Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bolivian Memories


Thoughts of long term travel have got me thinking of trips past so I sat down and penned this post about an adventure that we had in Bolivia.

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Alarmed, I felt a stabbing pain on the top of my sandal clad foot. “Tame la mano!” Dominga said, the fuzz on the back of his neck bristling. “Tame la mano!’, he demanded again, shifting his weight so that another talon could find purchase and inflict more pain to my already suffering appendage. I was not sure what to do about this. There was a large blue and yellow Macaw standing on my foot squawking demands at me in Spanish. I looked around the compound confused as Dominga's owner reassured me “He’s just begging. He wants you to give him your hand so that he can crawl up onto your shoulder... He wants treats.” I extended my hand down to him and Dominga scurried up my arm, claws leaving track marks on my skin. He settled in near the nape of my neck and started to nibble greedily on my ear.

We had arrived in Florida. A speck on the map a few hours drive from our final destination. My body was still vibrating from the 9 hour bone jarring ride from Carmen Ruiz. I was tired, dirty and most of all pissed off. The icing on the cake was that my foot was now being impaled by the claws of an overgrown parakeet, demanding that I become his new found feeding perch. I was not in my happy place. Thankfully, Cindy would hand me a beer few minutes later. I wasn't sure where it came from, but frankly I didn't care. She knew that she needed to somehow calm my savage beast. Days earlier she had made me swear to her that I would try to enjoy the trip. It was something she really wanted to do and my current foul mood was not part of the bargain. It would not be the last time that I would be reminded of our pact while on this journey. I broodingly drank my beer, hoped Dominga claws didn't hit an artery and watched Marco, our guide, dig the mass of dead and dying butterflies out of the Jeep's grill. They were everywhere on the road and had impaled themselves with reckless abandon on the front of the jeep. He needed to clear them off so that we would not overheat on the next days drive.


Our journey had started 3 days ago in La Paz, Bolivia. We had been using the city as our base to see the country for the past 3 weeks. I was ready to move on south to Argentina and the promise of a beach side bungalow, but Cindy was up for another adventure into the wilds of Bolivia. She had read about a seldom visited national park Called Noell Kempff Mercado. The park, located in northeastern Bolivia, spans over 3.7 million acres and is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Established in 1979, and originally called “Parque National Huanchacha”, its name was later changed in honor of the late professor Noell Kempff Mercado for the extensive research and discoveries he made while working there. It is home to more than 130 species of mammals, including a population of black jaguars, 620 species of birds, and 70 species of reptiles including the Black Cayman. For Cindy it was an opportunity that could not be missed and she was willing to put up with my impending foul disposition in order to see it.