|Rurrenabaque or Rurre as the locals call it, is the jumping off point for many Amazon jungle tours. Situated on the banks of the Rio Beni it is an importnat trading centre and transportation link.
The option is a 18hr nightmare bus journey or a 1hr flight. Guess which we took...!
Our 12 seater prop plane took off from the highest commercial airport in the world in La Paz. The journey was interesting, passing between some high mountains before descending into the jungle. The planes are often delayed or cancelled (as we would find out later!)so we were flying one day in advance. We landed on a grass strip between trees (no lights or anything) and took a minibus into town.
We had organised a three night, four day tour and we checked in for this. We then headed to the famous Moskkito bar for a few drinks during happy hour.
We set off in the morning in a wooden dugout canoe. The Mapajo lodge is about 3hrs from Rurre, and as the river is low (dry season) we sometimes had to jump out of the boat and help push it through the river.
The lodge is nestled in the jungle near a little community. It was constructed and is run by the indigenous people of the Quiquibey river and is in the Reserve Biosferica Pilon Lajas. There is a eating room, a roundhouse for relaxing and then several cabins. We had a cabin with private bathroom (very convenient for those night visits) and it was fairly comfortable.
During our stay at the lodge we went on many jungle walks to see the flora and fauna. We learnt how the locals use the trees for different medicines. There were also lots of butterflies and birds. On one of the walks we saw the Mapajo tree, which is one of the biggest in the jungle. On another walk we saw lots of parrots in the palm trees and a feeding ground for all the animals (although we didnt get to see any of the animals).
Our other main activity was seeing the local community of Asuncion. This community has been built around a football pitch !!!! but they still uphold all of their local customs like hunting for fish and animals with bow and arrows. They speak their own language, but also learn spanish as well. We saw lots of different activities including mat weaving, grinding and extracting the rice, making baskets, etc. The best activity was definately shooting the bow and arrow. We like to think we were naturals at this, and Monica even managed to hit the coconut that had been placed some yards away (bit of a grass cutter but they all count !!!!!).
In the evenings we would have dinner while the locals lit candles all around. The candlelit walkways were beautiful and the stars were perfectly clear. The jungle noises in the night were also something to witness. There was no electricity here so bed time was early and we often found unexpected visitors in our cabin, a little mouse, a spider and a troop of ants in our bathroom !!!! There were also animals underneath our cabin during the night, but luckily the guide had warned us before hand.
On our last day we learnt how to make some rings, before heading to the community one last time to hear them play some music. They also showed us how to make fire !!!
Our journey back down the river was slightly easier as we were with the current, so we didnt have to jump out and push. Unfortunately when we got to Rurre we found out that our flight had been cancelled because the plane from La Paz was late and as there are no lights on the runway the planes are not allowed to take off after 6.30pm. So we booked into a hotel and went for a few drinks at the Moskkito bar before heading for bed.
Mapajo Lodge - Great jungle experience but dont expect to see much wildlife. Only spanish speaking guides (we hired a translator for $10 per day).
Moskkito bar - Everything happens around this bar.
Oriental Hotel - Expensive for what it is. Better and cheaper hotels around (like Hotel Beni and Hostal El Balsero).