It´s around 10Am. I am in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, jamming out to Counting Crows as I write this. For the past hour, I have been attempting to upload photos for the blog and it has gone miserably. It seems that nearly every attempt fails upon reaching percisely 39% of complete. I am beginning to wonder if these internet cafes intentionally use slower internet for business purposes, undermining the efforts of travelers on the road. They can charge foreigners far more by using slow service, since each ´extranjero´  is trying in earnest to establish contact with the outside world and willing to pay whatever the cost (in terms of time or dollar value) without much consideration as it is difficult to come across a spare computer on the road. There´s also the high probablity that this all stems from the poor infastruction of third world countries. I will let you decide, but as it stands now photos are still a no-go.

An interesting few days has gone by. I am tempted to say that Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world, but yet I doubt this statement´s validity. I am drawn to conclude that it is actually the third, with the two others being elsewhere in South America. Either way, top three isn´t so bad. My transition from the Pampas of the Amazon Basin to here, via La Paz, has left my head spinning. One can surely feel the alitutude and its effects on a relatively unacclimitized body regardless of where this lake stands on the highest in the world list.  Nausea, fatigue, shortage of breath, digestion issues, headaches, and irregular bowel movements (my favorite) hanker the body and wear it down until it has adapted to the new heights. This process usually takes around three or four days, but can be slow and painful. My symptoms aren´t as severe as they were when I climbed from Jujuy to the Salt Flats (where altitude reached 4585m), but having transitioned from the Pampas  to here within a miniscule 6 hour timeframe, I am beginning to feel slight altitude sickness once again. Ideally, this too shall pass and will so over the next few days. 

Alright, now on to the good stuff. I spent three days on an excursion in the Amazon Basin. My exploration bore many fruits, notably an abundance of wildlife and a great first time experience in the exterior of the jungle. I was still flying high from my adventure down Death Road, ready to conquer the impossible and open to whatever challanges may present themselves along the way. Fortunately, not many problems arose and things kicked off with a bang, making the journey that much more enjoyable.

I jumped on a short, inexpensive flight from La Paz to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia early in the morning on 4/22.  I was intially opposed to taking a flight, but after thorough research and the discovery that the bus can take anywhere from 18 hours to three days( apparently because the dirt road that leads you to Amazon Basin is prone to flooding), I opted for the 45 minute method of transportation instead. Funny enough, it didn´t prove to be that much more beneficial. I discovered upon arrival that the agency I booked the trip through failed to inform those in Rurrenabaque of my imminent arrival, thereby resulting in their absolute suprise when I informed them that I was meant to depart for the Amazon within the hour. However, the problem did resolve itself and in a timely fashion: Another excursion had three vacant spaces, so my two British companions (Tom and James) and I jumped in with their group and were on our way just two hours after our initial departure time.

The rocky road from Rurrenabaque felt as though you were driving on top of oversized golf balls for the entire four hour journey. Yet, one is so captivated by the surrounding scenery that it is hard to notice the numbness of your ass or the discomfort caused by cramming eleven people in a vehicle that is meant for seven. Everything is so green and alive that it drags your mind from the trivial, triffling matters into something that is far more beautiful than you have ever seen. The surrounding landscape´s presence is striking;  lush mountainsides, thatched huts side by side in the middle of a plantain farm, trees whose shapes and trunks look as though they were designed by Doctor Seuss rather than grown naturally, and snow capped peaks far in the distance – each demonstrating the diversity of such a unique region.

 The wildlife is unparrelled to anywhere else in the world. Within an hour of our drive to the Basin, our vehicle came to a slow stop and pulled to the side of the road. I intially thought a tire must have been popped due to the rough terrain, but as I looked towards the left and behind the vehicle something was slowly crawling along the road. It appeared, at first, like a dog had been hit by a car at the pace at which this animal was moving. I couldn´t have been anymore incorrect. Our guide jumped out of the jeep, heading straight to this strange creature, picked it up and brought it to where we all were sitting in excited expectation. Turns out, it was a baby sloth. Yes, a sloth. The slowest animal in the world, who has no business crossing a busy intersection with the way Bolivians are known to drive. Normal protocol is not to interfere with animals in their natural habitat, but this case proved to be an exception as our guide was certain that our friendly critter´s death was inevitable if left to his own devices. The resolution: Throw him in the vehicle, bring him around an hour and a half down the road, and release him in the wild. I was somehow bestowed the responsibilty of maintaining care over Barry (that´s what we called him) for the duration of this journey, meaning he laid in my lap and clawed at my various body parts the entire time. We grew a close bound, I expect unlike that of any sloth and human ever before, and I was sad to see him go once we reached the appropriate destination. I will be honest, I think it was better for both parties to have him climbing in trees rather than on my face.

The jeep ride ended with no other surprises. Our resting place was aside a small tributary of the Amazon, where we would take a two to three hour trip downstream spotting various wildlife until we reached our camp. It was almost too much to handle. Less than fifteen minutes from leaving the dock you are immersed in a world with no end, whose dangers present themselves at every turn and whose magnificence catches you by surprise nearly every where you go. Condors, eagles, red monkeys, yellow tailed monkeys, crocodiles, alligators, cardinals, and pink dolphins pop out of nowhere as your eyes span across the length of the river. The ambiance is absolutely incredible, whose sublimity words can do no justice. The entire trip was highlighted with these sort of experiences. Times when your senses are on overload and unable to grasp everything that is before you: The harmonious orchestra of animal callings while lying in bed, watching the family of bats play above, failing miserably to wipe the dripping sweat from your head, the overwhelming sense of peace as you look over the Amazonian brush and the gentle breeze cools your body while your gaze pushes to its furthest limit and focuses on the smooth green pastures in the distance, the fire fly skies  and the amber alligator eyes that illuminate when your flashlight moves slowly across the riverbed at nightfall.

Not everything was as glamorous as I make it sound. There was actually a moment of serious danger, a situation where I was fortunate that larger problems did not arise. On our search for anacondas in the brush (probably as smart as it sounds), I was walking along side fellow members of my group at a leisurely pace, following the trajectory of our guide to the best of my abilities. For some reason, I began to drag my feet along the floor of the shallow pool of water we were slowly passing through. Suddently, a giant object gave a stir, moving with exceptional pace in the direction of another person in my group. It remained exactly in between he and I as the guide made his way over to evaluate the disturbance. I remember distinctly that the girth of the tail was large, so I figured we had finally find the anacondas that had elluded us for so long and that it must have been a good size. The guide began to poke around with his stick, looking at me in confusion, until yet again the animal made a violent movement and splashed wildly. He too gave a jump like I had done before, with horror coming to his face – followed immediately by a laugh.  He says, ¨That´s no anaconda, that´s a crocodile. Make no sudden movements and walk away slowly¨. The fear and apprehension that consumed my core was unlike anything before, especially when I realized afterwards what could have happened if I kicked the front region of the crocodile rather than its back. But, at least I can honestly say I kicked one of the world´s most deadly creatures and all of my limbs remained intact. Kinda badass, but not something I look to do in the future.

Other notable experience was swimming with pink dolphins in the wild. The last day of our trip was devoted to this activity. For as scary as it was jumping into crocodile infested waters, the experience of being with these animals in their natural habitat  blows your mind. As the guide explained, whenever dolphins are present any potential dangerous animal disperses. These rare, pink dolphins have been known to kill alligators, crocodiles, or pirhanas that come too close to their young. Apparently, they also have the tendency to protect humans, their fellow mammals, whenever they are in the water together. My short lived twenty minute swim had me surrounded by some 15 or so dolphins, some traveling in packs of four or more. The riverbank is only around forty to fifty feet wide, meaning that these wonderful creatures are right next to you, only an arms length away. Truly one of the more incredible experiences of my young life.

The return to La Paz was smooth, although I did manage to vomit in the airport after landing because their was so much turbulence. A small price to pay for the rewarding trip that was the Amazon Basin. Without a doubt, I am looking forward to staying on the ground  and out of the air in the weeks  ahead. Fifteen person flights, weaving through the mountains on a propeller plane does wonders on your stomach. Try it out if you have trouble believing me. 

Well, its time for me to finish up. I have got to get out and explore Lake Titicaca. Apparently, its an extremely beautiful place and unfortunately I have yet to see any of it. That´s about to change. For now, I must bid you adieu.  My plan is to stay here for a night, move to a few islands in the center of the lake, then onto to Peru. I will try over the next few days to get photos uploaded, as well as make another post, so bear with me. Keep on living.

Side Note: Pirahana fishing is way more difficult than you think

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