El Sur

When our Project Coordinator in Beni, Kathe, told me in a foreboding at the trip would be 12 hours in a speed boat, I wasn’t worried at all. In fact, I was happy to hear it. I love being on the rivers of the Amazon basin, and had truly enjoyed 15 hour plus trips by speedboat before in Peru. This time we were heading to three very isolated communities in Bolivia where we have been working now for two years: Cotoca, Mangutia, and Monte Cristo.

You may remember Alan’s account of our adventure leaving these communities as the rainy season began. This time, however, the rainy season had passed but the Ibare River was still high enough that road travel was impossible and the only way to get there was by boat – “speed boat” according to Kathe.

I envisioned the long and streamlined speed boats with seats and a roof used in the Peruvian Amazon. Kathe, however, was using the words to describe a tiny fishing boat.

The way there was as beautiful as I expected (once you find a good position), despite the much smaller boat. Six of us packed into the tiny fishing boat with everything we’d need for the week and all the gasoline needed to get us there. The way back, however, was different.

After a week of trekking through mud and mosquitos to visit the different communities, we were ready for a mud-and-bug-free journey back to Trinidad. But, as always, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

We heard on the radio that it may be coming, and at around 2 am when a strong cold wind shook my tent there was no doubt. The cold and rainy storms from the South, known simply as “el sur”, had arrived. It poured all night and continued through the early morning as we began our hike through the jungle to the river and our boat. It poured as we got the gasoline jugs in order and as we organized our things under the few pieces of plastic bags that we had. It poured as we headed out and it poured and poured until we were all so wet that there was no reason to pretend to try and stay dry. Soaked. Everything soaked. I never knew I could be that cold in the jungle. Unfortunately, all electronics were dead by this point and we couldn’t take a photo.

After nine hours of rain in the boat, the sun finally came out and we were able to warm up a bit for the last three hours of the trip. There was nothing to do but laugh, and remember that these little adventures help keep things interesting.