After I came back from the Pampa I went on a boat again and set off for a trip deep inside the jungle, or how the indigenous call it – La Selva. A 2h boat ride up Rio Beni and it’s side arm Rio Tuichi to the lodge. Rio Beni is a massive river with a strong current. Just imagining that there are hundreds of these rivers feeding the actual Amazon makes it unbelievable how much water must go down the Amazon.

Can you spot the face in the wall?

The lodge was embedded into the selva and a really amazing setup itself. Comfortable, in style but also perfectly designed for the jungle. I can also highly recommend the operator I took (Max Adventures – http://www.maxjungle.com).

 

After we arrived we went for our first stroll through the selva. It is a really thick primary forest. Our guide, Leon, is from one of the indigenous tribes of the area and had lived traditionally in the selva until he was five years old before he moved closer to Rurrenabaque. But he spent his entire life in the selva and has a vast knowledge about all animals, plants, their habitats and usage for survival in the jungle.

He showed us the symbioses between fire ants and their host tree – the three is hollow inside where the ants live and uses the heat the ants provide. Therefore the ants protect the tree from omnivores – and with furious force. The bites are are extremely painful. The indigenous people would tie a person who had been convicted with a murder around such a tree. At one point of time the person would fall asleep and touch the tree which would trigger the ants to attack. They outside bites were painful but when the ants entered the various holes of the body and would attack the inside the person would get severe inner bleedings to the point where he would vomit blood and eventually die a slow death… 😳
He asked me to try a bite – I didn’t really think that it was a good idea but he said I would die from a few bites I was curious enough to see how it feels. So I touched the tree and waited for a couple of ants to crawl on my hand and bite me. What can I say it is 💀🔥painful!!!!

The jungle is not a zoo and I think the Corcovado Park in Costa Rica is an extremely unique place on earth. So you don’t see tons of big animals. But it was a lot about the little things…

 

 

Finding drinkable water is a key issue in the selva. Leon showed us a trick – there is a liane which contains a massive amount of water. You just have to cut it quickly since it withdraws the water quickly when it is cut. But a piece of 2-3m gives you quite a good amount of water. I would only have a problem identifying it – to me they still look the same…

We again saw howler and squirrel monkeys, aras and also an owl which is very rare. Leon also showed us various plants which could be used for certain medical treatments. It seemed like there was a plain for every single suffering. He also had something for my ant bites – a very young knob of a fern. There it was again, the Koru! Great start.

We also made our own glue out of a rubber tree and created scary masks and earrings and played Tarzan with the lianes.

 

After dinner we had a traditional ceremony in the forest to thank Pachamama (mother earth) and ask her for luck on our journey in the selva. Therefore we dug a little hole, we sacrificed coca leaves, cigarettes & alcohol, everything was “cleaned” with smoke and at the end everything was burned. We also chewed coca leaves ourselves – it’s the same leaves that are used to produce cocaine but apparently you need to eat kilos to have the same effect…
I love cultures which sacrifice some of their food and give it back to nature. I think it is a very strong tangible reminder to live in balance with nature and to appreciate where everything is coming from which we nourish ourselves on.

Next morning we took a little boat to cross the river and visited a spot where aras had their “cabins”. Aras live in complete monogamy and always stay together. The sit, sleep, feed, fly and do all other things together. This is why you also always see two aras and never one. If one of them dies the other one stays a widow for the rest of his life…

 

Again our guide showed us a plant which they use to colour things – faces and cloth. It looks like any other green leave but if you smash and rub it for a while it turns into a thick purple. And then we were dressed up 👺

On the trail we found fresh jaguar traces – only a few hours old. As all cats they don’t like to get wet so they very often use existing trails where they don’t have to brush through the bushes and get wet. Well, we didn’t see it but it was still great to know that they are there.

And then – another very personal highlight and childhood dream came true. Back in camp we prepared for our night in the jungle camping. As mentioned in the last article it has always been my dream to go to the Amazon region, see where the fish come from which I had in my fish tank and maybe having the chance to fish myself and see what’s in these brown little puddles… So I spend two hours crafting a fishing net out of a wire, a stick and a mosquito net. Everybody in the camp was looking at me and thought I was crazy. The locals couldn’t really follow since they thought I would never catch a fish that was worth cooking with the net. But of course – this was not my intention. And then I was ready and gave it a first go in the nearby river / pond which was also the territory of a small caiman. But when i went in the first time he got so scared and was not seen anymore for the day. He had probably not seen anything like this before… 😂

What can I say – even in this small little pond I was able to catch four different species – three tetras and one cichlid! It’s tough to describe but it has been one of the few childhood dreams. I was not really able to find out which specific art it was and maybe it has never made it to European fish tanks so far but that was not really important at all. It was me standing in the pond with the fishing net and actually doing what I had dreamed of as a little kid. Pure satisfaction and happiness…

 

 

And then we left to go camping in the selva for a night! Of course I took my net – who knows which rivers we will pass and if there might be another option for me to explore…

Leon caught a owl-butterfly and for whatever reason knew the German word “Schmetterling” for it – a big laughs @arnoschurmans & @VBB

We prepared the campsite in the forest. A shelter from the rain, plastic foil on the dirt floor, a camping mattress and a mosquito net which was extremely necessary. There were probably one million mosquitos. Due to the rain and our steady presence they were just everywhere! Unfortunately my trousers where not mosquito proof and so they went straight through them. Even my repellent with 98,11% deet didn’t help anymore…

We cooked dinner and went for a little night hike with our flash lights. We explored the selva and the river bed before we sat down and started fishing with the worms we had just dug out. We tried for about 2h but at around 12 o’clock we gave up because we all were about to fall asleep. Also a great experience to sit at the river bed in complete darkness watching a thunderstorm in the distance knowing that caimans, jaguars and all the other nocturnal animals where around us.

The night was quiet. I went to sleep and only had to get up to bring a bit of the water away. But besides that I slept like a baby. I guess all of the nights outside in a tent desensitise you a bit. Before breakfast I explored the surroundings a gain with my fishing net. I couldn’t resist. And I found another little river to fish in. And a gain – not surprisingly the same species but it was still fun. I improved my fishing techniques and had to be dragged to breakfast… 😂

On the way back Leon showed us how to make practical bottle holders and fans.

And then the rain we had seen in the distance during the night made it all the way to us. We received a refreshing shower which was a good cool down.

 

Leon spotted a few fruit trees where we nourished ourselves with. It’s amazing – if you know how and what the selva provides you with everything you need. It was a really great experience to see how you can live in self-sustainability with the rainforest. I loved the experience of this very close link to nature. Touching, feeling, smelling and tasting everything. And it also took a way the “fear” of the dangerous jungle. Of course its not without danger but all the wild and mean things which can kill you are really not after you but you have to be lucky to encounter them. Thank you Pachamama for this experience and making my childhood dream come true! 😍🙏

PS: Of course my flight out to La Paz was cancelled since they didn’t have an aircraft available. Well, this gave me another night in Rurrenabaque – a small and cute town. Unnecessary to say that the 8.45 flight in the morning did not take place either because of weather (scattered clouds at 500ft – apparently to low of the prop and its instrument capability). Love this game. Mañana, mañana 😎

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