After spending three chilly weeks at high altitude, it was something of relief to land in the sweltering heat of the rainforest town of Rurrenabaque. The little 19 seater plane touched down at the smallest airport I have ever been to. Only the runway was tarmac, the plane had to taxi over grass and mud to reach the terminal building where pigs roamed freely. No such thing as airport security here.
Rurrenabaque is a picturesque little place set on the banks of the Rio Beni. The kind of place best explored in flip-flops, ignoring the pavements and strolling in the streets. You dont have to go far in any direction and the tarred roads stop and the jungle begins. It has the feeling of an outpost in a vast wilderness, and I guess it is. The Amazon surrounds it, and the monstrous Rio Beni cuts through it, swelling to ridiculous proportions in the rainy season.
We decided to eschew the majority of tour companies flogging the same 3, 4 and 5 day tours of the jungle and go for the expensive non-profit option. It was a wise decision. With an experienced guide you learn so much about the jungle: which plants you could eat, what a fire ant bite feels like (he helpfully put one on my arm), what every sound is, how to spot caiman with a torch, how to catch piranha… too many things to write about here.
The one thing we all learnt pretty quickly was that almost everything in the jungle wants to eat you. Spiders, ants, sandflies, and of course clouds of mosquitos.
But one of the highlights of the tour (and my whole trip so far) was meeting the two orphaned spider monkeys. Leaving my rabies fears at the door, it was an amazing experience. I won’t say any more, just stick up a few of my favourite monkey pictures…