Piece of advice: never take directions from a gay Austrian. If only I'd followed it. After spending this morning once again chilling on Moondance beach, today I tagged along with my friend Robert, who wanted to show me the next beach along on the island, where he claimed there was nice swimming and a great restaurant. Only problem was, Robert thought he could take a "shortcut" up the hillside, and onto the main track that leads to this beach. And as anyone (named Murphy) can tell you, a shortcut is the longest possible distance between two points. Several steep cliffs, spiky ferns, bulging ant-nests, enveloping spiderwebs, and thick bush-clumps later, the truth of this rule was quite thoroughly proven. Although our intensive bush-bashing did eventually pay off: at long last, we finally found the road that we were looking for. Nice views along the way, too.
The third and final day of our romping through Doi Inthanon was pleasant, mainly downhill, and all over by lunchtime. We had a relatively early start: we left the Karen village at about 9:30am; and it was more jungle scenery, winding paths, and fairly easy walking for most of the morning. We were followed for some time by a few of the village dogs: the dogs around here are amiable enough to visitors; but they're bloody wild and vicious with each other! I guess that's what happens when none of them are de-sexed, and when they're all on heat 24/7. The morning rest stop was a looong and very relaxing one: we found a lovely natural pool, with a bunch of flat rocks all around, that was perfect for a ½ hour or so of swimming and sunbaking (and reading).
The second day of our Doi Inthanon trek was easy-going — much like yesterday — but it did involve a fair bit more walking. From last night's campsite, we embarked on a big romp through the jungle, with a fair bit of uphill along the way. Our ascent came to a close in the afternoon, when we reached the famous Karen hill-tribe village that became our abode for this evening.
Yesterday's Class III rafting on the Jatanyacu was a good warm-up, but today's Class IV rafting on the Jondachi was the real deal. Not quite as much pure, blood-pumping excitement and splashdowns; but lots of good technical challenges, lots of fun waves and turbulent spots, and lottts of breathtaking scenery. And all with the very friendly and experienced company, The River People. Rafting in Tena has definitely been worthwhile: possibly the best that I've done so far on my trip.
Today was the last day of our trip to the Madidi jungle, as well as our last day here in Rurrenabaque. After our final jungle romp this morning, and a big hearty lunch, we packed up our stuff and left our jungle campsite. We had to walk back from the campsite to the big river (another stream wade involved), and then it was another three-hour boat ride, back down the river to Rurrenabaque. When we got back, we cleaned ourselves up, relaxed in some hammocks, and then celebrated in the evening, with pizza and cocktails!
We romped through the jungle on our first day here in Madidi. We did it again yesterday. And we had our final romp today. Not much different to the previous days of jungle walking, really: saw a few animals, saw lots of trees and smaller plants, but nothing hugely exciting. After all, jungle is jungle, and there's only so much of it you can see.
We had a fun little session of handicraft-making this afternoon, at our campsite in the jungle. Our guide, Orlando, helped us to fashion some rings, and to create some traditional (looking) necklaces. All we really did was a bit of sanding — the rest was already done for us, or was done after we finished sanding — but it made us feel like intelligent artisans nonetheless. And we got to keep the handicrafts.
Just after lunch this afternoon, and just before our handicraft-making session, our guide Orlando heard the noise of pigs nearby, and quickly gathered us and led us on a sprint through the trees, in the direction of the noise. When we reached the spot, we were just in time to witness about 100 wild pigs running past us in a mad stampede. Fairly common occurrence, apparently — but you still have to be both fast and lucky to actually witness it. Not sure what the pigs were stampeding after, either: maybe someone struck mud?
Our trip to the Madidi jungle may have been full of activities during the day-time, but there wasn't an awful lot to do at night. For the several hours that we had before and after dinner each evening, we had to somehow keep ourselves occupied at our campsite. Unfortunately, since nobody in our group had any playing cards, things were starting to get a bit desperate. Which is why we took desperate measures. We were forced to manufacture our own emergency playing cards.
Our activity for this afternoon, after arriving in the jungle near Rurrenabaque, was to be taken on a romp through the jungle around our campsite, and to try and sight some animals. Sighting animals is much harder in the jungle than it is in the pampas, because the animals are all hiding away up in the trees, rather than hanging around in plain sight around a big river. But with a good guide, and a bit of stealth, it's possible to catch a glimpse of a few of them.