Tuesday, September 6, 2011

to boat into the amazon or not to boat

We've been in Trinidad in northern bolivia looking for a barge to take us up to the border with Brasil, and then the plan had been to bike through some pretty isolated communities (and yes known drug trafficking routes) and enter Peru. The day after arriving here we went down to the port on Rio Mamore where the barges moor into, and after the first futile visit on Saturday, yesterday morning we went back to find ourselves and the bikes some transport. Barges seem to fall into 2 categories - those that carry gas bottles, and the big tankers, and the others are smaller with stacks and stacks of coke/sprite/fanta bottles and other consumables. We had been hoping to find the latter, but unforuntately the only barge leaving within the next week with space was a fuel tanker.

This somewhat rickety barge was carrying gas in bottles - to  the right is  one of the tanks - probably on which the bikes might sit?
After milling around chatting to the guys loading the fuel, and then finally the captain, he agreed to take us both for 1000 Bolivanoes (about US $140) for hammock space, a steady diet of beans and rice, and the bikes. The thing is though that because it's the end of dry season, the river is very low and the trip that normally takes 5 days would take anywhere between 10 and 20. Also, as it was a fuel tanker, they only travelled during the day which means that there's no air movement to deter the swarming mosquitoes at night.

Somehow taking a fuel tanker into the amazon rubs me up the wrong way (and feels sort of dangerous - although perhaps safer than the gas boat in the pic), and when we considered the longer time spent on the river and uncertain roads north we decided to ditch the boat idea (yes it would have been pretty awesome) and instead drive to Rurrenabaque (a more touristy place but in the amazon too) and then drive up to the same border but by the south road.

Girls usually only ride with their boyfriends (if they have one), but often you see 'packs' of all girls riding  as well
     So this morning we say goodbye to Trini - a city teeming with motorbikes, motortaxis, cars that mysteriously find their way from Brasil (and which Bolivia registers - but gives them green number plates instead of the normal white and blue), open stormwater drains, some decent hamburger joints, dusty roads and sweltering heat. We also got to spend some time with Jen - a Canadian who we met in southern Bolivia who has been living in Trini since May working on clean water and sanitation projects in indigenous communities. Challenging work that I really admire.

Bummed somehow that the barge/boat is not going to happen, but I'm also sort of keen to get back into the mountains (and out of my sweatbox riding gear) so can look towrads that as well.

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