Boat Hitchhiking to Trinidad, Bolivia – Part 4

After finally getting off La Pinta and setting foot back on dry land, we found ourselves in basically the middle of nowhere.  We were happy that River boat hitchhiking in Bolivia was done.  It was a tiny port with a few rundown boats parked and a few thatch shacks at the end of a dirt road.  Truly the back of beyond, like someplace out of Heart of Darkness or “Apocalypse Now”.  We knew it might be a long wait for a ride into Trinidad, so we sat down at a cafe and ordered “almuerzos”–hot noodle soup followed by a plate of rice, spaghetti, potatoes, and beef.  The heat was oppressive and we were pouring sweat even sitting in the shade.  Thankfully, while we were eating, a dusty, falling-apart taxi pulled up chock full of supplies.  While the driver unloaded his deliveries, we finished our lunch and afterwards waited a few minutes for more people to fill the car.  With four locals in the backseat, the driver, and Zach and I sharing the front passenger seat, we bounced off along the bumpy track towards Trinidad.  The short trip included a river crossing on a very rickety wooden ferry, and passed through several more tiny port villages.

Ferrying our dumpy taxi across a small river.

Finally we reached Trinidad, a small city which is capital of Bolivia’s jungly Beni province.  Trinidad is known for it’s many motorcycles; everyone seems to have one and there are hardly any cars.  The motorcycles zip around the streets like mad, ignoring traffic laws and narrowly missing accidents at every turn.  It’s a miracle we didn’t get run over!  Tourists can also rent motorcycles.  If that’s your idea of fun, go for it.  To me it sounds like inevitable road rash, if not worse.

Motorcycle madness!

Finding an acceptable hostel took awhile, but we eventually stumbled into Alojamiento Carmen, a decent place with fans and shared bathrooms, the highlight being the cable TV with a plethora of English channels.  They had the Latin American versions of TLC, WB, and FOX, so we spent a lot of time in the room watching random things like “No Reservations” (love Anthony Bourdain), “Ace of Cakes”, “Friends”, “Two and a Half Men”, “Grey’s Anatomy” (My guilty pleasure…but what is GOING ON there? I’ve missed so much!), and the worst one ever, “Man vs. Food.” Normally I get so disgusted watching Adam stuff his face and get fatter every episode, but try watching it in Bolivia and just see how horribly HUNGRY and JEALOUS you get!

Okay, that was a major TV tangent.  But really, it ended up being good that we had so many channels because there’s not much else to do in Trinidad!  The city is so hot and humid that you start sweating after walking only one block.  There are also a lot of mosquitoes out at night.  Suffice it to say, after only a few hours of wandering the streets, we were bored.

That night we had a bit of an existential crisis.  We had planned to stay for a couple nights in Trinidad, find another boat, and continue down the Rio Mamoré to Guayaramerin, on the Brazilian border.  There were two major reasons we had decided to do this: 1. Getting off the Gringo Trail and 2. It’s cheap!  What we finally admitted to ourselves this night in Trini was that despite our best-laid plans, we were bored.  We had been a bit bored, in fact, ever since realizing how behind on our budget we were, and cutting back on all activities and extras to try to make up for it.  What ensued was a long discussion about our priorities and how to make this the best possible experience.  We came to two conclusions: 1. We don’t want to go into debt on this trip.  (Debt-free is the way to be!)  2. If we’re not having fun then we need to change something.  Therefore, a hard decision was made.  We conceded to the possibility of returning home earlier (in June rather than July).  Nothing is official (we still don’t have a return ticket), but doing this would definitely ease the financial strain and allow us to enjoy the time we have left a lot more.  We’d rather say we had an AMAZING TIME for 7 months than that we toughed it out on very little money for 8 months.  (Although, of course, if anyone wants to send us some $$, we won’t say no, lol.)  So in the interest of making it back to the states faster and ditching the heat, mosquitoes, and boat boredom, we changed our plan (again) and decided that Brazil can wait for another trip.  “Let’s get out of this sweaty town, back to the mountains and Perú!” we said.  Arequipa, Perú, was the next place we were really excited for, and we desperately needed some excitement.  If only we knew how impossible it would be get back on the grid…

Please read the beginning of our River boat Hitchhiking in the Bolivian Amazon Aventura!

PART 3

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Boat Hitchhiking Into The Bolivian Amazon: Part Two

Waiting for Bolivian Boat Hitchhiking

If there’s one thing Bolivia is determined to teach me, it’s patience.  This is not my strongest quality, so learning it takes a lot.  And believe me, we dealt with a lot of waiting in Puerto Villarroel for Bolivian boat hitchhiking into the Amazon.  We knew our perfect scenario, finding a boat ride to Trinidad the same day we arrived, was unlikely.  But the only way to get down the river was to start looking for a boat.  We first tried the dockside restaurant with a “Tourist Information” sign on it, but the lady inside looked shocked to see a tourist and of course knew nothing about boats.  So we stashed our packs under the stilted building and I went walking along the river.

Next someone directed me to the naval office, where the military officers at least tried to help this crazy dreadlocked hippy bum from a country Bolivia doesn’t get along with too well.  They found a boat captain who was leaving in the afternoon, a glimmer of hope!  But all the captain said was “I don’t have much space.”  When I asked him the price he ignored me and told me to go look at the boat, before walking away.  Since his boat was 1km away, we didn’t know the price, and it didn’t sound promising, we didn’t walk to look at the boat and never saw the captain again.  So more sitting around, more asking random passersby.  Most people want to help but just don’t know anything, so they direct you to one person who directs you to another person, and it all just turns into a wild goose chase.

Then finally — success?  An old man led me on a more profitable goose chase to a man driving by in a truck whose boat was also, supposedly leaving in the afternoon.  We settled on a price, agreed to wait for him where we were, shook hands and everything.  Shazam!  “After lunch,” was the time frame he’d given me.  So I sat with the stuff while Zach took off to buy groceries and water for the trip.  And then we sat.  And sat and sat.  1pm, 2pm, 3pm.  I was desperately craving a shower and a nap but still holding out hope that he guy would show up.  “Doesn’t he want our money?” we asked.  Apparently not.  Around 4pm, after watching the one way-too-crowded boat mentioned earlier leave, we gave up for the day and moved into the only hostel in town, hoping for better luck mañana.

The next day we woke at 7am, not wanting to miss any boat departures.  Silly U.S.-bred timeliness!  Rather quickly we were informed that nothing was leaving that day but one boat was leaving the next morning.  Some guy called the captain over to talk to us, but he wanted 200 Bolivianos ($29) each and for us to bring our own food.  The only other tidbit of info the Lonely Planet had given us on this trip was that it was supposed to cost 100 Bolivianos including food.  So ARGH!  We said no, maybe this Bolivian boat hitchhiking thing wasn’t going to work out.  We were hoping to SAVE money on this trip, not break even.  But as soon as we arrived back in our room, we both had realized that this was probably the best offer we were going to get to get out of this stinkin’ town.  It would cost more to get anywhere new by bus.  So we did an about face and accepted the offer.  “Woohoo, we hopefully have a boat ride tomorrow!” we cheered.  Now how to kill a day in the sleepy, nothing town of PV:  sit and watch The Sopranos all day because you sweat if you move and there are way too many mosquitoes outside.

Day Three.  “Please, let us leave today!”  We got up early again and waited where we were supposed to wait.  Again, it proved completely unnecessary.  The captain had said he’d come get us around 9am, but who knew what that meant.  Our hope started waning when at noon we were still sitting there, watching a monsoon downpour, with no departure imminent.  We thought we might have to stay another night and leave by bus in the morning, accepting defeat.  Then finally, finally, somebody random appeared and led us through the rain to the boat.  It seemed it was going to leave that day, hooray!  So we loaded our stuff, bought more food, and settled in to wait longer to see if the boat would actually leave… Who thought up this Bolivian boat hitchhiking idea anyhow?

PART 1

PART 3

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