An Aussie Discovers Russia by Sue Kuti
Dear Family and Friends,
Just writing to give you the latest “low-down” on Bolivia .......My cheeky bro, Nick, and I have just parted ways - He was a blast to travel with, although I did tire of the “my farts are hilarious” approach to his digestion problems.
Basically if you come to Bolivia and are a bit lax about the water and food, you get a “FUNKY tummy”. In fact, I had the delight of sharing my stomach with parasites until recently. As friendly as they were, I am pleased they have moved on to greener pastures - no pun intended.
Navigating “Death Road”
Anyway, after much hassling from my bro, we did the bike ride down “Death Road.” Charming name, huh? This is a popular “gringo” activity, and it turns a typical example of poor infrastructure into an expensive and fun experience, depending on your definition of “fun”. “Death Road” is a 64km drop from the top of a mountain in La Paz (4,800m high), down to a valley called Coroico. This road used to be the main route for TWO way traffic, until 2-3 buses falling off the cliff each week, together with all its passengers, forced the government to construct a wider and paved highway alongside this notorious road. Having said that, there is still no structure supporting the cliffs from collapsing.
“Death Road”, although too narrow for two way traffic, is still wide enough for bike riders, but I cannot stress enough caution when undertaking this activity. Last week an English tourist lost control, raced ahead of his guide, and fell straight off the cliff to his death. Every year, approximately 16 people still die from this activity.
Keeping these statistics in mind, I went so slow that I made a snail look like a turbo charged GTI. I felt EVERY rock beneath my wheels. 64km of “bumpity bumpity” can grow tiresome. My bro, Nick, sped down with the fast group and waited for his geriatric sis with a beer in his hand at the bottom.
We also made it to the Amazon!! The Bolivian Jungle (“Las Pampas” and “La Selva”) can be accessed via two flights from La Paz Rurrerenabaque, via local airlines Aerosur and Amazonas. A one way flight will cost you $500 Bolivianos ($80 AUD). If you are desperate to save the money, you can travel by bus for 30 hours, and put up with broken toilets, shonky roads, and a new protest that blocks the road every hour or so.
Once you arrive, the Bolivian Jungle is a virtual smorgasbord for animal lovers. You don’t have to do ANYTHING or even look that hard to see wildlife. It’s all there, waiting for you. Perfect for our “show-me-now” western approach to sight seeing. Holding an Anaconda and a Cobra was a highlight on our tour, as well as alligator watching at night. Imagine traveling along a long dark river under torch light, bordered with bright red eyes. Those alligators were sprinkled through the river like parmesan on pasta... amazing. The cutest animal was a “Capivara”, which looked like a GIANT guinea pig!
Jumping into the very brown Amazon river to swim with pink dolphins sounds inviting doesn’t it? Well it is, although the novelty rapidly fades once you check out the alligators and crocs lining the shores, along with feeling the aggressive nibble of the piranhas below the chocolate waters. As soon as the pink dolphins went under water again, I was left speculating “is that the current I feel underneath me, or is it another croc?” My brother joined me in the water eventually, only to hear him yell, “Oh man, I hate this... get me back on the boat!” So I then got the guide to place a gigantic beetle on his shoulder, which really made him squeal. It was great fun! Steroid pumped insects are rife in this part of the world.
A more humbling experience was learning about the medicinal plants from the local Mozaten (tribe.) Their degree of intuitive knowledge of the jungle made me feel grateful to have these indigenous people around. However, I was especially grateful when we were surrounded by a cacophony of raucous snorting. Pig chasing is a popular past time in the Amazon, and the wild pig’s ability and agility in escaping our “graceful” attempts to catch it was truly impressive. However, the delightful aroma they left behind made a sulphur bath smell like Chanel #5, so I was secretly delighted we didn’t end up catching one.
Apart from serious hammock-time sessions and random walking-till-you’re-lost-but-don’t-care days, those were the highlights of my trip, amigos. In a nutshell, Bolivia is so RAW. Lots of indigenous communities still exist here, especially in the Jungle and Altiplano. It is also the cheapest and poorest country in South America. Having said that, it is also breathtakingly beautiful. Please do write to me cos all I do is move on buses, eat, sleep and occasionally shower.
CON MUCHO AMOR!!!!!!!! Tashi xxx
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