After four glorious days of fiesta in San Ignacio de Moxos, we took a Truffi (a shared taxi) back to Trinidad, a hotel with air conditioning and a solid nights sleep without the fear of being woken by fireworks and church bells. Trinidad is one of the main gateways to the Bolivian Amazon and we’d arranged a relaxing four day slow boat up the Rio Ibare and Rio Mamore to recover from our exertions during fiesta – go far enough north-east on the Rio Mamore and you’ll eventually find yourself in Brazil, but before you reach the border there are thousands of kilometres of Amazonian river to explore.
Fully refreshed, we went early in the morning to a small port on the Rio Ibare where the Reina de Enin (www.andes-amazonia.com) was moored. Known as the Flotel, the Reina de Enin is probably the most comfortable way to travel into the Amazon, but at first sight it looks a bit like two boats squeezed on top of a catamaran, which is what it turns out to be.
The boat is comfortable and a very relaxing way of chugging slowly down the river spotting wildlife and watching some of the most spectacular sunsets you’re likely to see. With three decks, including the top deck with loungers and hammocks, a fantastic restaurant and daily excursions into the forest, up small rivers to inland lagoons, horse riding and fishing trips to choose from, it is almost impossible not to relax.
This part of the Bolivian Amazon is relatively populated, and as you travel down the river it is quite common to see a dugout canoe tied to the bank and a small track leading into the forest. Sometimes it’s possible to spot a thatched house amidst the trees belonging to small scale farmers who have planted sugarcane, papaya and other crops. Of course this is at the expense of the original prime forest, but that is the reality in a part of the Amazon that is reasonably accessible. The life isn’t easy for the farmers though – no electricity, no running water, little access to health and other services and an isolation that most people wouldn’t welcome, plus your nearest neighbours are about a billion mosquitoes.
One of the joys of travelling slowly down the lazy river is spotting lots of wildlife, from river dolphins to butterflies, as you travel through beautiful surroundings. First though, a quick swim in, what we were promised was, a ‘safe’ part of the river. Safe that is from piranhas and anacondas – although it wasn’t clear if anyone had informed the piranhas and anacondas.
After splashing around in the water for half an hour we jumped back in the small boat and headed back to the Reina, but not before coming across a fisherman a short distance from where we’d been swimming who’d caught this…
After that wake-up call, and a mental note never to set foot in the water again, we set off down the Rio Ibare heading towards the larger Rio Mamore and passing some beautiful wildlife en route, which, coupled with the beauty of the scenery, makes for an amazing wildlife encounter.
After mooring on the banks of the Rio Ibare for the night and listening to the deafening sound of millions of cicadas, the following day we set off towards the Rio Mamore where, in the afternoon, we took a trip into a lagoon where there was even more wildlife to spot.
The day’s adventure came to a dramatic end with one of the more sublime sunsets anyone is likely to see…although it was impossible to stay outside the screened areas of the boat for long after sunset due to the sheer number of mosquitoes, who weren’t just hunting in packs but swarming everywhere.
The next day we went on a walk through the forest in the hope of spotting monkeys, we didn’t, but there was lots of other wonderful wildlife out there, including a large sloth.
And perhaps the most amazing sight of all, a sloth…
After a hot and sticky walk through the forest, our reward was a journey back to the Reina as the sun set over the Rio Mamore while drinking a cold beer, the perfect end to the day.
Returning to Trinidad after four days we took the night bus to Bolivia’s second city, Santa Cruz, and, after soaking up a big city atmosphere for a couple of days, headed to the sleepy village of Samaipata for further encounters with wildlife and ancient civilisations.