. Lots of hammocks and they gave us fresh juice. We had a bit of clean up and rest and walked around Rurre. It´s a pretty place, very touristy though and no ATMs. Anyway onto the rainforest.

We headed out to the boats at 7.30 am. They´re long thin boats and they have to be careful at points in the river because if it gets too shallow the guides actually have to jump out and push the boat otherwise it´ll drift or go over. They had to do that a couple times on our trip. We saw various birds, howler monkeys and I glimpsed a Capybara - the largest rodent in the world. It´s about the size of a medium dog. We had a nice box lunch on a shore - I spied some very large animal tracks when I went to go to the bathroom. Guide said they probably belong to a Tapir. Not a jaguar like I would have thought. We arrived at the lodge and had to walk another 30 minutes to get to the cabins. Steve and I got the "matrimonal" cabin. It was fancy. Hardwood floors, big bed, large spacious bathroom and remarkably clean. Impressive accomedations. The dining hall as well was beautiful - mostly made of mahogany from the forest. We went for a dip in the lake - which was actually filled with caimen but apparently safe for humans. We went for a walk through the forest where our guide, I may have forgotten his name, spoke passble english and explained some of the medicinal plants and we spotted frogs, common squirrel monkeys, a white chested hawk - I think. Really cool. There were also macaws about. Dinner and lunch were practically gourmet affairs. Amazing for the middle of the jungle. Delicious food and amazing amounts. It was a buffet for dinner with the main being fish wrapped and leaves with various traditional tribal spices and baked. We went for a noctural walk after dinner. It was full dark and many bugs and creatures made appearances. Night time in the jungle is spooky. So many noises and seems like even more life comes out including the more dangerous animals. The guide told us that nighttime is the most dangerous time for them because of snakes. The two most dangerous snakes being bushmasters and coral snakes. Both of these are ground snakes. Jaguars do exist in the forest but they stay clear of humans. So knowing there were fatal to humans snakes in the forest made me uneasy. We saw some new poisonous frogs and a big dirty tarantula. He was about the size of my hand but not particularly jumpy or anything. Lots of bugs were attracted to our flashlights so I was happy to leave to night forest. When we got back to the cabin there was a frog crawling up our shower and a rather large spider with a cockroach in its mouth. Very noisy at night as well but we managed to get by. The next day we went for a really long walk. 5 hours. We saw various flora and butterflies, leaf cutter ants, some sort of small wild jungle cat, wild pigs, more monkeys and birds and so forth. Really amazing. The jungle is teeming with life but it´s actually quite to hard to see a lot of it. They blend in. We saw frogs and geckos that were camoflagued to the closest leaf or whatever. In the afternoon we had a nap but I felt up feeling sick because of the heat and probably dehydration. I actually started vomiting and our guide made me some medicinal tea made from plants from the forest. I think it helped. Didn´t last too long happily and I was able to have a bit of dinner and go on the night canoeing session. We were going caimen "hunting". It was really weird to canoe at night in almost complete darkness. There were fisherman bats swooping in and catching fish. We had to shine flashlights close to the shore and you could see the caimen because their eyes reflected back red. We´d wander the canoe over and get pretty close. Most of them were adolescents. Apparently adult caimen don´t usually show their faces to humans. Anyway the stars were so clear and it was quiet on the lake. The next day we headed back out. It was only 3 hours down stream to Rurre. Our flight was delayed, apparently that´s a common occurance for the flight to La Paz, but we still managed to get back that day on the 6pm flight. It was really interesting time in the jungle, I could see how people could take a real interest in say bird watching etc. I guess for me, seeing all these animals in the wild was the real benefit. it´s so much better than in a zoo.

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In La Paz, Steve had continued to try to "persuade" me to go with him on the Death Road. The Death Road being a 32 km stretch of gravel road in the mountains between La Paz and Coroico that is only the length of one vehicle but accomedates two way traffic and is for the most part on 600 meter cliff edges. It´s called the death road because, you guessed it, it has a huge mortality rate. When it was the only road to Coroico and buses and trucks used to go along it, it was reported to have around 200-300 people dying in accidents. Mostly people falling asleep at the wheel and going off a cliff or some kind of careless driving. Anyway Steve had been bugging me to do the mountain bike trek down this road for a while and finally after seeing the pictures I decided to go. Next off is the Death Road in La Paz.

For more pics of the jungle and Rurre go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=81033&l=b5e7f&id=684816071

Posted by Janelle_B 12:43 Archived in Bolivia

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