May 18, 2006
NKM Adventure Day 9
This was our earliest start yet. With 40 K's to walk back to Florida on already-fatigued legs, we wanted as much time in the cool moonlight as possible, so we started walking at 3:00. When it started to get light three hours later, we ate our breakfast and Craig took off on his bike with all our gear. Candido was lucky: he got to sleep in till 5:00.
This was probably the toughest walk I have ever done. Even though I was carrying almost nothing, the last few days had taken their toll on me physically. I could feel my feet swelling up in the sweltering jungle heat, and my blisters were ripping off my ankles, leaving just raw bloodied skin below. My pace slowed and I had to take frequent breaks. Still, every time I stopped, I got swarmed with insects after about five minutes, so I had to continue again.
By noon, I had run out of water and was getting dehydrated. "Where is the river?" was about the only thought that could cross my mind. Finally, I saw a tent in the path. It was Craig's. He couldn't get across the river on his own because the ferry was on the other side. Our only chance was to go across on an aluminum boat, but it was filled with water. We baled and baled and dragged the boat out, but we weren't sure how fast it would sink into the piranha-infested waters. There didn't seem to be any major holes in it. We decided to give it a go. There were no paddles, so we had to pull ourselves across using the ferry's guide cable. The boat began to fill with water, but we made it before we sank.
I slurped down a grapefruit from the tree near the bank and Craig gave me the bike to ride the rest of the way back. I downed a few liters of water and collapsed on my bed. I had walked over 150 K's in six days and could take no more. There had to be a better way to get back to the intersection where the public bus would pass tomorrow.
A few other people were at our hotel and also looking to get out. Rose form England, Gabriel from France, and Tiere from La Reunion had all been in Florida and the national park for over a week and had been waiting for a car to leave town for the last several days with no luck. Rumors started flying that someone was going to San Ignacio and someone else may be going to Piso Firme, which is where we want to go, tomorrow. Nobody knows for sure, so we'll have to wait till tomorrow to get more info. If all works out well, we'll go to Piso Firme, explore the northern part of the park a bit, get a canoe, and paddle down the Itenez to Guayamarin, which should take 1-2 weeks.
Overall, Noel Kempff Mercado was a great experience. It seemed like every time we turned a corner, another unique animal was in our path. Craig was even luckier than I as he saw a tapir and an anaconda when we were separated. We couldn't have asked for a better guide, either. Candido didn't let politics get in the way of having a good time. He had a great eye for pointing out wildlife and caught enough fish for the three of us to eat four meals. Other than the problems we had with the bikes, the last few days have been an amazing adventure.