14.4422° S, 67.5283° W
Since we arrived in Colombia 3 months ago, me and Jord have been itching to get out in to the Amazon jungle. After taking some advice from some friends we stuck it out and waited until we got down to Bolivia as they have a lot more animals and much more diversity. Another amazing place to submerse yourself in jungle life is Iquitos in Peru, but no matter how much I tried to persuade Jord, I finally accepted we just didn't have the funds or time as it can only be accessed by either a 4 day (or longer) boat ride from Colombia, Ecuador or Peru or a very expensive flight.
We found an animal refuge that was part of an indigenous community wanting some help fixing up their place via Workaway and as we waited for a reply, we thought we would kill some time in La Paz. We caught up with some friends from Cuzco, checked out the Witches market and spent way too many nights in Wild Rover hostel blowing all our money on alcohol. I like to use the excuse that our hostel was so freaking cold that to be able to sleep, we had to be intoxicated. I also felt like I woke up in a circus every morning as the courtyard would always be full of guests juggling, throwing ribbons around and trying to balance a spinning top on their head whilst playing the harmonica. But it did the job and as soon as we got a message back from Andreas (the workaway) we packed up our stuff and grabbed the next bus to Rurrenabaque.
The bus terminal isn't the normal one, it's located in the Fatima district, and its defiantly not in walking distance (we figured this out after spending an hour trying to find it). During the day we had a really scenic trip and passed over the worlds most deadliest road (only bikes are allowed to access it now as there was an average of 26 cars that came off every year...that's nearly one every 10 days!) Then came the night. Well, thats a whole different story. I'd go as far as saying the worst bus ride of my life. Not only could I not sleep due to being thrown from side to side on the most rocky and bumpy road iv even been on, but there came various points where we would have to pass other busses and lorries, and on a road only a little thicker than our own bus, we had moments when the back right or left end would drop and I thought it was all over. But at 5.30AM we finally arrived safe and sound and made our way to find Andreas.
After spending an hour in an Internet cafe he came and picked us up and we jumped on a small river boat and travelled 10 minutes up the river until we arrived at our destination. As soon as we arrived I was excited, this was where we would be spending our next week. We were shown round and within the first 20 minutes of being there had already seen a snake hiding in the tool shed.
They also had two monkeys that had been rescued. Drucilla, the smallest, was exactly how you would describe a cheeky monkey. She would jump on your head and then swing off a bag on to the floor, and only then would you realise she had managed to grab something and was now trying to open it or put it in her mouth (especially with tea bags) Tina was still trying to get used to people who weren't going to be cruel to her, and were told not to go to close as she could bite.
As it came up to lunch we met the other volunteers, Jurin and Charlotte from Amsterdam. We instantly got on like a house on fire and spent the afternoon helping to rebuild the chicken pen and getting to know each other. I figured they were our kind of people when Jurin mentioned splitting a crate of beer (which we obviously said yes to, and also may have finished on the first night). At first it was a little difficult to sleep as it was so strange hearing frogs, crickets and all the other animals that lurk in the jungle, especially when you’re about to walk in to your cabin but there is a tarantula already making its way through a crack, or you go to the toilet and a fruit bat flies past your head. But as the week went on, believe it or not they became quite pleasant to fall asleep to (although there was always that 5 or 10 minutes when you could swear you just heard something that got in and was right by your head).
The next day Andreas had a call from the government and they needed him to pick up an Ocelot that had been rescued. As I won rock, paper, scissors (clearly the only fair game to decide with any given situation or predicament) I got to go with him to pick it up. It was all very hush hush and Andreas took about an hour being driven to a secret location where he would pick it up. As the car came back, we unloaded the huge cage we had brought and prepared to get the jungle cat in. The car doors opened, and out stepped a man with the smallest, cutest most beautiful baby ocelot I’ve ever seen. Compared to his size, the cage looked ridiculous but he was just so cute, it turns out his mother had been Poached for her skin and he was being kept as a pet. We brought him back to Rurrenabaque and handed him over to another organisation specialising in cats.
The Indigenous Community
Mid week a lady called Teresa from the indigenous community came to see us and asked if some of us could give her a hand. Me and Jord jumped at the opportunity and followed her to where we would be clearing some of the land with a machete for rice fields. I’ve never used a machete before so, yano, after the first few swipes I felt like a super macho woman ready to tackle anything in the jungle. It then began to rain really heavily so Teresa took us to her house where we met her family and she cooked us lunch. Their place is so cool, very basic but they have everything right at their feet. Coconut trees, pineapples, chickens, peppers, cucumber. Like literally everything.
After lunch we followed her to an area where we would pick some avocados, but not before she ran in to the bushes making crazy noises, scaring away a Jaguar that was trying to attack a chicken. We were back at work with the machetes when Jordan began chopping in to a bullet ant nest. Teresa then explained that they were the most fatal ants in the world and if bitten by a lot you could die. If only bitten by one or two the pain would cover the whole area eg. Whole leg/arm and can last for 24 hours. We left them alone and carried on chopping, but before long Jord was at it again and mistakenly began chopping down a branch with a wasps nest on it. Bam! One stang him straight on his head. Teresa picked up some mud from the ground, got Jord to spit in her hand, mixed it all together then splodged it on his head. And I guess it worked because after 10 minutes it didn't hurt him any more.
When we had cleared enough space, Teresa told us she was going to climb the trees to pick the avocados. These trees were fucking huge! And when you think of someone climbing a big tree, you think of them using a ladder right? No, not the indigenous, they used a long piece of wood with holes cut in to it, and then sit in the trees with a Y shaped stick pulling the avocados down individually. This lady was crazy! Not bad crazy but like amazing crazy! After that we then headed back to the rice fields where we started clearing cuttings under the banana trees for another vegetable patch...with our hands. It was only when a deadly spider known for living near banana trees ran out that Teresa told us it was a good idea to start using the rake. Yeah thanks for that one.
The next day I woke up with arms the size of balloons and so fucking itchy I wanted to cut them off. I know I have a mosquito allergy but it turns out I'm allergic to sand flies too! Which had spent the day attacking us whilst we were out being all indigenous in the Amazon. I'd actually spent the previous day taking the piss out of Jord as he was covered in little red dots (and I was kind of hoping he would feel the pain I go through with Mosquitos...evil I know) but no, he didn't feel anything, and instead it was me again. I wasn't going to let it bother me and all four of us went up to Teresa's house and prepared the dough for making rice bread and empanadas (a local South America pasty like thing). Normally Teresa would make the dough the night before and then get up at 4AM to make them, before selling them in the town and then going back to being the super woman she was. Whilst we waited for the dough to rise, Teresa gave me an indigenous remedy of chocolate tree leaves spread over my arms like a thin paste to sooth the itching. It worked for the time we spent being shown the rest of the community that Teresa is head of, but after that I had to go back to camp whilst the others went avocado picking again.
At 5PM I made my way back up to Teresa's house where she was waiting with Charlotte to make the empanadas. Turns out Teresa had been stung by 4 bullet ants. 4 of those big fuckers, and she still carried on scaling trees and picking avocados until the pain was too much she had to come down. As the clay oven heated up we prepared the dough with cheese and pepper fillings on banana leaves and then folded them in half and lay them on a tray ready to be cooked. Each tray took about 20 minutes and after an hour or so we had enough bread and empanadas for dinner and Andreas's birthday BBQ.
The BBQ was amazing. All of Andreas's friends came over from the different villages to celebrate. We had beef, fresh chicken and a giant piranha that Andreas and Alex caught about 2 hours before (which is the most delicious fish I’ve ever eaten) accompanied with homemade pineapple juice from Teresa and a salad that us volunteers whipped up. We spent the night chewing cocoa leaves and drinking beer until finally going to bed, whilst Andreas and his friends headed to the beach to do some fishing. The next day was time to leave as me and Jord had booked a camping and ayahuasca ceremony further up the river, so we said our thakn you's and goodbyes to the adreas and the community and told Charlotte and Jurin we would see them for the bus back to La Paz the following day. As for the camping... well, only the most crazy thing that has ever happened to me came out of it but you will have to click here to find out about that story!
A fight for the Amazon
The Amazon Rainforest is under attack and definitely something that needs to be stopped as soon as possible, the Amazon is being cut down at 1 acre per second and it's all for agriculture (mainly cows and their food supply). Or basicly because we as humans demand more meat then there is in supply. So as a result, the most diverse area on the planet is suffering. Forget the bullshit about car CO2 emissions (although it does contribute), clearing the rainforest for land, to raise animals, that create the most toxic gas killing our planet, and drink the majority of the earths water supply is hands down the NUMBER 1 reason for GLOBAL WARMING AND DROUGHT! I had the most amazing experience living in the jungle and with part of an indigenous community for a week. Experiences that can only continue if there is still a rainforest in 10 years. Endangered species like ocelots are being forced to leave their habitat and are pushed in to community and urban areas ,making it easier for poachers and harder for them to survive as we have proved we can not live in unity. Our earth can NOT and will NOT survive if we keep going at the rate we are. Click on the link below and sign to save a tree in your name.