May 20, 2006
Remanso to Versalles Canoe Trip Day 1
The road we were on was inaccessible due to rain for nine months out of the year. In fact, when we rode the same bus last week, it was the first time all year the driver was able to complete the route. Because of issues with reaching certain points, we found ourselves in the unique situation of being on a bus and not knowing where it was going, even after asking several other passengers. We were hoping to go to Piso Firme in hopes of seeing the northern part of the park, but we found out from the driver himself that we could only go as far as Remanso. Our decision had been made for us.
On the way to Remanso, we crossed some really rough terrain. On more than one occasion, I though the bus might tip over because the road was so unsteady. We nearly got stuck several times.
Then it finally happened. Our bus lost momentum crossing a long path of mud and eventually stopped. The rear differential was lodged firmly into the ground. Everyone got out and started pushing, but to no avail. Our driver and a few others started digging at the mud around the tires and bringing in small rocks for traction, but the bus still wouldn't budge. After about an hour, a farmer who lives up the road came by with his truck to try to pull us out, but the truck was way too light.
It looked like we might be stuck all day. Several people began digging deeper holes around the tires and chopping down trees to put underneath. Every half hour the bus was started, but wouldn't move an inch. We were stuck for about five hours when a large dump truck carrying a pile of rocks showed up. It pulled our bus out of its predicament with ease. All of that digging and pushing was done for nothing. At least we were finally on our way once again.
We thought the bus was going to Remanso, but it stopped just shy in a village downstream called Cafetal. We loaded up five people and our gear into a small dugout canoe with a tiny motor and powered our way to Remanso. It's another small native village, but with 500 inhabitants, it has a few luxuries Florida didn't: general stores, diesel-generated electricity, and ice cold beer.
The three of us began exploring our options for where to go next, and it didn't look like we'd get to the northern end of the park because it was too expensive. I think Craig and I got lucky getting to Florida so cheaply as well: Everyone we met paid $100-$200 to get there, and our bus was only $6.
We started asking villagers about going downstream on the Itenez, which is the border between Bolivia and Brazil. They all mentioned a party that will be happening in Versalles on June 1. Supposedly, everything there except alcohol is free! Gabriel, Craig, and I all figured we had to get there, so it appears that the three of us will travel together for awhile longer. Versalles is about 250 K's from Remanso, and we were told that we would paddle about 8-10 KPH, so we could probably get there in 3-4 days. However, maybe it will take longer, so it will be nice to have a few buffer days just in case.
We were also told that there is a large boat that goes up and down the river once per month, and that it's free, too! It seemed too good to be true, but everyone insists that it's free, even for foreigners, because it's a joint project by the governments of Bolivia and Brazil to increase commerce on the river.
We could just wait for the free boat to pass Remanso and ride it to Versalles, but that would be boring. Instead, our goal is to buy a canoe from Remanso and paddle it down the Itenez to Versalles for the party. From there, we'll either sell the canoe or take it with us on the free boat down to Guayamarin, where the adventure will end about two weeks from now.