I have avoided jungle tours as much as possible. I do not like heat or humidity or mosquitoes. However, I know that jungles are very important – essential – pieces of planet Earth. Especially the Amazon jungle is in the news a lot, that its disappearance is contributing to the disappearance of planet Earth as we know it.
So, I put on a heavy cloak of enthusiasm, and gave it my best shot.
I did it especially because Lonely Planet said that visiting the Bolivian jungle is THE place to see the Amazon basin at its pristine baseline, There was also a Pampas tour, where it was described as not as dense so you could see more animals. I signed up for 2 days (1night) Pampas, 3 days (3 nights) Jungle aka the Selva – in Madidi National Park, Bolivia. You get there from Rurrenabaque, to which I flew from La Paz.
How It Was
Yes, it was dense.Well, it sucked as much as I thought it would, but now I never have to go to another jungle again.
In the Pampas – not as dense, not quite as humid, accommodation slightly more comfortable – I did get to see some interesting animals, including caimans slithering into the river
and once I got to see cute monkeys playing in their natural habitat:
Also saw an anaconda – you have to go to a lot of trouble to find one. They’re in swamps (yuk). Nothing special, just a very big snake. I felt badly we’d disturbed its peace.
There were lots of capybara’s, too. They look like a very large marmot, and also have a destinct rat-like resemblance:
Despite all that baggage, they’re very cute.
My tour had only 3 of us, me and Jack & Fran, a 23 year old very interesting and mature British couple. Nothing like being in the jungle with 23 year old’s to make me feel like a senior citizen. Of course there was also our guide, Christian:
In the jungle it was 99% humidity. Never did get caught in the rain, cause it only rained at night. I managed to get not 1 mosquito bite, but I totally poisoned myself with deet.
There was a special night of camping out in the jungle,where one of the draws is to hear the sounds of the jungle up close and personal. “You might even hear the elusive puma.” This was not like any prior camping I’d done. It was basically sleeping on the ground with a mosquito net around me, all lined up with the other tour members, and what I heard was not a puma, but my guide snoring. So, I put in my earplugs and took a sleeping pill.
Yup, this is how close we were to each other. No place to wash up, no protection from bugs except while sleeping. At least we had great food – throughout.
As you’ve probably picked up by now, the tour was exactly what I expected in terms of my not liking the jungle. The only activity I enjoyed was floating down the river on the raft the guide and Jack, built. We finally got to go swimming. I could have insisted on swimming earlier, and maybe a different guide would have even suggested it. My guide was very sweet, but smiled more than he spoke. His English was OK, but not great.
This isn’t the raft we built, but it’s the balsa wood from which the raft would eventually be built. I did like the boat rides, especially for the breeze that was created.
When I was leaving Rurrenabaque, I asked others at the airport about their tours. None sounded that different from mine, but no one seemed to dislike their tours as much as I did (or at least they didn’t admit it). Maybe I’m just too old for all that discomfort, including the lodgings.
I needed a fan, at a minimum. And that night of sleeping on the ground (I had three thin gym-like foam pads under me) really seemed to seal my pinched nerve into a big problem.
There were many wonderful moments, too. In the Pampas I repeatedly saw an exotic bird I found totally fascinating,
In the Jungle I got to see macaws.
I did enjoy hiking when it was flat.
and the foliage indeed was mind blowing – here’s a close-up of a “poison tree” – put a machete in the bark and the stuff that oozes out can kill you!
So, folks, now I’ve done it and I never have to do it again. But it was really clear that “first growth” jungle is a one time gift to the planet and all of us. I guess donating five days of discomfort is a small price to pay for the awe of seeing the real thing.