May 12, 2006
NKM Adventure Day 3
Today was spent almost entirely on a bus. It left a few hours late, so we could forget about walking during the day.
After a few hours, we stopped for lunch. Craig noticed a group of gringos getting out of a 4X4, so we went to talk to them. The six of them had signed up for an 8-day tour with a German guide in Santa Cruz. They provided us with a little information about the park, but they didn't know too much, either. In fact, they seemed like adventurous types who only signed up for the tour because no public transportation goes near the park.
We continued in the bus all day. We told a few of the locals that we were going to walk to Florida, and the consensus was that we would get eaten by pumas. I'm glad we brought the machetes.
As dusk fell and the nearly full moon began to rise, we were stopped by the Bolivian equivalent of the DEA in their military-style Hummer. They ordered everyone off the bus and began checking IDs. When I gave one of them my passport, he started firing weird questions at me like where I learned Spanish. I wasn't sure if he wanted me to admit that I picked up some Spanish in Columbia during my stint as a mercenary with the FARC, so I just told him "school" and he lost interest. They thoroughly checked the entire bus for drugs, moreso than I had ever previously seen. When one guy opened my backpack, he pulled out a food bag, then another, and another, then gave up. Craig's pack was bursting at the seams, so he gave up quickly rather than have to repack everything. They continued the search for about an hour, but no contraband was found.
At around 8:00, we were dropped off at an intersection in the middle of a jungle road. The sign stating "Florida 35 KM" told us that we were in the right spot. I gathered firewood while Craig set up the tent. There were a few hot coals in the clearing in the road, indicating that someone was recently there.
Suddenly we heard a vehicle approaching us from the distance. Could it have been the drug police? Or someone else up to no good? The vehicle slowed down and stopped when they saw us. It was the tour group. They had a snack and we talked to them some more. The guide seemed to like our idea to go down the river in a canoe. It must be a guide's worst nightmare to be on an adventurous tour of the jungle and to see two tourists without a clue of what they're doing along the way.
When the tour group left, we lit a fire to scare away any area pumas or jaguars, and went to sleep early in preparation for the big day ahead of us.