San Miguel del Bala; Jungles of Bolivia


Jungle Observations

River water looks like chocolate milk. Will it also taste like it?  I am not sure. Dilemma.

It’s been raining heavily the past few days and the river is high. Everything in the river floating looks like a crocodile. Or does a crocodile look like floating debris?


We visited a canyon in the jungle. There was water flowing through it, it was narrow and humid. It reminded me of the King Kong scene in the valley, filled with centipedes, bats, frogs, spiders and weird bugs.


Our guide Wilmer doesn’t speak his own Tanaka language. He and many other Bolivians used to be embarrassed to speak and to be identified as indigenous. Now with Evo Morales as their first indigenous president people are starting to  learn their languages again.


I asked Wilmer if he had visited the capital La Paz before. He said he didn’t like it as it was too cold and noisy at night. He said he prefers the jungle noise.


Wilder is from the Tanaka tribe and they own the eco lodge and a lot of the jungle land. All the profits go into improving their village and way of life.

On our second day Wilmer is walking barefoot through the jungle to show us a waterfall. He gets bitten by a poisonous spider. Very calmly he kills the spider with his walking stick and gets  a knife out to cut the bite and bleed out some of the poison. He explains that the next ten hours for him will be very painful. He explains the pain won’t be in the bite, but rather the poison which will gather in his glands. He points to his balls. I guess glands are in the balls. I am not a doctor nor have basic knowledge of the human biology.


After a few days in the jungle surrounded by pure nature Facebook activity seems mundane an irrelevant. I still check though as soon as I get back.

We both get so many bites that aren’t from mosquitoes but I have no clue what kind of insect causes these bites. Every itches and nothing hurts.


Ants come in all colors and sizes and they are everywhere. Some are tiny and harmless and some are called Fire-ants and Bullet-Ants and Face-burn-ants for a reason.

The noise coming from the jungle is never-ending and it’s amazing how much about the jungle I don’t know. Some sounds could be from a bird or monkeys but for the same money they could be from a huge beetle.  Either way I think they are trying to come into our porous wooden cabin.


All trees look the same to us, but some contain rubber or glue or a fuel like substance. Others smell like garlic and can be used for cooking. Most modern people have no clue about nature.

We ask which mushrooms are tasty or great for a nice psychedelic trip and we are disappointed to learn that all them except one will send you directly to the afterlife. We never get to see the edible mushroom.


There are communities of spiders that work together and weave huge webs that are basket like.

We learn that there are hummingbirds that are so small and light that they built their nests on the leave of a tree.


We see a wild papaya tree with its trunk completely covered in large spikes to prevent monkeys and vegans from getting to its fruit.

Wilmer warns us not to leave any damp clothing outside  to dry ( I don’t think anybody has any non-damp clothing). Flies, spiders and other bugs love wet clothing and will use it as a nest overnight and you will wake up in the morning and find your New Balance socks covered in spider eggs or bug larvae. If you don’t notice the larvae or the eggs, these can hatch and once you wear them they will bury themselves in your skin and flesh. I asked Wilmer if he was kidding. He assured me he was not.


I found out how a certain type of tarantula live in hole in the ground. So off course every hole in the ground around our camp was filled by my imagination with all types of creatures ready to attack me.

Wilmer was surprised to learn that seas have regular tides. Because he is so used to rivers and they only rise and fall when it rains. I tried explaining how the moon influences the ocean tides, but my Spanish and general knowledge were sorely lacking. I think I may have left him more confused.




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