Guanay to Rurrenabaque
Our destination today was Rurrenabaque, a town that sits on the Beni River. Our road would descend down the last small slopes of the Andes Mountains to the edge of the Amazon rainforest. In the courtyard behind our hotel, Rene tightened down the luggage on top of his 4x4, which is now our chase truck. (Maurice left the pick-up in Sorata because it was having some issues engaging in 4-wheel drive, and he knew we had a lot of river crossings ahead. Luckily, Rene had a vehicle that provided a perfect substitute.)
This morning, I noticed that the many of the houses had pitched straw roofs:
Here we are in one small village that we passed through:
Another photo of the village:
A close-up reveals the message painted on the front of the building: “Vota sin Miedo” (Vote without Fear”).
We crossed many rivers today. Here is Olivier crossing my favorite:
And here I am crossing a small one. I couldn’t figure out what the car was doing in the river; then I realized that the people were washing it!
Long stretches of road were beautifully paved with smooth stones (Olivier is standing with his helmet off here):
I had read a lot about leaf-cutter ants—they carry large chunks of leaves, many times their size, back to the ant hill and use the leaves to grow fungi for their larvae. We stopped at one point, and I happened to look down and notice tiny bits of green moving along the soil. Here are my first leaf-cutter ants (they’re hard to see, but you can make out one going down into the ant hole; the others are hidden under their leaf burdens):
Ben and I traded bikes at one point to compare suspensions and other features; he had only ridden my bike a few miles when he got a flat tire. We stopped in front of a very small house (not in the picture), and some children brought out a container of water to help lubricate the tire when we were changing it.
We then reached some twisty roads that were very dusty and covered in loose deep rocks—miles and miles of it. There were also some long muddy stretches that made for some slippery fun.
We finally arrived at our lunch stop, where we enjoyed soup along with meat and rice:
Across the street, there were some clothes being dried on a pile of rocks:
Here is a house in the same village:
Maurice stopped us here to show us the beginning of the flat Amazon rainforest, in the far distance right behind the last ridge line. Ben and Olivier:
Some more houses:
The last 64 miles to Rurrenabaque were on a long straight dirt road full of potholes. There were also a lot of muddy sections, and large trucks to maneuver around. The potholes were so numerous that they could not be avoided—they were intense and bone-jarring. We just cranked up the speed and tried to miss the super-big ones. Inevitably, there was one flat tire (you can see some of the potholes):
The potholes jolted and shook the bikes so much that Olivier’s large zoom lens on his camera broke into pieces inside of his camera case.
We finally reached our hotel, the Safari Inn—a true oasis, with a large veranda, lush green lawns, hot showers, and a clean swimming pool:
We had dinner tonight at Café Piraña in downtown Rurrenabaque. The French owner used to have a bakery in France, and he cooked us a fabulous gourmet meal that would have been given 5-stars by any restaurant critic in the world.
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