another request from ethiopia

wow, the guy from ethiopia who i mentioned in my previous post will not let up. yesterday i got yet another email from him. now he wants a dictionary. when will he ever stop?


How are you? I am fine with my college of Addis Ababa. I am take your email letter is nice but you are not Reply to me all of them.
Would you like to help me school materially? If you want to help me send this Dictionary to me?
1. Ox ford Advanced learner’s Dictionary Fifth edition, EditorbyJonathan Crowther. Sand to me by the following address
To Basure Debebe
Addis Ababa College of
Technology and commerce
P.O. Box 180501
Addis – Ababa
Please accept my letter. Reply to me on this week?

Yours Basure

The Scam

When traveling in poor countries, you are constantly bombarded by people who ask you for money. there’s all sorts of ways to con people out of their money and one of ways we often saw in Ethiopia was a textbook scam. the poor kid would tell you that he doesn’t want your money, he just wants you to buy him a book so he can study english. who can say no to that? i mean, he’s not using the money for drugs, moonshine, or even toys… it’s books! it’s educational! you can’t say no to this kid’s education, right? well, of course the whoe thing is a scam. if you buy them the book, they will just go back to the shop later and sell it back for money.

In a town called Yabello, one very persistant guy showed up on my doorstep after finding out which hotel i was staying at. could i buy him some textbooks? No. maybe when i got back to the US, could i send him money for textbooks? No. Could my family buy him textbooks? No. Maybe i could just ask one of the many rich people i knew in america to send him money? No. i kept telling him over and over again that i wouldnt give him money. man, this guy was so persistant. after fending off his requests for almost half an hour, he finally gave up.

or so i though. it turns out, this guy will never give up! i was totally shocked to find out that he waited till i got home, and is now *emailing* me asking for money. $100 actually. Now, a hundred bucks goes a looooong way in ethiopia. i wonder how many suckers he finds that actually end up sending him the money? hell, even if he finds like 10-15 people per year, he can live quite comfortably over there.

here’s the email:

To Dear my brotherVlad
Thank you for the replying email letter tome. How are your? I am with my college. I want to ask something you? Would you like it? If you like it I am learn in this college through foster mother of Germany called mayr. She is pay to me thee fee of subject, food and boarding – school to me .you are live in good life of U.S.A so that I want to buy same book about my subject for this I want $ 100 dollar from you? If you want send to me by bank address.
Name of bank; -commercial bank of Ethiopia western union main branch
Name of receiver; – Basure Debebe
Address; – Addis Ababa – Ethiopia
My Account N0 28710
My telephone No 251 112 137 317
My full bank Address is this one please please sends to me same money? I am in problem, student with out book meaning lass. If you send to me write by email money transfer control No the is put in bank the money from U.S.A. to Ethiopia. Last time when I am in yabello I give to you one my past address that is wrong my new post address is this one
To Basure Debebe
Addis Ababa College of
Technology and commerce
P.o. Box 180501
Addis Ababa
This is my post address for 3 years. Until next time good-bye! And reply to my
From your brother student Basure.

welcome to the real world

i give up.

i’ve been meaning to write a lot of stuff here for a while. i wanted to write about the last couple of days in transit from bolivia. i wanted to write about adjusting to real life back here in america. i wanted to write about every little thing that’s happened between arriving in La Paz and now. it’s been about two months now, and i’ve done none of that. the trip is over. has been for a while now. and life goes on. there’s all sorts of stuff that happens on a day to day basis that i want to write in the blog about, but i always feel like i can’t since i still need to catch up on the past before i write about the present. well, i’m tired of putting it off, so here’s a wrap-up of the last two months, so i can just start writing about the present.


our last half day in la paz pretty much flew by. we bought plane tickets back home. we shopped for souvenirs like crazy rushing around from shop to shop. finally, after packing everything for the final time, we went to sleep. the next morning, we flew out of La Paz. the view from the plane was incredible. La Paz, surrounded by mountains, is a great city to look at from above. the rest of the day was a blur of airports, airplanes, and boredom. our flight had two different stops on its way to miami. at each stop there were long delays and it was an incredible relief when we finally arrived. but our hellish day wasn’t over yet. it was difficult finding a hotel, and then we were stuck waiting for an hour for a shuttle and then it took us ages to finally find a place to eat. our first meal back in America was at Denny’s with two random travelers who we met.

the next day i flew off to SF while caryn flew to NY to see her family for thanksgiving. in the plane, it was really hard for me to believe that i was actually coming home. that in just a few hours i would be landing in SF and seeing my family again. i was excited and nervous and overwhelmed. the minutes crawled by. finally, the plane landed and my brother drove me back home. it was SO weird. driving on 280, the freeway that i’ve driven on at least once a week for most of my life. all the familiar exits. seeing my brother again. i felt like i was living in a dream.

back at home i had dinner with my parents and brother. it was really good to see them again. my parents had made this cool collage poster of some of my trip photos, and even nicer of them was that they had printed out all my journal entries and had them bound at kinko’s. i couldnt believe it. that must have been a ridiculous amount of work. the thing weighed a ton! not only that, but they were nice enough to make one for caryn too. after dinner, i was exhausted and went to sleep. sleeping in my old room from when i was a kid was pretty weird.


readjusting to reality has been really weird. the first couple of weeks especially were pretty bizarre. it felt so weird to be doing all the old things that i used to do. driving a car, using a microwave, and talking on a cellphone. all of these things that used to be so normal and just a standard part of life, now seemed a bit foreign and odd. it’s really strange to slowly settle back into your old life. in some ways, everything seems so comfortable and welcoming. doing things like getting coffee at the local coffeeshop, or going to grocery store, or anything else… on one hand i kind of missed all these things and i was glad to do them again. but at the same time… i was really hesitant. it seemed almost wrong for me to want to do all these things. i almost didnt want to like these things anymore because they were just so normal. doing them again meant that life would revert back to usual and that’s not necessarily something i wanted. i didnt want all the normal day-to-day things to become my life again. i wanted more foreign countries and crazy adventures. but i couldnt do anything about it. i was being sucked back in.

the other really weird thing in the first two weeks was seeing people again. honestly, i was really nervous about seeing all my friends after so long. the first couple of times i hung out with people, things were a bit awkward and weird. i kind of felt like i just wasnt on the same wavelength as anyone. but after a bit, that feeling passed. friendships picked up where they left off. everything went back to normal… whatever that means. it’s funny, seeing people after coming back. a lot of people, especially people i dont know very well, seem like they feel obligated to ask about the trip. it’s pretty obvious they dont really care, and are just asking to be polite, and i almost want to say “hey, dont worry a bout it. you dont have to ask”. but they ask. and they always ask one follow up question, which usually is “which country is your favorite”. *sigh*… i’m so sick of that… well, i mean, i have no problem if the person really cares, but the thing is that the person is usually asking just to be polite. nowadays, instead of explaining that it’s impossible to pick a favorite etc etc etc… i just say Japan. it makes things easier on everyone involved.


so, two weeks went by. and scarily enough, life became normal again. while i was gone, i was so worried about how long it would take for me to adjust to regular life. i had assumed it would take ages. months. but it didnt. all it took was two weeks and it almost felt like i had never left. in fact, in some ways my trip seemed so bizarre and dream-like that it almost seemed like it had never happened. could i really have done all those crazy things? was that really my life? or just a movie i watched?

of course, there were some differences between my life now and my life before i left. i have no job now. i have no car since i sold it before the trip. i live with my parents since i cant afford rent. it’s funny, it’s almost like being back in highschool. living in my old room and having to ask my parents if i can borrow their car if i want to go anywhere. i’m a little kid all over again.

i mentioned earlier that i had a family emergency back home. i wont go into what it is here since my family probably wouldnt like to have their lives broadcast all over the internet, but i will mention that it’s been really rough. In some ways, i never feel completely at ease. any time when my mind isn’t occupied with other thoughts, it’s filled with worry and stress.


let’s see.. what else? my cousin went out of town for two weeks so i got to spend that time living at her house and taking care of her new puppy, McPoopersen. it was really nice to be up in sf and not have to drive up every time i want to do anything. also, it was actually really cool to watch the dog during that time. the dog is tiny and super fun.

new years this year was kind of hectic. i had dinner at Luna Park with Caryn, Jamie, Tom, Catherine, and some other people. then around 10pm, caryn and i hopped in a car and raced back down to SJ to celebrate NY with my family. at 1am, we hopped in a car again and came up to SF to celebrate some more. a lot of driving for one night, but it was pretty fun.

i spent some time trying to find contract work online. i searched craigslist and some other sites. it was rough. i would bid on contracts and then be outbid by people in india or russia who were willing to work for next to nothing. after spending hours and hours researching online, placing bids, returning phone calls and emails i only managed to land one contract… and that was for a measily $175. to make matters worse, i underestimated how long the project might take, and ended up spending about 20 hours on it. so basically, i earned about minimum wage. *sigh*


so i guess that’s it. where does that leave me? i need to find a job. FAST. or at least some contract work. i need to buy a car. and then, i need to move back to SF. hopefully, it wont take ages for all this stuff to happen.

if you’re subscribed to this blog only because you wanted to read about round the world travel, feel free to unsubscribe now. if you want to be re-subscribed when i go traveling again, you can email me and i’ll do that. or, if you’re interested in reading about life here in SF, read on.


how much did it all cost?

during this year on the road, whenever i told people that i was traveling for over a year, many of the people just couldn’t believe that it would be possible to travel for that long. how could i afford such a thing? was i rich or something? one of the most common questions i would get was “how much did this whole thing cost you?” some people asked just out of curiosity. others asked because they too hoped to someday travel for a long time. trying to plan out and figure out the cost of such a long trip is a bit of a daunting task.

the answer to how much a year on the road would cost really depends on each person. there are a million factors to consider. will you be spending most of your time in expensive places like Europe? or will you be mostly traveling in 3rd world countries where people can get by on just 20$ a day? also, a lot depends on your travel style. $1,000 could probably buy you a really nice all inclusive tour in Thailand for a *week*, but if you went to Thailand on your own and only stayed in budget hostels, that same $1000 could probably last you a whole *month*.

basically, if you play your cards right, you can travel for a very long time on very little. after calculating my expenditures, it turned out that the amount of money i spent during 14 months on the road (including flights, food, hotels, etc) was far less than *half* of what i would have spent living here in the USA. travel can be surprisingly cheap! anyways, i put together a page of how much money i spent on this trip broken down by country, just so people could get an idea of how much a trip like this could possibly cost.

here is my costs page for the whole trip.



i’ve had a hell of a time trying to get myself to update this blog over the last month. this is partially because I’m back. yeah, for anyone out there that still doesn’t know, i ended my trip and have been back in America for about a month now.

on November 17th, when i had just returned to rurre from the jungle, i got an email from my brother letting me know about a family emergency. as soon as i read it, i knew that i would be going home immediately. travel is one of the things that i love most in life, but for me, family comes first. and anyway, i had already been on the road for 14 months and seen 28 countries… missing out on just one or 2 more countries really wasn’t a big deal. i immediately called home and after talking to people, started trying to figure out how i could get back.

going back was easier said than done. i was in rurrenabaque, a tiny little jungle town in the middle of nowhere. to catch an international flight, i would have to get back to La Paz, the capital. the only road to La Paz was “the world’s most dangerous road”, and after having done that road once, there was no way in hell i would do it again. the other option was to fly in one of the tiny little planes that are run by the military. unfortunately, that airline doesn’t fly everyday, so our ticket was for the 19th, two days later.

the next day i woke up and was totally going crazy. i couldn’t stand being there any longer. i totally felt like my family needed me and i felt completely helpless being stuck here in the middle of nowhere. it was only one day till our flight on the 19th, but i felt like i just couldn’t wait any longer. also, there was another problem with waiting. the weather out there is completely unpredictable and flights get cancelled all the time. sometimes it takes people *weeks* to get out of rurrenabaque. what if the weather goes sour tomorrow and I’m stuck? what if there’s no way to get home for a long time? i decided that i couldn’t wait till the 19th. i had to do everything i could to get out of rurrenabaque that very day.

there’s one other tiny airline that operates out of rurre. it flies these super tiny 12 seater planes. the thought of flying into La Paz (world’s highest airport) in one of these planes was a bit freaky, but i decided to try anyway. we went to the airline office and it turned out that we were just a tiny bit short of the money needed to buy a ticket. CRAP! to make matters worse, rurre has no atms. we reserved two tickets, and then frantically started running around town figuring out how to get the remaining money. you can get credit card advances at the bank… but the bank was closed. i exchanged all the remaining dollars that i had. then i found a few Euro notes in my pack and exchanged those too. i *almost* had enough, but not quite. time was running out, and if we wanted to catch the flight, we would have to pay within one hour.

i was completely freaking out by this point. i *had* to get on the plane. should i try to sell something of mine? my mp3 player maybe? at the last second, i had a realization. i had been saving a bill from every country i had visited. most of these were worthless, but i had a 5 pound note from the UK! that’s almost 10 dollars. the problem is, no one exchanges for pounds in rurre. so, i started running up to random people around town and asking them if they were British so that i could trade them my 5 pound note. it was ridiculous. anyways, finally, with only minutes to spare, after frantically packing our stuff, we rush into the airline office to buy our tickets… and he tells us that they have been sold. WHAT?!?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!? he calmly explains that tickets get sold to the first person who pays for them. but, what about the reservations, i ask?? well, apparently the reservations don’t mean anything. you can be the first reservation in line, and they’ll just sell your ticket to whoever pays for it. i was SO pissed. if the reservation doesn’t actually reserve anything, what the hell is the point?!!! after an intense screaming match, there was nothing we could do. i couldn’t believe it. after all that effort, we would still have to wait till the 19th. well, the only thing i could do now was to sit back and wait… and hope that it doesn’t rain.

the morning of the 19th, we walk out of the hotel and there are dark rain clouds everywhere. uh-oh. i started getting really nervous, but as long as it didnt rain within two hours when our flight takes off, we would be ok. of course, this is Bolivia and after getting to the airline office, we spent the next several hours sitting around waiting. and waiting. and waiting. finally we all piled into a van to go to the airport. upon arriving at the airport… it started to rain. tell me this isn’t happening. it started raining harder and harder. this “airport” is really just a long grassy field. if the field is wet and becomes slippery and muddy, no airplanes can take off. after an hour’s wait, we are told that we would try to take off from another airport about 45 minutes away. so, they take all of our luggage and throw it into an *uncovered* pick-up truck, to be driven through the pouring rain to the other airport. nice. as we drive to the second airport, we eventually get out of the rainy area and see the pick up truck with our luggage speeding down a dusty road with all of the luggage in back completely covered with water and dust.

at the second airport, we wait for yet another hour and then finally board our flight. the flight to La Paz was short, and soon i was in a taxi on the way to the hotel. it was mid day by the time i checked in, and now i had just a few hours to book my flight from Bolivia to the USA and also to try and rush around and buy souvenirs for everyone we know. it was a hectic several hours, especially since now that we were back at high altitude, doing anything at a fast speed would leave me out of breath. later that night, we had our last meal abroad at a fancy(ish) restaurant in our hotel. it was crazy to think that the next day i would be on a plane and flying back home…


photos from the pampas

taking photos on the pampas trip was actually pretty difficult. there was often not enough light to take decent photos. i never did get a good picture of the turtles doing their conga line since they were too damn fast. all the photos of the howler monkeys didnt come out good cause the sky was to bright behind them. the dolphins were too fast to photograph. etc etc. basically, a lot of the photos werent so good. but i did get a few good shots of capybaras and squirrel monkeys.

anyways, if you wanna see the photos, here are my photos of the pampas tour.


welcome to the jungle (part 3)


the previous night we had stayed up kinda late drinking and playing cards so at 4:45am when we were woken up to Satan screaming, i cant say that i was overjoyed. ok, maybe it wasn’t *really* Satan screaming, but it pretty much sounded like it. in the pampas there are these monkeys called Howler Monkeys. they’re named that because they are constantly howling really loud. but, their howling doesn’t really sound like howling. it sounds more like this crazy evil sounding super loud growling sound. it really does sound like something really really freaking evil is lurking in the trees. i still have no idea how such a tiny little monkey can make a sound like that.

anyways, we all sleepily staggered into the canoe and were off to go watch the sunrise. i have to admit, i think sunrises are way to overrated. i mean yeah, sure they’re cool, but a sunrise is a sunrise is a sunrise and i’ve seen way too many of them anyways. mainly though, if i’m awake at 5am in the morning, you can bet i’ll be in a total shite mood, sunrise or not. to watch the sun do cool tricks, i’d wayyy rather see a sun*set*… that way i dont have to be dragged outta bed at the crack of dawn. we sat and stared at the horizon, the sun rose, we turned around and walked back to the canoe. as soon as we got back to camp, we all fell asleep instantly.

later on, we all went to go fishing. of course, this is the crazy Bolivian wilderness, so we weren’t fishing for trout, salmon, or any other normal fish… we were fishing for piranhas. if you haven’t heard of them, piranhas are meat eating fish. instead of nibbling on worms and plants like other fish, these guys eat water they can find including cows and sometimes people. i’ve heard stories of boats capsizing on the Amazon river and the piranhas eating everyone that was onboard.

now, i’ve never really been a big fan of fishing. i’ve never been down with actually killing things myself, and the thought of yanking fish out of the water and watching them flop around and die never sounded all that appealing. we were told that today’s fishing would be catch and release which on one hand sounds nicer, but on the other hand it seems like you’re just torturing these fish for fun and then throwing them back in the water once you have jabbed a sharp metal object through them. so, i felt a bit uneasy with the hole thing, but hell, it’s not often you get to fish for piranhas, so i did it anyway.

we stop the boat and our guide hands out tiny little bits of raw meat that we put on hooks and lower into the river. almost immediately we see small fish zipping by, tearing off chunks of meat and swimming off. the piranhas were super fast. you’d drop in meat and they’d take a bunch of small bites in rapid succession and then be gone. the problem was that they’d usually bite the meat from the side, so they never really had a chance to get stuck on the hook. somehow though, a few minutes later, i was the first one to catch a fish.

look at the teeth on that sucker!

i’m still not positive, but i *think* that my hook may have gone through the piranha’s eye. after throwing it back in, i couldn’t help but keep thinking about the poor little one eyed fish, struggling to survive out there, and so while the other’s in our group kept trying to catch piranhas, i kinda only half-heartedly threw my hook in from time to time. not everyone was able to catch a piranha, but some people did get one. once again, i thought back to yesterday when we were swimming with dolphins… in a piranha infested river. yikes!! we ended up keeping some of the bigger ones to eat for lunch and even after being fried, the fish still looked menacing!!

after lunch, it was time to leave. it had been quite a crazy three days. from alligators to dolphins to piranhas to satanic monkeys to filthy stinking bogs. i really felt like we had gotten quite an experience. on the other hand, i had about a billion mosquito bites, all my clothes were drenched with sweat, and everything i owned was dusty and dirty. i have no idea how people can live out here in these conditions and going back to town to take a nice shower and hang out in a room with a fan sounded really nice. we all piled in the canoe for the last time and quickly went down the river for the last time. everyone laid down in the boat and watched the scenery go by. as usual, we saw lots of gators, turtles, and crazy huge birds.

as we rounded one of the bends in the river, we saw a large group of capybaras in the water. a capybara is this weird looking furry creature that is about the size of a large dog. it was cool to see them all just chilling in the water.

when we had almost gotten to the end of the river, it started raining. first lightly, and then heavily. the canoe was obviously uncovered so we had no choice but to sit there and get soaked. honestly though, after the sweltering heat of the last few days, the rain felt really nice. the problem though, was that when we got to the end of the river and piled into the van, the road was a muddy slushy mess. we started driving and pretty soon the van was swerving all over and fishtailing a bit. it was all kind of funny driving like that until the van suddenly slid very quickly toward the right side of the road. the middle of the road was much higher than either side, so not only were we sliding sideways, but we were also sliding downward and the van was at more and more of an angle till we were sure it was about to fall over sideways. we hit the bank of the road, and the van stopped. no one in the van moved. we were totally scared since we were so tilted and it seemed that any movement would cause the van to fall over. one by one, we slowly crept out of the van.

for a while, the van just sat there, completely stuck. when the driver would hit the gas, the wheels just spun in the mud. all of us meanwhile, as if we hadn’t been dirty enough, now had clumps of mud all over our shoes from walking around. eventually though, we got the van unstuck and made it back to rurrenabaque without any more problems. wow, what a crazy last 3 days it had been!! so in the end, despite no being able to say that “i went to the jungle!”, i’m still glad that i chose the pampas cause the pampas is way more hardcore and interesting than the jungle could have been!

we made it!


welcome to the jungle (part 2)


we were woken up early this morning to do our walk through the pampas. we were given huge rubber boots and after slathering up with a crapload of sunblock and insect repellant, we were ready to go. as we walked, the grass around us got taller and taller until eventually we were walking in grass up to our waist. depending on where we were, this grass could get even higher and sometimes we were walking through dense grass that was over our heads.

see how tall and dense the grass is? you can barely see our guide’s head!

although we were out there looking for all sorts of various wildlife, our main goal was to find an anaconda. anacondas are fairly common out in this area and the group that went on the hike yesterday had seen a 7 foot long anaconda. as walked along, i thought to myself how crazy this all was. i was out here walking through 7 foot high grass searching for deadly snakes. and yeah, tour groups were led through here all the time, so it’s not like we were exactly blazing new trails, but still… we were in the middle of god knows where, hours away from the nearest town, walking through greenery so tall that we could barely see several feet in front of us, and we were searching for anacondas. crazy…

me in my dorky boots

walking through the grass, we would come across long boggy streams and swampy areas that we had to slosh across. the heat and bugs were unbearable as usual. our guide would walk ahead from time to time and poke around under the water with his stick to try to find a snake. no luck. eventually, most of the group got sick of searching. people were tired and hot and cranky. finally, part of the group rested under a tree while the rest of us continued to look. 20 more minutes of searching and still no anaconda. we did find a medium sized alligator though!

we finally gave up and headed back to camp. to get back, we took a shorter path, that involved walking through some super deep muddy slushy nasty-smelling goo. now, to me, this is what i had actually expected from the pampas. when i hear the word “swamp”, i expect to be walking knee-deep in muck. anything less and it’s not really a full on swamp experience. after we got back to camp, we had a couple of hours to relax… which ended up being pretty much impossible to do. sitting outside, the mosquitoes would just eat you like crazy. they literally wouldn’t leave you alone for a second. so you go inside to get away from them and it’s so insanely hot that you can’t stand it. so you go back outside and deal with the mosquitoes again. ugh.

after we ate our lunch, one guy had a great idea to tie some chicken to a string and try to bait the alligator that hangs out below our camp. dude, this alligator is obviously well fed cause he was so damn lazy!! even when the chicken would drop right next to his head, he would often not notice it or not bother going for it. obviously, whether he ate or not didnt matter at all. every once in a while, the gator would get curious and start lumbering out of the water towards the chicken, but if the string was pulled and the chicken moved back a bit, the gator would quickly lose interest. aren’t these things supposed to be ferocious??

our next activity for the day was to go and try to swim with dolphins. there are sections of the river that are inhabited by this weird species of pink freshwater dolphin. we took the canoe out, and after going for a while, we spotted some dolphins. our guide would race the boat all around and the dolphins would swim after us, enjoying our wake, and poking their heads out of the water. eventually, the guide turned off the boat and we got to go swimming in the water. the dolphins were pretty shy. often times, we wouldn’t see them at all for a long time and then eventually one would poke its head out for a second and then dive back in the water. we kept trying to inch closer to them, but it was hard since they would just disappear and then reappear somewhere else. in a way, it was a bit scary actually. the water was really brown and murky and it was impossible to see anything below the surface. yeah sure, dolphins are supposed to be nice and friendly, but it’s a bit disconcerting when one would be swimming towards you, then dives underneath the water, and you would all of a sudden have no clue where this giant animal was or how close to you it might be. at one point, a dolphin popped out of the water just a couple feet away from me, splashed really hard, and then dove back down, totally freaking me out in the process. i kind of think it intentionally tried to mess with me. unfortunately, since these guys popped back into the water so fast, it was almost impossible to get a good photo of them.

you can see the dolphin poking part of his head out

after swimming for a long time, we headed back to camp. we got changed and headed out to this sunset bar that was down the river a bit. we hung out there for a while drinking beers and watching the sun go down. once it got dark, it was time for our night tour. everyone hopped in the canoe and used their flashlights to search for animals at night. it turned out that finding alligators is actually much easier at night than during the day. during the day, the gators are perfectly camouflaged with the tree roots and twigs that stick out of the water… they’re practically impossible to notice without the guides help. but at night, if you just slowly shine your flashlight along the water next to shore, you’ll see these tiny glowing red flashes of light. this is because alligator’s eyes glow red under the light. as we cruised down the river, we saw *tons* of these little glowy red lights. sometimes there would be gators literally every 5 or 6 yards. it was just insane how many of them there were. and if we saw this many, who knows how many we didn’t spot. cruising around the river during the day, we had no idea that there were so many gators around. i thought back to earlier this day when all of us were out there swimming in the river. the *gator infested* river. all of a sudden, our little swim with the dolphins didnt seem nearly as safe and chill as i had thought before!


welcome to the jungle (part 1)


rurrenabaque is a small town that is a jumping off point for various tours. the two main kind of tours that you can take are tours to either the jungle or the pampas. initially, i really wanted to go on a jungle tour. going to the jungle sounds really exotic and adventurous, while going to the pampas sounds like… well.. like… what the heck is a pampas anyways? it turned out that the pampas are marshy grasslands. kind of like a crazy swamp but with super tall grass. the really cool thing about the pampas tour is that you get to see a ton of different wildlife. to be honest, the jungle tour sounded pretty tame and boring compared to the pampas, so in the end we decided to tour the pampas instead.


after spending a day in rurrenabaque, we headed out on our tour. the 7 of us and our guide drove for several hours until we got to the river where we had to transfer all of our stuff into a long canoe with a motor. after a bunch of waiting around, our adventure was finally about to begin.

we cruised down the river and the guide would point stuff out to us. this was a good thing, since i pretty much never noticed anything until the guide pointed it out. he was incredibly good at spotting things. we saw tons of turtles sitting on logs. the crazy thing about the turtles was that they would usually stand in a long row, and each turtle would have its front legs on the turtle in front of it, like a little turtle conga line. i kept trying to take a photo of this, but each time, by the time i got my camera ready, the turtles would dive into the water and be gone. what the hell?! aren’t turtles supposed to be slow? we also saw all kinds of crazy birds. lots of them were several feet tall and looked really crazy.

every once in a while, as we went along, the guide would point towards the bank and yell out “alligator”. i would look in the direction he was pointing and see nothing. only after peering at the spot for what seemed like ages, i would finally spot two eyes and a long snout sticking out over the water. these gators blended into the background almost perfectly. at one point, we took the canoe close to this tree, and the guide started making all these chirping sounds. in a few seconds, a bunch of tiny little squirrel monkeys came running up through the trees. they ran all around and jumped from branch to branch. one of them was even carrying a baby on its back.

later, we pulled up to one of the many camps along the river. as our guide talked to some of the people in the camp, an alligator swam up to the camp and then slowly crawled on shore. as the gator started lumbering closer and closer to the camp, i started wondering what was going to happen. then someone came out and dumped a huge bucket of rice mixed with table scraps in front of it. it turns out that the owners of the camp feed the gator, so it always ends up hanging out near the camp. we all got out of the canoe and watched it eat. alligators aren’t really built for eating rice, so it had to kind of turn its head sideways, and then flick the rice into the air to catch it in its jaws. as it ate, we stood there, just 4 or 5 feet away watching. it was kind of crazy to be that close to this wild alligator, with no barrier or anything whatsoever to stop it from turning around and attacking us.

eventually, we got to our camp. we would be staying in a large room with a bunch of mosquito net covered beds in it. we had some time to kill before dinner, so we decided to look around. it turned out that our camp has our very own alligator as well. we were located on a very steep bank though, so this alligator just sits in the water below and doesn’t actually come out to camp. we peered down at it for a while, and it peered up at us, looking like it was hoping for a meal.

we quickly realized that much more dangerous than the alligator, were the mosquitoes. these things were *insane*. i have never witnessed a mosquito infestation this bad. even with tons of bug spray on, they still would land on you and suck your blood. everywhere you looked there were tons of them flying all over. for the rest of the next 3 days, every person we saw was covered in bug bites everywhere. it was practically unbearable. the next worst thing was the heat. it was about 1 or 2 million degrees out there. and incredibly humid also. so, all day long we had to put on tons of sun block and tons of bug spray. our skin was a sticky goopy mess from all of that and sweat mixed in too. ahh, the perils of the wild.