We’ve been lagging behind a bit on our blog, so the first part of this post will try to wrap up all the different story lines of the last couple of weeks. It will cover a lot of different experiences we’ve had and perfectly reflects the great diversity of South America has to offer. It is also the last post we probably will be writing together for a while. But more on that later.
First some jungle boogie! You might know the song from the soundtrack of Tarantino`s masterpiece Pulp Fiction. But apart from that it describes our adventures in “la selva” quite well.
We met up with Australian Tom again and decided to go for the death road in La Paz combined with a boat trip towards the jungle village Rurrenabaque. La Camina De La Muerte is a 69 km road that connects Bolivia’s capital La Paz with the Amazonian rainforest region Yungas. It got its name because of the 200 to 300 travellers who got to their final destination taking this road. Nowadays there is replacement route between La Paz and Coroico, so none of the buses, trucks and other means of transportation take this road for the moment. But it still is impressive to see how narrow the road and how steep the abyss is. While heading down, the road was wet and there was a thick fog hindering us. Nevertheless we made it and all got back down in one piece.
Upon arrival in Coroico, a bus took us to a bit further where we took a swim and relaxed after the adrenaline rush we just received. The next day we spent mostly on the bus towards the starting point of a 3-day jungle tour. Highlights: swimming Tapirs, bullet ants and especially the amazing jungle scenery around the Madidi national park. Only hustle were the thousands of sandflies and mosquitos that seemed to like our gringo blood very well.
The two Tom’s went back to La Paz to tackle the infamous Huayna Potosi. In the meanwhile David continued his jungle expedition and set off for a pampas tour. A bit afraid about being packaged in a typical gringo trip, he soon discovered that it was a great experience. The wildlife was abundant (pink river dolphins, black cayman, howler monkeys, anacondas, capibari, parrots, …), the fellow travellers were interesting, the location was superb, the activities were had a dare-devil feeling (hunting for anacondas, swimming with dolphins and cayman, fishing for piranhas, poking a tarantula, …) and once more the sunsets were astonishing.
While David was preparing his tour through the Pampas, the two Tom`s tried to find a spiritual experience in the Bolivian jungle. In Rurrenabaque they contacted a Shaman that would take them into the jungle for a nightly Ayahuasca-trip.
Ayahuasca (Quechua-translation: vine of the soul) is extracted from different plants that can be found in the South-american jungle. It has been used for thousands of years by indigenous tribes, specifically helping during consecratory celebrations and as a medecine. Allthough the “magic potion” is considered a quite strong entheogenic substance, usage is perfectly legal.
We left the town of Rurrenabaque around 5 pm and jumped on a boat that transfered us to the other side of the river. From there on, we jumped into the 4 by 4 of our Shaman and got to the entrance of the Madidi national park. After having paid the entrance fee, we jumped out of the vehicule and walked for 45 minutes straight into the jungle, until arrival at the desolate spot where we would try the Ayahuasca. The tents and hammocks were put in place, so everything was set for our spiritual experience.
The Shaman, together with his assistant, explained us about the trip and got out the bottle with the dodgy-looking yellowish jungle brew. He poured in some of the juice and explained that it was better to down completely as fast as possible. I followed his advice and quickly swallowed the lightly sparkling and weirdly tasting substance. I soon realised there was no way back and relaxed until the first effects kicked in.
After about half an hour a slight euphoric feeling is noticeable. Little by little, the sensation grows stronger, and soon I entered a weird imaginatory fantasy world. With closed eyes, bright colours can be witnessed, together with all sorts of thoughts. As if you are travelling through your own mind for several hours. The sounds on the background (crickets, birds and other animals) gave everything a strange “jungle touch”. A few hours later, I struggled towards the hammock from where I underwent the rest of the trip.
The nex morning I woke up with my head still a bit buzzing, but the overall feeling was good. Soon, the dizzyness disappeared again and I felt great after going through this amazing “spiritual” experience.
As mentioned in the previous post, David had no trouble in transfering his enthousiasm about the climb of the Huayna Potosi. So, Tom and Tom decided to take up the challenge as well. They both returned to La Paz, where they had to stay a couple of days in order to acclimatize to the altitude.
David already described the experience of the climb very adequately and pretty soon TomTom found out that the way to the summit is hard, extremely hard, but o so rewarding.
Next morning we traveled further towards Isla del Sol, a beautiful island on Lago Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. After a short guided tour, we hiked back on the island from south to north, ending up eating the local delicious speciality “Trucha” for the third time. The views and colours from the lake are incredible, thus the perfect scenery for another jumping picture.
When in Peru, one can not miss out on visiting Machu Picchu. Of course it is quite busy, but undoubtedly with good reason. There are several options to get to the astonishing site. We choose for the 5 day Salkantay trek. Advantage is that it is not as touristy as the classical Inca Trail. Moreover, the days before getting to the final destination are beautiful. On top of that, we were quite fortunate with the group we ended up in. A nice mix of nationalities (Polish, Brasilian, Canadian, Russian, Portugese…) and personalities. We are pretty sure that we will never forget some of them!! Cheers to Joss whom we initially met in Patagonia, but saw back again at Machu Picchu.
In the meanwhile we have been travelling more or less 100 days together. A great time, with unique experiences, adventures and events we will remember for the rest of our lives. Both of us feel like we couldn’t have picked a better partner to set off on this adventure.
But like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid found their downfall in Bolivia, so have we in the neighbouring country of Peru. After having tasted so many new things, we both have different ideas and plans on how to fill in this trip. Rather than giving up on these aspirations, we think the moment has come for us to split up. We’ve been lucky to travel together for so long without any big conflicts or differences of opinions. But right now we both feel like doing our own thing. And what we mean with that can be found in the next paragraph.
Whilst David is heavily anticipating the arrival of his wonderful parents in Colombia in mid July, he still wants to squeeze in the wonderful trekking of the Cordillera Huayhuash in Northern Peru as well as diving with the incredible creatures of the Galapagos Islands. That’s only possible by speeding up the pace of travelling, so right after coming back from Machu Picchu he took an aeroplane to Lima to pick up some credit cards and took a night bus to Huaraz to prepare for his plans.
After leaving Colombia around mid August, the future is still a bit hazy. But that’s the amazing advantage about setting off to travel for a year without the boundaries of pre-booked tickets. If everything would go as currently planned, that future would look a bit like this: taking a flight to Miami, hitchhiking across the States to end up in Burning Man, crossing the Pacific and having sushi in Japan, taking a couple of weeks in Thailand to improve my diving skills, finally hitting India to buy a Royal Enfield that takes me all the way to Anapurna base camp in Nepal. It will be a miracle to fit in all of that before coming back home, but it seems like a beautiful future to me.
Tom on the other hand, is taking a bit more time to get to Colombia, where he is meeting up with a friend the beginning of august. This leaves him enough time to plan in the Huayhuash trekking, the north coast of Peru and Ecuador.
After having passed by the US and the Burning Man festival, the idea is to hit the West Coast of Australia and to search a temporary employment, preferably something inspired by nature (e.g. fruit picking or working in a vineyard). Afterwards, he is aiming to buy a pick up truck with the earned money, as well as a surf board to travel around the country for a few months. Visiting New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Tasmania or Papua New Guinea are options as well.
The fact that we are travelling independently implies that we’ll each be posting our travel stories and experiences independently. So, we are definitely not giving up on our enthousiastic readers!
All the best!
David y Tom