Ok, people. Where do I start?
From the beginning I suppose, after my last entry I decided to hang around in Rurrenabaque to venture into the Jungle. I have always thought that walking through the jungle would be pretty cool, and seeing as there ain´t much jungle in England I thought I may as well go flat out and spend 20 days in the Jungle, learn vital life survival techniques and by doing this I was pretty much guaranteed to see no tourists, no signs of human life and venture into one of the most untouched, protected parts of the Amazon Rain Forest. River Madidi.
Shortly after paying for the venture, purchasing a machete, half a kilo of coca leaves, bico soda and 4 packets of cigarettes I started to realise what I was doing was pretty crazy, mainly because every time I walked into a bar the word had got around and people would point at me and simply say “that´s the crazy guy” or ask me “so I heard you are going into the jungle for 20 day, are you mad?”
I thought it was a pretty standard thing to do!!!
Me, my guide (Jose) and my chef (Alexander), met each other, realised we couldn’t speak each others languages very well and jumped into the jeep for 3 hours to the start of the rain forest. When we got out of the jeep we started to pack our bags full of food and supplies for 20 days, my bag was soon extended using a hessian sack and crammed full of flour, pasta and tins. It was easily over 30 kilos and I couldn’t even lift the damn thing alone, so after leaving half of our food supply and all our bottled water behind set off on our 20 day venture.
We walked (with machete in hand) for the first 8 days solid from 9am – 5pm every day without lunch. We crossed huge rapid rivers, tripping on invisible rocks (due to the brown water) cut down through the deep jungle, walked across sand, up and down mountains, climbed over and crawled under fallen trees, crossed streams using fallen trees, broke straps on bags, dropped eggs, dropped rice, slipped down hills, tripped up hills and all of this was with this ridiculous weight on my back. We only walked 15k´s for the first 8 days, then 25k´s at the end of the trip.
To construct the raft we hacked down about 8 full grown balsa trees, pulled off their bark and turned the bark into string to construct our raft. We also chopped down palm trees to form the seats on the raft. for the first few days rafting we were all constantly getting out to remove stones and rocks so our raft would get down the shallow parts, then when it was clear we would jump back on the raft and float lazily down the River Madidi for about 7 hours in the day. After a few more days of rain the water level rose and the rafting became easier and faster. I wanted to have a go at controlling the raft down the rapids as I was bored of just shunting it along the still parts, but seeing as I couldn’t understand much of their rapid Spanish instructions, couldn’t balance on the slippery surface it wasn´t much of a suprise when I crashed into a huge rock and flew 3 meters into the rushing water, destroying my knee in the process!
Pretty much every night we had to construct our own camp, this involved walking into the jungle hacking down about 30 trees and building a make shift camp site. If we were in a site for more than one day we would build fancier shelter and other things like mug holders and cloth lines, when it rained, which it did pretty much every night, my sleeping quarters would be drenched and I would wake up wrapped up in a drenched sleeping bag with water dripping on my head, for about 14 days out of 20 we would have huge amazing storms, but the flip-side of this means I would also have amazingly wet clothes!
I have eaten rice, rice, rice, rice, rice with fish, rice with pasta, rice with meat. For the first 5 days my guides were carrying pieces of meat with them leaving it uncovered and weren´t bothered with the flies or ants living off it. After we killed and skinned a deer the same thing happened, as did with the fish. Sooner or later I stopped caring and just ate anything that was put in front of me. Breakfast for me was the highlight of my day, after we ran out of stale bread we started cooking fried flour dough, with sugar and jam! Man I could live off this stuff. Between the 3 of us we consumed 7 kilos of sugar in 20 days. Every time I had a coffee it had about 3 table spoons of sugar, every time I had anything it had sugar with it!
As we threw away the 6 bottles of water we had before we even started the trek I removed the water purification tablets from my bag straight away. For 20 days we drank from rivers, streams and in the morning we would have a nice supply of fresh rain water. To make the brown amazon water taste nice we had sachets of fruity flavour or in the morning coffee, tea or chocolate with powdered milk (and 3 table spoons of sugar). Our chef also made a nice sugary drink using only flour and milk, it was called something like ´creme de la murri bromar´ but the only problem was it used about 5 days worth of sugar for one small pan!
Before I left civilization I had prepared myself mentally for the mosquito’s, I was drugged up to the eye balls on Lariam and had a little bit of DEET to warn them off, but there are very few mosquitoes here. I also had visions of fighting off tarantulas, lizards and snakes, but no, the main problem in the jungle are…
Wasps and bees – I travel all this way, walk for 20 days in stupid humidity and the main thing which I see I could get in my own back yard. In 20 days I have been stung 15 times, I have learnt that hitting wasps and bees (something you are told not to do) is the best way to get rid of them, standing still when they are attacking you is better than running and cutting them in half with scissors is great fun. I know what hours they are awake in. 5.30am – 7pm
Sandflies – these micro critters sneak up on you bite you during the day without your feeling them then leave a lovely blood blister on your hand. They only really itch at night when you are trying to sleep and BOY do they know how to make you itch.
Ants – Cutter ants ate through the straps and plastic on my rucksack, my mosquito net and sleeping bag but that didn´t involve pain or physical irritation.
Normal ants crawl all over you 24/7 and bite you when they feel bored, but they don´t cause to much pain.
Army ants (the little red ones) are the only critters which have made me strip off and jump into the amazon, each of there bites was a painful as a wasps bite and they are so small its really hard to remove them from your body, I got attacked by a load when I hacked down there tree.
Ticks -These little critters look like mini crabs, latch onto you when you brush against a tree then bite into you and burrow there head into your arm and suck blood as if there is no tomorrow. To remove them you need to burn them off or pinch them off. Luckily only had a few and they came off with just a bit of physical persuasion.
Fireflies – Something friendly, these dudes fly around and they have 2 sort of eyes which glow fluorescent green, I tried to catch one once but instead I hit it, it fell to the ground then it´s lights started getting dim until eventually they went out. I nearly cried.
There are other insects, most are dangerous and all need killing.
In the Madidi it is possible to see Jaguars & Tapbeers (something from the Elephant family), and if you do a 20 day trek you would be very unlucky not to see these. So, sadly unlucky old me had to settle on just hearing them or seeing there footprints. I have however learnt how to talk to monkeys, I can now speak Spider Monkey, Cappachino Monkey, Howler Monkey and Squirrel Monkey! You make their sound and they will talk back to you even thought they are about 1 mile away, this was one of the highlights of my trip along with sneaking up on a tree full of spider monkeys and watching and listening to their reaction when they spot us.
Parrots flying over my head became normal and eagles and vultures camping above us was also a everyday occurrence.
The rarest animal we saw was a baby panther, the little dude walked down to the stream in the morning as we were just waking up, at first I thought it was a weasel but the guides assured me it wasn’t.
I can talk about this for, well, pretty much 20 days solid. So I will just list the top 10.
10) Pains and cramps on my shoulders and backs from carrying 10000 kilos every day.
9) Standing or walking through trees which are solely designed to inflict pain on anyone walking through them, similar to bramble bushes or rose thorns but 10 times larger and more prickly
Stubbing my toes on the rocks for 3 days, I now have one black toenail ( i think it will make it ) and one toe nail waiting to fall off.
7) Jumping rafts only to slip, do the splits and rip my groin.
6) Falling off rafts and banging my knee of over sized rocks
5) Getting blisters on every one of my toes and watching the skin peel off my feet as a result of having drenched feet for 5 days in a row
4) The bees and wasps using me as a pin cushion
3) Army Ants getting all over your body biting the shit out of you
2) Playing football with local children for 40 minutes, 2 minutes before the end I stick my ankle in a pot hole hear it crack then watch it swell up to the size of a balloon. I couldn’t walk on it for 2 days.
1) At the top of this email I mentioned I didn’t really see mosquito’s, but I have got 2 bites from a UFO which has now been identified as a large mosquito bite. It has been stinging or biting me now for over 4 days, each day the pain is increasing and is becoming more frequent. I have now discovered I have been bitten by 2 big mosquito’s who have impregnated me with worms. Now the worms are inside me biting me when they get hungry, I have the following options to look forward to;
a) wait for 3 weeks for them to bore themselves out
b) wait a few more days and forcefully squeeze them out
c) get a cigarette on them and burn them out
Arriving in a small community of 50 families, showing the children magic and playing football with them.
Seeing the delights which was deforestation!! They hack down huge amounts of the jungle and replant it with banana trees, papaya trees and passion fruit. After 18 days of eating nothing fresh fruit has never tasted so good!
Talking to and watching monkeys
Rafting down stupid rapids, falling off and struggling to stay afloat.
Watching what my guides could make from trees and plants (flutes, fans, houses, bows and arrows, blow pipes etc..)
Meeting other tourists on the 13th day (just before I went insane) and travelling with them for the remaining 7 days!
So people, I am sorry this is so long, I have probably missed lots of interesting facts out, but I have already spent 5 hours writing this, re-writing it, getting drunk, returning, re-writing etc….
Oh and also I am sorry for not telling you all I wouldn’t write for 20 days, thanks to everyone for their concern.
Ciao for now, my non-insect friends.