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1992 Bolivia

Bolivia is beautiful beyond belief. And very varied. Dense lush jungle and up to 100% humidity in the steamy lowlands from which wide muddy rivers flow eventually into the mighty Amazon to the north. Towering black Andes peaks where nothing but glaciers grow. A dry high desert valley running along the western border where minerals turn the earth tan and red and green. Mist-strewn valleys that link the snow-capped Andes with the jungled lowlands. Salt-flats and glorious Lake Titicaca. Bolivia has it all. Her people are kind and warm and curious. Almost 70% are pureblood Indian. In fact the only problem with Bolivia is that it is VERY SLOW getting from A to B. And therefore I got to see less of the country than I wanted.

HIGHLIGHT: I entered Bolivia in the north and took a cargo boat from Guayaramerin to Puerto Villaroel. Here’s an extract from a shipboard letter sent home. “What bliss! Nothing to do and ten days to do it in. Southward bound up the Rio Mamore aboard the naval tug Paredes. I boarded in Guayaramerin in northern Oblivia and will disembark at Puerto Villaroel. By which time I will have travelled 1400km by boat, but only covered about 600km as the crow flies. The Rio Mamore is wide and muddy and deep and strong – the journey against the current takes ten days, the journey back only five. We are surrounded by the forest – dense, impenetrable and unknowable. Now and then we pass a tiny thatch village or lonely farm or cargo boat. But otherwise the isolation is almost tangible. Our companions are the birds (including blue and yellow parrots); the monkeys that screech and yell as we pass; the capybaras (giant amphibious rodents like overgrown hamsters two feet long) that paddle about with heads held high; butterflies that flutter by (black with green polka dots, white with palest lime trimming, sunshine yellow, black and orange jailhouse stripes); albino-pink dolphins (not as active or pretty as their saltwater colleagues) that leap and splash and puff; and zillions of mosquitoes.

There is something sensuous about this trip. Something about the long slow lazy days. Something about the heat. Something about sitting on the edge of the barge in costume and sarong in the early evening and taking a bucket bath out of the river while the full moon rises over one bank and the red sun sets behind the other. Something about the dark eyes and taught brown bodies of semi-naked men (quite a lot about them, actually!). Even something about the less-than-clean conditions under which we have been living (nothing sterile about this country or these people).”

Border crossing at Guayaramerin
Border crossing at Guayaramerin
Guayaramerin
Guayaramerin
Guayaramerin
Guayaramerin
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
On board the Paredes
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