Stories From an Epic Bolivian Backpacking Trip

From Parque Ambue Ari (read my last blog post, here), my new friends and I journeyed by way of La Paz to Rurrenabaque, a rural jungle town where we planed on doing an overnight river tour, then planned to head back to La Paz and venture out for more adventures from there. That’s the short of it, but the details are what made it a true adventure…one that really changed my life and made me love travelling to this day.

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Myself, Abi & Maria at sunset at our lodge in Rurrenabaque

At this point there were about 6 of us travelling together from the park. I was having a great time! I was learning how to travel from people who had been doing it for months, so I felt totally comfortable in following their lead and sponging as much knowledge from them as I could. We spent the bus ride making jokes, eating food we’d buy from locals through the bus windows, and admiring the gorgeous scenery. Before we got to La Paz though, we encountered a road block and I wasn’t so sure I was that at ease anymore. I quickly learned that roadblocks were pretty common in South America and ranged from boulders positioned in the way of the road to people throwing stones or even kidnapping and harming people trying to pass through. At the time though, I didn’t know what was going on…only that the bus wasn’t taking us any farther and we either had to return the way we came or what? I wasn’t sure what our other options were, if there were any at all. Through some chain of events that I don’t specifically remember I ended up being stuffed into a taxi with my 5 friends as we made our way slowly and cautiously through the roadblocks. It was eventually translated to me that our driver lived in a nearby town and that he would take us through there, as a sort of detour, since it would be safer off the main roads. I remember thinking that I was too far in to back out now, and had no choice but to trust that my friends were making the right decisions. That said, I also wasn’t scared, if anything I was excited. The adrenaline of the days events was keeping me distracted from any real fear that might have existed for me. As we pulled out of our drivers town though, we were startled by a loud bang, followed by another, and another. We quickly realized that rocks were being thrown at the car and I just remember everyone talking loudly and quickly in Spanish before our driver hit the gas and sped out of town, weaving through boulders placed in the roads on the way.

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A woman and a child waiting for a bus in La Paz

We eventually made it to La Paz, safe and sound and, after giving our driver a huge tip, got on a small plane that took us up to Rurrenabaque. I remember being excited by the fact that I could walk right up to the plane myself, there wasn’t any  boarding bridge and the plane was only two rows wide, with one seat per row! By this point our travelling group had dwindled down to just myself and two other girls, Abi and Maria. The three of us got into a canoe with our guide and made our way down the river to our lodge. On the way I remember seeing capybara, squirrel monkeys and pink river dolphins and thinking that I was definitely the luckiest person in the world. It was exactly how things looked in a National Geographic magazine, and it was happening in real life!

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Our river trip guide

For the duration of our trip we stayed in an elevated cabana style lodge and enjoyed the most amazing food and sunset views. There were also resident cats, which never hurts (in my opinion)! As far as activities are concerned, there was never a shortage! We went looking for anacondas, swimming with pink river dolphins, we went fishing for piranha and went on sunrise hikes. I loved this part of the trip, and would definitely go back and do it again…especially now with my GoPro!

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We put him back! Our guide taught us that if you sing, the piranha will come…and he was right!

From here we went back to La Paz and based ourselves there for the next week or so. We rode bikes down Death Road (which was an absolutely incredible experience, you have to do it) and climbed the 6,000m to the summit of Huayna Potosi. We ended our journey together in Isla Del Sol where we rented swan paddle boats, went on a few hikes, and ate amazing food.

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Riding bikes down Death Road was one of my favourite experiences on the trip!

By this point in the trip, I felt pretty confident in my abilities to get myself around. I definitely wasn’t going to open my wallet and let anyone help themselves ever again and I had picked up a decent amount of Spanish, too! I decided when Abi and Maria continued on to Peru from Isla Del Sol that, instead of cutting my trip short, I would spend the remainder of my trip exploring by myself! It was super empowering and I cant recommend solo travelling enough. I think that everyone has to do it, at some point or another! I ended up exploring the witches market and attending a little persons wrestling competition in La Paz and taking a bus trip to the salt flats!

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Dried lamb fetus at the witches market
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Bike riding down Death Road
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Maria & I near the base of Huayna Potosi
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Colourful lakes at the base of Huayna Potosi
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Another group of climbers
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Views of Isla Del Sol
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Ruins at Isla Del Sol
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Sunset in Isla Del Sol
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A woman waits for a bus in La Paz
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Swimming with pink river dolphins

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Squirrel monkeys are everywhere!
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A wild capybara!

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