June 7, 2006
This was a very long day of traveling. As soon as we left the big ship, we found a boat taxi to take us to the other side of the river. The bus station was far away so we all fit into a motorcycle taxi that had a back seat like a car. It was a sight to behold. We immediately got a bus ticket to Riberalta, labeled as a "charming city" on Mathias' map.
On the way to Riberalta, we approached the Yata river, but the bridge was still under construction. It was amazing to see the Bolivians building a bridge with no equipment bigger than a circular grinding tool hooked up to a diesel engine pulled straight off an old truck. We had to wait for an old leaky ferry to take us across the foggy river.
When we got to Riberalta, we learned that we could get on another bus to Rurrenabaque in a couple hours. Rurrenabaque was where Craig and I wanted to end up, so we decided not to waste any time and bought the ticket. We said goodbye to Gabriel, who wanted to cross into Peru via the Pando department of Bolivia, which is probably even more remote than the area we were just in.
With a little time to spare, I took a quick walk around town and discovered an Internet cafe. I was surprised to learn that everyone back home thought I was dead. No, far from it, actually. I asked Craig if anyone ever thought he was dead, and he said "No, I've got a pretty good record [of not dying] so far." Too bad I only had a short time to read a few emails before my bus left.
We were told that the bus ride to Rurrenabaque could take anywhere from 12-18 hours, depending on road conditions. It would be a long ride, but a necessary one. On the way, we stopped for gas, but there was no pump at the station. Instead, they had to siphon fuel into the 200-liter tank, 10 liters at a time. Pavement is something that rarely exists in Bolivia outside the big cities, and this was no exception. The dirt road was in horrible condition the entire way. Looking at the deep marks in the dried mud, it was obvious that several buses had gotten stuck recently. We were lucky to be able to travel on a dry road at least. The bus had no TV or radio, and it was far too bumpy to write in my journal. I tried reading, but the only book I had was in Spanish, which is a difficult task even in a comfortable hotel room, so I abandoned the idea after a few minutes. The only thing left to do was watch the scenery, but I couldn't even do that after it got dark at 6:00. Sleeping was impossible while getting thrashed around, so I'm not sure how I even made it without going crazy.
We finally got to Rurrenabaque at 3:00 AM. I learned that electricity got cut off in the entire town at 2:00 AM, so it was completely dark. Luckily, Craig was there about six months ago, so he knew of a place to stay. We walked near the hotel and sat on a sidewalk until dawn. Sitting in the dark in an unknown place for three hours was a little scary, but I don't think too many people would attack two 6'3" gringos who were carrying canoe paddles and machetes. At least I wasn't on the bus anymore.