Having spent nearly 5 weeks in Peru, it was time to move on to Bolivia and get value from our expensive, but justified visas. Arriving on an overnight bus from Cusco headed towards La Paz, we arrived at the border prepared for a fight. Rumors abound that even with the visa, the Bolivian border is not an easy crossing for Americans. Arriving at the Bolivian Immigration office, the first official didn’t know how to handle our visas. Groaning we luckily found another immigration official who set the first one straight. Without so much as a hint of a n “extra payment” we crossed easily into Bolivia.
Having saved the Amazon until Bolivia, we were anxious to get there as soon as possible. Unfortunately it is an 18 hour bus journey from La Paz to the jungle. No one said the jungle was easy to get to!
Weighed down with so much cargo, we inched our way north out of La Paz. The highest capital in the world, La Paz (3500m) is actually in a canyon, so our little bus had to slowly climb out of the canyon before heading on to the jungle. Cut into the mountains, the asphalt road was barely wide enough for a lane in each direction. Unable to see what was certainly a sheer cliff next to us and pulling out all of our warm clothes, we tried to focus on anything else but the road.
And then the asphalt ended.
Bumping along a curvy dirt road in the dark I couldn’t keep my mind off the Bolivian bus warnings in our guidebook. No wonder, to let someone pass going the other direction our driver had to back the bus up over the cliff to give them space. Sitting in the backseat of the bus we looked behind us into the abyss praying the driver knew exactly where the tires were in relation to the road. As if the situation couldn’t get any worse we drove into a terrible thunderstorm. Bounced our of our seats so high we actually got air, we eventually somehow fell into a fitful sleep. Arriving the next morning in Rurrenbanque, 36 hours after leaving Cusco, we checked into a hotel and then marched ourselves to the regional airline office. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough.
Booking ourselves on a return flight to La Paz, we were shocked the following day when our tour stopped at the airport to pick up two more travelers. A grass airstrip, often out of service for rain/fog/humidity you name it, the 19 seater from La Paz landed with a hard thud followed by the squeal of breaks. As “baggage” claim rolled the cart across the grass we looked at each other and smiled. The jungle is never easy to get to.
By the end of our jungle tour we had met five other people who had taken the bus from La Paz, and not a single one wanted to return via bus. As we crossed the grass airstrip to get into the plane, with no security check what so ever, I felt like I was on a movie set of the jungle. Could this be real? Climbing into the plane we took the first two seats and as the pilot shut the cabin door and triple checked that the handle was locked I steadied myself for what would probably be the bumpiest take off of my life. Finally we were in the air and just as my nerves calmed down an Australian from a few seats back yelled to me to look out the window. Turning my head I looked what can only be described as face to face, with the summit of a snow capped mountain. Wow. Sure beat the bumpy bus in the middle of a thunderstorm!
Lesson learned though, never underestimate jungle transportation!