Friday, August 23, 2013

Riding from Lapaz to Caranavi to Rurrenabaque Bolivia, and volunteering for ONCA on the Beni River

July 31, 2013
Spent the day gathering supplies for my adventure in Rurrenabaque on the Benis River part of the Amazon Basin.  I agreed to help with some carpentry iup the river at an animal rescue center outside of Rurrenabaque, so looking forward to that.  After riding all over town I Found 80% of what I thought I might need,  (except) 1 pair of rubber boots, a dust mask, and a mosquito net to sew onto my jungle hat.  But I did find the hammock, mosquito net for hammock, and a spare gas can.  Sat down to eat dinner at a Chifa (chinese food) which is usually a rotisserie chicken leg, a fried wing or thigh, lo mein noodles, stir fried rice, french fries, and salsa of mayo, ketchup and a green pepper sauce, and this is your only option for $2.50.  As I was sitting down I noticed a young guy staring at me outside the door 20feet from my table...I have these guys figured out and can spot them a mile way.  They all have hoodies, ear buds, backpacks and sagging jeans.  They always follow me but have not taken my "dummy" wallet yet which I keep in my back pocket with the tassel hanging out and only a scripture inside.  When they step in behind me as I pass them I stop and say nicely "pasa adelante" (go ahead) But this guy was really staring me down as he was putting his hood over his head and had that "I'm about to do something bad" look in his eyes.  So I looked at him from inside the restaurant at my table closest to the door and shook my head and looked away letting him know I knew he was up to no good.  Then he came in and said something instead to the man and lady next to me, and she stood and shewed him away, not sure what he said, but it upset the lady.  So I was eating and they were eating, ten minutes later this kid comes sprinting through the door and crashes into the couples table and grabs a handful of the guys lo mein noodles and a drum stick off the plate and tears out of the restaurant.  The funny thing was the victim never flinched he just kept eating like nothing happened.  No one said a word, except his girlfriend, but she didn't do anything. Would have bought the kid a meal if I knew he was just hungry.  I was glad it wasn't me though, cause I am pretty sure he was considering it.  Everyone has a way to make money here and if they can't do it honestly they steal.  There are so many strange professions.  There are the guys with the one Rolex who sneakingly try to sell it to me as if it were genuine and stolen,  kids who pick pocket, the girls who yell "arroz con leche"  or flan, and hold a tray full of cups or what ever it is to sell, hippies entertaining for money in various ways (juggling at traffic lights, becoming living statues, playing music,  riding a unicycle and juggling, being clowns), then theres the kids who impersonate like michael jackson by dancing to Thriller with a jam box, or the ad lib clown with the squeaky warbler who jokes with passing pedestrians and vehicles outside the cathedral, there are mimes, drug dealers, prostitutes, beggars, vendors who sell everything from socks to boiled coca leaf juice, to dried llama embryos, blind people who singing along to their hand held radios, blind people who play the flute and guitar, quechua elderly ladies begging, disabled or paraplegics begginag, the little 3 year old kids that dance and sing for money as their parents stand nearby, the young girls with babies that walk in restaurants and sing for tips, the free chocolate bar guy that gives you a bar but then comes back 5 minutes later hoping you took a bite so he can charge you for it, the shoe shiners with the full face masks to try to avoid all the dust at ground level, and the boys washing windshields at red lights.  It's interesting to see the things people do here, I walk for miles just to get an understanding of life here and am mesmerized just watching people.  It's so interesting, but many times it's pretty sad, especially when these people close up shop and go to sleep in a cardboard house or under plastic bags on a sidewalk in the bitterly cold night, or dig through the trash piles to eat because they're hungry.

August 1, 2013
Shopped La Paz for things I still need.  Walked with my new plastic gas container to the station for spare gas.  Should have been hassle free to buy gas without the motorcycle with me and the mexico plates.  The station attendant wanted my ID and made a big deal out of it, but the manager ended up letting me have it for the 3.75 b's instead of the 9.75 b's, which was nice.  Carried the gas can back to the moto at the hotel, tomorrow I will head out.  I know the bike is overloaded, hope I don't break any more spokes.  after talking to a tour guide the road is partially paved. that's good news.

August 2nd, 2013
Packed the bike.  The lady said I didn't pay for one of five days so I just paid the 50 B's, and she let me store my spare tire in the garage.  Nice lady,  owns savoy hotel, spoke great english...rare. Took off and my map app sent me to a closed road.  Had to back track.  After 20 km and getting stuck on the xpressway, finally got on the road to Caranavi, a roller coaster ride.  In the mountains everything was frozen including my fingers.  Waterfalls cascading fully frozen on the roadside.  An hour later I was pouring sweat and had to shed all but my foul weather gear, and still hot.  Learned Bolivian sign language ....they love their road signs.  I can breathe again after two months of thin air.  Road was closed 2&1/2 hours outside Caranavi..road work 8km past Villa Marka population-28...until 5pm, it was 2:45  Grrrrr  The road worker said if I came back at 4:45 he would give me a 15 minute head start on the 50 or so smoke bombs, I mean vehicles lined up, on the 80km of unpaved dust bowl, and mud pit, hanging by the seat of your pants cliffside turns, washboard, creek bed, rock raining road.   Guy comes and asks if I had an extra pair of glasses.   You know it's gonna be bad when a local guy asks a foreigner for some riding glasses...But after loosing 5 pairs and just buying the ones I was wearing I wasn't about to give em up.   So I ate lunch with the 28 locals back in Villa Marka.  Made it back to the road block right at 4:45.  The attendant said on your marks, get set, inhale a bunch of dust...just kiddin, but he did say stay to you left...What??? This ain't Australia...stay to your left??? 80 km on death road on the wrong side of the road?...great.  At least I wasn't in a car.  So I let the guy with no glasses go first, and the race was on.  The road work was still going, but we flew by and weaved in and out and dodged potholes, cranes, and dumptrucks,.  New mud tire worked, but the front tire was still slick and with clay it was like ice skating.  The front wheel goes without notice.  So kept it in check.  The surface changed every mile. Dust, mud, rock, gravel, wet, paved, dirt, clay, mud with gravel, mud without gravel, creeks, small ponds, caves, tunnels, trucks watering the road, blind cliff side turns, collectivos and big jeeps whipping around dusting you out, reminding myself "stay on the wrong/right side of the road" with a bus coming at me...not easy getting used to.  So I stayed behind my friend and soon traffic increased and so did the dust.  I rode up along side my new friend and took off my glasses, whistled and passed the glasses over, he kinda smiled.  He stopped ,I kept going. I didn't need em, I had my face shield and felt sorry for him.  He caught up with me.  I had stopped to take a picture, he stopped.  I got a closeup of his mud and dirt covered face, one swolen and red eye bloodshot.  Glad I gave him the glasses and I'm pretty sure he was too.  We continued.  He waited for me in Caranavi.   He was gonna give them back but he was driving another four hours and it was already dark.  I told him from one brother to another "keep em".  He offered to buy me dinner but I wasn't hungry.  We said our goodbyes.  Found a hotel.  I was covered in dust and mud, and I swore I was gonna give a couple of collectivo drivers some of it back,  but decided to let it go, it's part of the deal.... It was a prep course for the 250km of the same on Sunday to Rurrenabaque...I hear it's beautiful riding.  Don't know how it could get any better. I guess if I wiped off my visor.   Bike held up, and no broken spokes. $6.50 hotel, $2.00 dinner, parade in the street, arroz y leche, subtitled Armageddon, 10 pages of "lost in the Amazon" , dog barking outside,...time to saw some logs.
August 3rd, 2013
Chairs a slidin' on the floor in the room next door,  eyes a openin',  "will the real slim shady please stand up"  a playin', chicken a cluckin, sun a shinin' through the sheer curtin', birds a chirpin',  parrots a cawin',  rooster a crowin', bed is comfy', man a clearin' his throat, time to rise n shine.  It's gonna be a nice day.  Crazy day of drums, brass instruments, bells, twirlers, marchers and tons of food and games in the plaza.  182 years of independence It's "national Bolivia Day" which they celebrate for a week.  Changed my oil.  Used 20w50...instead of 10w30 for the first time.  Filled both gas tanks, and got the subsidized price..$2.00 a gallon.  Aired up the back tire.  Had them reweld the stainless steel saddlebags where it broke yesterday.  Ate the best tenderloin I've ever had, or at least it seemed like it, so I ordered a second, and three glasses of fresh squeezed lemonade.  It takes two Bolivian portions to equal one TEXAN.  Satisfied, I hit the hay.
August 4th, 2013
Took off around 8:00 am.  Messed around trying to find clear glasses then I headed on to Rurrenabaque.  The road was like soft baby powder in places and the bike says Oh this feels nice and soft I think I'll lay down here...not good.  After only 38km there was a traffic backup, the road had caved in and all the vehicles were waiting.  A bulldozer and a bucket loader were making a new road.   It was still caving in when I arrived so I knew it would be a while and it was already 9:30.  I was told this slide had started two days ago and was still not done sliding!  I had 212km to go on "death road", (one thing I figured out and should pass on to other future "death road" riders or riders of Bolivian mountain unpaved roads in general.  When you are leaving Caranavi and you pass the 20km mark, the gas station and the little bridge across the river, you have to start driving in the left lane. Yes, in general if the mountain rises to your right and the road is on the left you have to drive in the left hand lane, if not you will get plowed by a collectivo while coming around a blind cliffside turn like I almost did.  I knew that, but I had slept since then.  The collectivo  had to swerve to the other lane, honk and flash his lights and I was doing the same wondering why he was upset with me. ). So, back at the rockslide a couple of British guys pulled up riding a dirt bike with a backpack bungeed to it.  I was talking to a Bolivian doctor at the time so I didn't get to talk to them.  I turned around and there was the same jeep with the German couple I had waited in line with back at the Copacabana border 7 days ago in Peru.  (small world)  Then 3&1/2 hours later around 1:00pm they finally got the dirt cleared from the road (a huge waste of what little time I had...not good) We all took off and only 12km later the doctor and the two brits who were ahead of me had stopped for lunch, and had a bowl of soup in front of them.  They invited me to join, but I just needed water.  I didn't have time to eat.  I was not gonna make it to Rurre before the sun went, I had no time to waste. I kindly declined. Turns out the two British guys had rented the powerful dirt bike in La Paz.  I said bye, and they said they would see me again when they passed me up, I said you probably will, I go slow  :).  So I took off only stopping for a few photos, water, a tangerine (i had 4)and bathroom.  So the road was hard on the bike to say the least.  There was so much "river rock" that it was like driving in a dried out creek bed...I had to be constantly on alert otherwise I would go down or hit a big rock and pinch the tire or worse.  I rarely left second gear for the next 80km.  Then there was the deeep powder which if it were wet would be a foot deep of mud, even dry it was hard to drive through, it would part like water when I drove through it and splash up in my shoes, so my shoes were full of dirt.  Then it started to rain, but not that much, and the sun was going down.  The road got muddy but not too muddy that I had to slow down unless there was a mud hole full of water. I weeble wobbled at least five times but DIDN'T fall down!  The temperature was perfect.  I stopped once to adjust my backpacks about 50km outside of Rurrenabaque and 3 giant Macaws flew over making their loud calls.  Then I turned to see four toucans fly right over my head, also all day I had been seeing a bird that looks like a small turkey, I forget the name of it, but I call it a Chacalaca.  I am glad I chose a Sunday to ride because there was little traffic and no roadwork other than the rockslide. The drivers that I did pass were in general courteous, except for a few station wagon collectivo drivers. Closer to Rurrenabaque there were sections of road that were paved but interrupted by muddy creek beds (hadn't built the bridges yet) every 1 to 5 km you were diverted right or left down into a creek bed which was usually just a muddy water hole.  The paved road sections were heaven sent...Made it to Rurrenabaque a little after dark, and it turned out to be 260km instead of 250km of "dirt" road.  An 11 hour trip for 260km.  I could have easily made it if it had not been for the rock slide, but you have to factor at least one delay into the equation.  If you say I am going to average 40km per hour 250km thats 8 hours, no problem...WRONG!  It's not gonna happen.  I could see something really going  heavy rain, wreck, road cave in, or worse..etc and causing an overnight stay in the jungle.  They tell you the buses take anywhere from 18hours to 6 days from La Paz to Rurrenabaque and I can see why.  But there were a few places to get gas along the way and I really didn't need the spare jug I carried after all, I still had half a tank (3 gallon tank) when I arrived.  "Super Honda" surprisingly held up well,  no broken spokes and the new tire was definitely worth the cost, and trouble. I put "Super Honda" to the test on this one.  16,000km and no trouble.  Compression is strong and I was still doing 105km per hour (67mph) on the straight aways.  Never saw the two British guys again, hope they made it.  This may have been my last trip on Super Honda, but we'll see.  So I found a cheap hotel 40 b's a night $5.40.  Very touristy here, more than I thought, and in touristy towns the cheap restaurants (the ones that cater to the locals) don't like tourists in their restaurants in general.  So I found a nice a la parrilla grill and had a "steak" but not nearly as good as the one in Caranavi...too tough...still drooling over the other one..  The couple running the restaurant were very nice even to a tourist.  Dropped all my dusty dirty laundry and emptied my backpacks to be washed at the front desk for 7 b's a kilo and I had 8 kilos.  Still parading through the streets each morning at 7am so I need to get to bed early before my parade alarm goes off!  Ready to go into volunteer mode again.
August 5th, 2013
Woke up to the beating of drums and symbols crashing in the street parade outside my window.  Went across the street to check email.  Andres had asked me to call him in an email and left a number.  I called and he answered and within 5 minutes I was staring at him.  Venezuelan guy who grew up in Spain and speaks great English. Absolutely the nicest guy in the world.  We talked a while then agreed to meet back in 30 minutes.  So I went for one last ride on the moto for breakfast of an omelet and bread.  Parked the bike in the hotel then got my clothes into the direct sunlight for faster drying.  Then started packing.  I was waiting on the hotel owner to return to see if she would let me store the bike there.  She was gone for over an hour which gave me time to pack and talk to Andres, but he needed to get back.  After she returned she said yes I could keep it there for .75 cents a day, and I agreed because it would be indoors and very secure.  So I went next door and bought three meters of plastic and covered and taped it.  I said bye to my two new Canadian friends who were very cool as all my Canadian friends I have met along the way have been.  Wish I could have gotten to know them better.  Definitely going to Canada on my next vacation!  Then Andres had bought a water tank and had a man with a cart wheeling it down the road and asked me to grab my bags and follow him to where the pecky-pecky was.  A pecky-pecky  is a small canoe like boat about 25 feet long and 3feet wide with a motor and a very long shaft for shallow water.  The locals call them this because of the pecking sound the motors make.  We tossed everything inside and took off pecking up the Beni River.  Can't express how cool this heart was thumping with all this adrenaline.  This is what I came here for!  This is where I knew I was meant to be!  Wow what a beautiful place.   The Bolivians swimming in the river turned out to be one of Andres helpers and after a short conversation we continued on.  Twenty minutes later and just through the canyon and on the other side of the mountain was Andres and Vanessas place, a 125 hectare Amazon Basin Camp on the banks of the Benis River where we parked the boat and walked up the muddy banks of the river to where I met Vanessa his girlfriend, Andres parents from Spain, and all the workers who are working to complete an animal rescue center which is almost completely constructed.  Andres is an educated and certified animal care specialist and Vanessa from New Zealand has worked with animal centers for more than ten years.  The camp had several cabins to choose from and since I am the only volunteer I got my pick.  The first cabin we looked at had a cat inside that looked to not be alive.  Andres was afraid to touch it at first then after further investigation Vanesaa found two puncture wounds on it's front right paw from a snake, the cat was fine the day before, but Vanessa took the dead cat down to the river and tossed it in. The next room had too many bats on the ceiling, so I passed on it too. Chose the Charo House, rustic but nice and Amazonian and right on the bank of the river.  Andres talked about all the things he wants done and we had a nice chicken and rice lunch.  Then Russian salad for dinner.  Watched a movie together on the office computer while Vanessa nursed a baby mouse back to health with a serenge of milk and sugar.   There are four geese, four dogs, two cats, twenty chickens and the mouse for now.  I've got a feeling I will see lots of animals before this one is over.  Boat motor pecking in the distance, drums thumping faintly in Rurrenabaque town, crickets a chirpin, time for bed.
August 6th, 2013
Woke up to a grapefruit crashing on my tin roof, like a gunshot, no more like a canon. Vanessa said the mouse died in the night, and she was cleaning out his box sadly.  Hung out with andres, vanessa, maria and alfredo (andres parents) mario, alex, dixon, & Floriano.  We sanded the rescue house a little to prep it for paint, and maria made the best smothered ribs i've ever had, yucca patties w/cheese, salad w/ fish, and rice.  Mario said they had seen the 12 meter anaconda in the river again.  Hmmm???  Set the nets in the river for bait using the boat while dixon yelled from the cliff where to put it...his dad is a local fisherman.  Helped Vanessa cut down an oversized stalk of bananas.  Hundreds need to be cut.  Then Andres yelled for Mario to come down from the hill to take us to his communal land to a creek where we can catch "sardines" we will use for bait.  So we walked for 4km through the forest until we came to this picturesque creek in the mountains, where we took turns using the net to catch these large bait fish with a cast net.   It's like Jurrasic park here. We were seeing huge Puma tracks everywhere probably 150 pound cat.  After twenty or so sardines we hiked back and stopped in their village to say hi to the families.  Mario and alex asked to go with us.  So after dinner of spicy thai noodles we headed to the river.  We fished at first from the bank, then paddled over to the island.  I caught one catfish about two pounds weird looking with a mouth three times as long as a normal catfish.  Then we got low on bait.  I had one left and walked all the way  to the end of the island casted and got in some rocks, not hung up, but it pulled my last sardine off.  So I laid down and put my head on a log and fell asleep listening to the rapids flow.  Andres found me, and asked if I had any bait left, and groggily I said no, he threw one down to me as he walked by.  So I followed him, where we fished a while longer, but it was 2am at his point, so we went back to the boat and paddled back across the rapids to the beach and climbed up the embankment and went to bed.
August 7th, 2013
I woke up at 8:30 to Andres parents talking as they arrived on the boat from Rurrenabaque.  Got a slow start.  Had breakfast of leftover spicy thai noodles and toast with tomato, cheese and olive oil.  They eat well here.  Helped tear down part of an old cabin, then started to build a big shed to keep the fire wood dry.  Picked two yellow grapefruit and two ruby reds from the tree and ate them with my pocket knife.  Played pelota with Baco the german shepherd guard dog...we are buds.  Had a homemade fried chicken nugget and fries lunch with a salad.  Continued with the shed, had a little help from dixon.  Said buenas noches to maria and alfredo hasta mañana.  Picked 3 enormous lemons from the tree, then juiced them with the lever and made fresh lemonade.  Had a shower from the water running out of the side of the mountain, which is also our drinking water.  Staying clean is a constant issue here.  No washer drier either, so I hand wash all my laundry.  Fried the fish I caught for dinner, and watched Oblivion with Tom Cruise in the office on dvd, and from what I hear it's still in theaters.  The dvd cost 5 B's or .75 cents.  There is a bat in my room flying around as I type this and a river mouse right outside my room.  
August 8th, 2013 Thursday
Worked on the wood shed.  Ate good cheeseburgers for lunch bolivian style.  Andres made oven roasted pork chops for dinner.  Went to bed early.
August 9th, 2013 Friday
Went with vanessa and dixon to town to buy supplies and use the internet.  She couldnt start the boat so 15 year old Dixon had to drive us.  Watched a guy feed a pet monkey in his lap in town. Disagreed with the lady taking the plastic off my bike in the hotel. Worked on the boat motor with Dixon then filed down a small propeller to fit the shaft. Ate a fat juicy grub worm out of a palm nut...tastes like chicken...i didn't realize they pop when you bite them.  Dixon laughed at me.  Caught sardines for bait with Dixon.   Walked deep into the jungle with two indigenous guys Alex and Mario and I used the throw net to catch more bait in their creek, but it got dark and they were worried about the Pumas cause they are more dangerous when they have babies which he said they had a litter and we saw the tracks by the creek.  Good enough for me.  Ate beef tips with rice for lunch.  4 of us Fished til 3:30am and only 3 catfish.  River rose 5 feet while we were fishing, the island we were on started disappearing and the boat got stuck in the shallow rapids on the way home.  A little scary at night.  Thought we were gonna flip the pecky pecky.  Caught a catfish with no eyes.  Passed out at 4am.
August 10th, 2013 Saturday
Slept til 10:40am, too tired from fishing til 3:30am. Andres said a big catfish pulled him into the river at 5:30am and he lost his pole, the river was rough but got it back and the fish was still on, then it broke the line.  I laughed.  Worked on the woodshed all day.  Killed a viper by accidentally stepping on it today while getting charro down by the creek.  Said bye to Andres parents.  They are flying back to Spain after spending 6 weeks at the camp.  His amazing mom made us one last amazing meal before she left of roasted chicken, rice w/ gravy, broccoli a salad, and Marios wife's homemade bread.  Then we had shredded chicken, soup and fried corn fritters for dinner.  Andre is leaving in the morning for La Paz for three days to see his parents off.   So it will be just Vanessa, me and the workers who are building a new kitchen.  I couldn't imagine living here for two years like they have.  The animal clinic is amazing and it's hard to believe it is even here.  Vanessa said she spent 2&1/2 months here completely alone with the Jaguars and pumas and oscelots and vipers, while Andres was in Spain recovering from his arm injury.
August 11th, 2013
Vanessa and Andres left early for Rurre.  She came back at 10:30 and I helped her pull the boat around on the muddy bank.  Worked on the woodshed...cut charro, twisted it together with tie wire. Cracked 3 palm nuts and found three grubs inside.  Got 3 grubs out, and caught three sardines in the creek with my handline.  Used the three sardines to catch 3 catfish, used the three catfish to feed two One was a Tao weird spotted, yellow and gray with an elongated snout and eyes on top of the head.  They said it was the best to eat of all of them.  Weighed about 7 pounds.  The other two were two pounders...i found a honey hole!
August 12th, 2013
I sleep like a baby here.  Woke up at 8am to two wild turkeys outside my cabin door.  Ate breakfast, and washed dishes.  Worked on the woodshed.  Read in the hammock then passed out on the cliff overlooking the river listening to the water rush by down below with a cool breeze in my face.  Woke up 30minutes later melting with sweat in the beaming sun.  My belt buckle was so hot I couldn't touch it. Mario, Alex, and Jorge showed up and built a makeshift kitchen in twenty minutes out of balsa like it was nothing.  Moved everything out of the kitchen and set it up under the new tarp covered kitchen, even the stove and icebox, which are propane running.  Then they tore all the walls down on the old kitchen to prepare to build the new one tomorrow.  Saw two toucans hanging out in the yard.  Tana and Missy showed up after being gone two days chewed up, bloody and swollen from a fight with some kind of animal.  Vanessa said it was a Tyra (like a badger) put them on antibiotics.  Pan seared the catfish encrusted in fried garlic and scotch bonnet,  in our new make shift kitchen with whipped potatoes and a blanched carrot and onion salad with cumin.  Vanessa had seconds.  Washed dishes, and hit the hay.
August 13th, 2013
Andres showed up in the morning back from La Paz.  I painted the rescue center and worked on the trap.  caught bait with the hook and handline.  Then fished til midnight with Jorge and Roberto, it was slow and only caught one small catfish which pricked me a little and injected some venom in my fingers which burned for several hours. It rained in the night and water was dripping on my face and woke me up.  I covered my face with the pancho and went back to sleep.
August 14th, 2013
It was pretty cold last night and I had to throw on my hoodie in the wee hours to stay warm.  Andres went to town to finish his residency visa.  I Finished the trap and tried it, but no luck.  The water started rising and I had to pull it out, or it would wash away.  Fished for thirty minutes.  No luck.  Went to bed after a freezing cold shower.
August 15th, 2013
I decided to stay here another 8 days.  Went to town with Andre and Vanessa and Baco and Negro the dogs in the boat.  Alex came along as well.  When we were done shopping Andres told me we had an invitation from the community boss of ssn luis chiko to go into Laja National Park to fish that part of the river there... we dindnt need a guide... but we had an official confirmation from the authority to go there. but it was more than 60km up river and would take four days in the boat. I am all in and pumped.  I even bought new fishing tackle.  Read my book next to the river on the hammock.  Put the trap in a new spot.  Waiting for Andres to yell lunch-is ready.  Fished til 11:30pm.  Two catfish.  Woke up at 4am to a chicken screaming for it's life.  We think a Jaguarundi had it.  Vanessa and I scared it way.  It was right outside my cabin. She caught the hen after pulling all it's tail feathers out by accident and put it back on it's nest if ten eggs.  It was freezing outside in the low 40's and my room has no windows only screen.   
August 16th, 2013
Mom's birthday.  Happy birthday Mom!  Woke up to missy and Tana trying to push my gate open to get into the forest, they had the scent of an animal and it was probably what got the chicken last night, but I stopped them. Then I painted the rest of backside of the rescue center.  Vanessa asked if I had seen the dogs and we assumed they had found a way and gone into the forest.  So I hand Washed clothes then went hung them and went down to check the fish trap.  To my shock there was Tana down by the cliff stairs lying on her side in a pool of blood.  She was conscious but couldn't  walk or raise her head.  When she saw me she whined so I picked her up and carried her back to camp and yelled for Vanessa to meet me in the office.  She had eight gashes in her neck and several blood clots.  She was in bad shape.  We cut way the hair and cleaned her up and when Andres got back from town he decided to go get a veterinarian to come out which sewed her up and gave her antibiotics and anti inflammatory pills.  She will most likely survive, barely.  The guys got the roof up on the new kitchen.  Walking to bed tonight I smelled cat urine and called Vanessa over and she confirmed.  I hope it's a jaguarundi and not a huge jaguar or puma. 
August 17th, 2013
The dogs went crazy last night and the cats were fighting with something, but no dead chickens.  It could be anything from an ocelot, jaguarundi, tyra,  puma, jaguar, the day was uneventful.  While i was fishing, huge bats were flying out of the trees on the mountainside.  And right now as i type this there are three flying under my bed. Yes flying under my bed, not the huge ones though.  Thank God for mosquito nets.  Don't want any guano on my sandwich or in my lemonade.  
August 18th, 2013
Went to town.  No internet in town.  System overloaded.  Moved my motorcycle from the hotel to Jorges house.  Isaac from Israel came back to fish with us with his new spinning reel.  I showed him how to rig it, then bait the hook and where to cast and he caught a nice 5 pound Tao catfish.  We fished til 4pm.  Then we went back to town and he showed me his house and restaurant where he and his new wife live and where he will sell kabobs.  He also showed me his kosher knives worth $1400.00 for sacrificing cows and lambs.  Offered to cook me the fish and have dinner next time a came to town.  Nice guy.   Came back to the house and  Fished til 12:30.  Huge capibara in the creek next to us, and Andres saw a Cayman (alligator)  Caught one keeper out on the island in strong current.
August 19th, 2013
Made plantain Lasagna,  for the seven of us and as usual they were skeptical, but after lunch they were licking their plates and begging for more.  Hauled rocks from the creek to the other cabina to prepare it for cement.  Fished til 10:30.   Cracked twenty grubs out of the palm nuts.  Caught 15 sardinas with a hand line at the creek a 1/2 mile away. Had 15 sardinas and my bag fell and all the sardines went into the river but two.  Jorge and roberto were 1/2 a kilometer away so I went to bed rather than walk to ask them for bait.
August 20th, 2013
Painted the rescue center.  Andres helped when he got back from Rurrenabaque.  Then I put up new mesh to keep the bats out of my room.   We were eating spaghetti and Vanessa made fun of American food when I jokingly asked her if she had never tried a spaghetti sandwich.  She made fun of pbj's.  Then i told her she should try grape jelly and eggs, it's good  full moon.  River is low.  Going up river in Dixons boat on a 5 day round trip to Lajas tomorrow with Jorge, Andres, and Dixon.  We spent a couple of hours planning the trip.
August 21st, 2013
Went to town early to buy supplies for the fishing trip.  Bought all my stuff and paid for half the gas.  Then we packed and Dixon got the boat together. Dixon is 15 years old yet knows how to fish and navigate the river better than all of us put together, but I did not have confidence in him or the boat, and I let him know that.  So Andre and Dixon went back to Rurrenabaque to pick up Jorge, but I had a bad feeling as they rode away and the motor died for ten minutes he tried to start it.  Then I started thinking four people...five days with all our stuff, and having to carry the 400pound boat around a dozen shallow rapids.  Right then I decided I was not going.  So i went to my room and packed my stuff and asked Vanessa if she could get one of the workers to take me to Rurrenabaque when Andres returned from town.  They were all shocked that I was backing out, because they know how much I like to fish, and as Terribly bad as I wanted to go my gut was saying don't do go!   Grrr.  It was hard to say no, and Jorge literally begged me to go.  I told him I would wait for his return and we could fish with Dixons dad when he returned, but I felt it was safer for just the three of them to go.  So as they loaded the boat and put in all the ice chests and supplies, I noticed the boat was just a couple of inches above the waterline and I knew I had made the right decision.  I could just see all my stuff floating away down river when we flipped over.  So Alex took me to town and I got my old room back at El balasero.  My volunteering here was done.  Told everyone goodbye.
August 22nd, 2013
Went to get my motorcycle from Jorges house, and talked with his mom and wife a while, as he is still on the fishing trip.  Had the motorcycle washed for a dollar, which took an was dirty.  Rode out to the airport on the outskirts of town.  It's literally a dirt and grass  runway in a field.  I inquired how much in advance I would need to buy a plane ticket to La Paz...two days.  So Sunday I will buy my ticket.  I should be back in Houston by Next week.  Wow!  That's a hard pill to swallow. Not ready for this to end.  But ready to see my family and get back to work. 

I've seen a lot, and learned a lot.  I speak fairly fluent spanish. I had three volunteer experiences and volunteered in three countries for six and a half months of the eleven months of traveling.  In 2008 I graduated with a bachelors degree from The University of North Texas in "Organizational Development".  The ideal job with this degree would be director of a non-profit.  Using my volunteer experiences and the contacts I have made I would like to start a small non-profit where I would distribute small donations to the certain countries to help families living on the sidewalks and streets. 

 More than anything though, I think I learned what a loving relationship is about.  It took me traveling 600 miles across the Gulf and 17,000km and 12 countries to figure this out.  The people here in South America and in Central America struggle, but they really love each other.  I have lived with them and spent a lot of time in their homes and businesses, and I have seen see moms playing with their kids, and dads working hard to provide for their families and some working literally til they can't work anymore to feed their families and to provide for them, they are working far away from the family home for weeks at a time.  And here in the Amazon there are places just 30 miles from here where money has no value. They live on what they grow or can make with their hands and trade.  There is value in this which most Americans have abandoned!  It's not all about the money!  It's not about living in a country that is the financial capital of the world.  It's not about interest rate, stocks, bonds, equity, inflation, investments, profit margins, etc.   It's about relationships, and friends and family working together to survive in an unforgiving world, and taking small moments to laugh, play, and enjoy discovering life's many simple gifts.  While this world is hard and our time here is limited we are all meant to enjoy it.  We have a God that TRULY Loves us.  Through this love he molds us and shapes us into who we need to be through trials and hardships and tough times.  It's during these tough times that good things happen.  I think I've been changed by my endeavor here, and many other hardships I have endured, and all along this was God's plan a revelation, to show me what a true,  loving, and unconditional relationship is like.  It's not about lawyers, and manipulation, and not about  who can get the advantage or the upper hand, or who has the most money, the bigger house, the nicest car, or the fanciest diamond ring.  These things will turn to dust one day.  It's not about how many good deeds or favors you've done, or even how much money you gave away.  These are by-products.  If it's not a sacrifice it doesn't matter.  It's all about sacrifice and giving all you have even when it inconveniences you or places you outside your comfort zone,  messes up your busy schedule, or puts you in a position of uncertainty...this is where love is...this is when we have to rely on faith, and hope.  This is what will last forever.  It's about not taking more than you need.  It's gonna hurt, it's gonna be painful, but there was one man sent here before us who sacrificed it all and was hurt...So we need to put aside our selfish, self serving, holier than thou attitudes and humble ourselves and be practical.    Where we have to work for a living and rely on each other for help.  Where all men are created equal, where there are no borders, where we are no better and no wiser than the indians in the Amazon jungle.  And I know some "indians" who would be just like any other American working and living along side you in any town in the USA, and who if the tables were turned would be more than willing to share their knowledge willingly and without hesitation.  This being said we are all connected.  We are all related.  And in some way we are all one big family...of brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, daughters, and sons.   We need to reunite and come together.   While we are here we should make the best of our time because when we leave this earth it will continue to spin and life will go on without us, the sun will rise each day and the birds will sing each morning, but we have to ask ourselves "is the world now a better place because I was in it?"

La Paz to Caranavi

Caranavi to Rurrenabaque


Downtown La Paz Bolivia

Morales was in La Paz the same time I was getting on a plane to Moscow to rescue Snowden.  They diverted his plane to Vienna though.

Cool view of the snow covered mountain from a tunnel in La Paz

Dried llama fetuses- To protect the house. An estimated 99% of Bolivian families have a dried llama fetus thrown under the foundations of their house for luck.

my friend, who I dropped a couple of B"s in her cup every day I was there.  one day I asked if I could take her photo and she said yes.  She wasnt doing too bad though.  you can see the coca she is chewing in her cheek.

This is the main tourist drag, and this bridge crosses the expressway and connects two popular shopping areas.

Santa hanging from the side of a building.  not sure why.

My amazon survival pack.

Another view of downtown LaPaz as I was leaving.

One hour outside LaPaz I was at 4500 meter elevation.

more snow

frozen waterfall

Anti-narcotics checkpoint.  They just waved me through.

Tunnel in the mountain.  you can see there wasn´t much traffic.

one last photo of a nice clean motorcycle.

This area reminded me of the Machu Pichu area.

This tunnel was over about a mile long, and well constructed with lights and all.

when I got to the other side the view was beautiful.

The photo doesn´t translate here, because the incline is very steep and you are expected to make a hairpin turn in gravel at the bottom.

The nicely paved road to Caranavi didn´t last long.

Lunch table in Villa Marka

Tourist bus carrying bicycles back from the old death road

Lunch with some of Villa Markas 28 inhabitants

waterfall on the way to Caranavi

The water in this river was a nice blue color.

The road was hard on Super Honda

Bolivian ambulance navigating the water holes.

One way cave like tunnel on death road.

The dust was almost unbearable

Remember drive on the left not the right especially on blind cliffside turns...always blow the horn just in case.

I was dusty then it started to rain.  I am sure I was a sight to see.

My bags when I finally made it to Caranavi where filthy

If they spent a little more on asphalt and less on signs Bolivia would have great roads..

This area had a sign for everything.

more signs

and more signs

My hotel in Caranavi.  

The celebration begins.


oca, like a potato

Escaveche, only sold on Sundays

Caranavi parade

parade in Caranavi Bolivia

They love the drums.

Main street was packed for the parade

These poor kids had to march all day in the hot sun.

This is a common sight in central and south America.  These kids learn to hang on at an early age.

future soldier

The park in town square Caranavi
The people here love Morales

shoe shining

The Parade continues

Movie monster posers

And I`m off to Rurrenabaque

The roads all had steep drop offs.

The view here was scenic, and the weather was nice.

clouds rolling up out of the valley.

And then the road had to cave in.

we waited for 3&1/2 hours

The terrain was constantly changing as you an see here.

A very small community on the way to Rurrenabaque

Beautiful waterfall.  wanted to go for a swim, but daylight was limited because of the delay.

Autobus dusting me out.

The sun is going down.

It had recently rained.

Buena vista.

And the sun sets

the terrain got very flat in this are and the road was straight.. the weather was much warmer.

House not far from Rurrenabaque.

The baby powder road.

the muddy road

the paved road

the creek bottom diversion where they hadn`t built the bridges yet.

giant macaws overhead

had to keep the moto in check here so I didn`t fall down.

ah finally made it.  although it was dark I took this photo the next day.

downtown Rurrenabaque is about ten square blocks on the banks of the Beni River

my hotel

view of the surrounding mountains.

main street Rurre.  If you say Rurrenabaque to a local they will correct you its Rurre.

this was some kind of house boat barge, but I never see it move.

The pecky pecky boats lined up.

Andres boat

on the way to ONCA

It`s Andre!

My new house.

It was made mostly of Charro, similar to bamboo.

Charo House.

Mosquito nets over the bed

this stuff came in handy.

chocolate bean fruit.

view from my room... you can barely see the river.

The kitchen and offce.  which was about to be torn down.

another view.

The mean old Geese always trying to bite me.

Rooster a crowin`

Vanessa with a fresh stalk of bananas

view of the river from the yard.

The welcome sign


Marias ribs.

the two cats sleeping

The old kitchen., which is being rebuilt.

one of the other cabinas


taking my after lunch break.

the sweetest grapefruits I have ever tasted.  no sugar needed.

my room floor.

The swolen river.

The sink area

the shower

the wood shed I built

a different viw

my room again


the temorary kitchen supported by balsa posts.

my shelves in my room.

the old kitchen

the old kitchen

my good friend Jorge getting ready to take off the door.

one last photo of the old kitchen.

every morning thre is a fog over the river.

Pink toed baby tarantula

there goes the kitchen.

this kitchen was built in 1976 and had never been touched since.  it was held together with strips of bark, tougher than leather.

this is the view from the new power station being built.

the new solar electronics building

the animal rescue center.  I painted almost the whole thing.

my fish trap and my best fishing pole.

the new kitchen begins.

the goose house.

they added the roof supports.  the entire building is held together by thin strips of bark soaked in the creek.

temporary kitchen with gas stove and gas refrigerator.

heading to Rurre

Andres and Vanessa

Alex taking me to Rurre for the last time.

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