Field trip to the Bolivian Amazon with Thaki

23 August 2016


This year, I managed to persuade Jérôme to come and do a little ‘new summit’, the Kasiri. It was a nice little glacier climb to kick off the new season. We set off with our small group of mountain guides, who are always keen on new expeditions, and this time with a small team of professionals to film. The idea was to promote our beautiful Andean mountains and talk about the professionalism of our guides. It was a fine outing, but it’s true that Jérôme suffered a bit…


As revenge, or not, he managed to convince me to go to Amazonia. I’m not a fan of mosquitoes and bugs of any kind… even though they adore me. But Jérôme managed to convince me! It’s going to be a great experience,” he told me, “and it’s going to be a nice change from the mountains. There was no doubt about it!


So we set off with Félix on his birthday, 21 June, the feast of San Juan. The road was already an adventure, with dirt tracks that were sometimes narrow and treacherous, trucks that were more than a little acrobatic, and heat that fell on you without warning. We arrived in Guanay, a small town with a tropical feel. The weather is fine here, everyone is wearing shorts, and the San Juan festival is being prepared in the village square. As we are enjoying an aperitif in the hostal garden, our guide Ismael introduces himself. Very friendly and professional, it was clear that we were going to spend 6 fantastic days.

After an eventful night in San Juan, we set off on the pirogue of the Mashaquipe community. The trip down the River Caca is surprising. The whole region is devoted to gold mining, both artisanal and industrial. Huge mechanised machines literally turn over the riverbed in search of a rich vein of gold. Ismael explains that this activity is comparable to a raging fever for humans. Sometimes they have to divert the course of the river to look underneath. This adventure as far as the Madidi Park is very pleasant, as we glide along the water, admiring the landscape, and taking refreshing breaks in a beautiful waterfall amidst the luxuriant vegetation, then on small improvised beaches. We spend the night on one of these beaches in the middle of nowhere. An aperitif on the sand by candlelight is an unforgettable moment.


After passing the Caca and Beni rivers, we arrived at the Tuichi river at the entrance to Madidi Park. Ecolodge Mashaquipe is a beautiful place in the middle of the jungle, a small, rustic but well-kept hut, a very warm welcome, excellent food… ideal for recovering from our canoe adventure.

The next day, we set off with our rucksacks for two days of immersion in the primary forest. It’s a very different atmosphere from the mountains. I felt overwhelmed by all the dense vegetation. In the jungle, it’s the noises that impress you: monkey calls, which Ismael imitates very well, birds, which are more reassuring, but also unknown animals. We get soaked to the skin to get to the refuge in the middle of the forest. Sergio, our cook, is waiting for us with a wood fire to dry our clothes. They’ve set up some raised planks with mattresses and mosquito nets so we can sleep outside in comfort! After an incredible hike around the refuge….Jérôme was convinced we were lost, but Ismael mastered this hostile terrain, and we spent an unforgettable night in the middle of the forest!


The next day, and many mosquito bites to boot, we set off on another hike that took us to the Tuichi river. It’s not in the jungle that you’re going to be able to see animals, but we see and hear them more than we see them: wild cats, monkeys, parrots and a herd of wild boar that we’ll try to chase down…. Then we join the river to build our own raft that will take us back to the Mashaquipe Ecolodge…. I assure you, this is a controlled adventure…


Controlled, but fortunately, because I was feeling damp, devoured by mosquitoes, dirty and tired….it was time to return to a bit of civilisation….you may say, I can stand the shock of altitude, yes….


We return to Rurrenabaque and set off for the Yacuma reserve, in the middle of the pampas. The pampas are a different world. We are no longer in the primary forest, but in the middle of the savannah. On the way by vehicle, we come across “gauchos” on horseback, cow farmers with their herds. The atmosphere is completely different. Combining the two is simply brilliant. Once you’re in Yacuma Park, you can relax, it’s nothing but bliss, if it weren’t for those pesky m…..

Once you arrive at the Las Tortugas camp, everything is zen, the camp is heavenly, hammocks and deckchairs on the beach, dream cabins, magnificent in the middle of tropical vegetation, attentive service and delicious food. All you have to do is let yourself be lulled….the turtles bask in the sun, the pink dolphins play in the currents of the Yacuma river, the caimans wave at you and dive into the water… an ideal place to de-stress. The hike in the middle of the swamp will remain an unforgettable memory, but my favourites will remain the “cappuccino”, the little yellow monkeys, not very shy, who climb on your shoulder and shake your hand… it was indeed a fantastic adventure. And even if it’s going to take me a week to recover from the mosquito attacks, thank you Jérôme!