Rurrenabaque: from town to jungle


I’ve been nicknamed Gaia or ‘Mama Universe.’

I’ve bought six blocks of pure cacao chocolate for less than $3 each, eaten fruit of cacao, noni motacu, guayava, eaten a whole giant papaya everyday for 3 days straight, bought all the veges I need for 3 days for under $2.

I am used to cold showers, sharing a room with cockroaches and spiders and getting used to being woken up by howling dogs and roosters in the mornings.

I don’t feel home. I don’t feel like anywhere is home.


I haven’t seen my face in the mirror for weeks.

I’ve slashed coconuts open with a machete.

I’ve given an offering to Pachamama (‘mother Earth’).

I’ve lived in a house with giant ostriches running around and chased chicks out of my room like a madwoman in the mornings.

I’ve made friends with the most beautiful Aymaran breadmaker lady and bought over 1.5kg of pure full grain organic vegan seed-filled bread that gives Vogels a run for its money by miles for $5.

I feel really still here, really relaxed. Partly the heat.

I eat when I’m hungry not when it’s meal time.

I’ve had starfruit juice and acerola juice, tamelas from the roadside, two giant plates of rice for $1 for dinner.

I didn’t expect to come here and have to shout at street kids and river rat nomads to get the hell out of the office. I don’t know how to be unkind to children who have known no love.

I think there is some kind of giant mustelid or rat-like creature that lives in the office.

I’ve lived in a house with the male gymnastics champion of the whole region.

I’ve heard All of Me in Spanish.

I’ve drunk chicharron of coconut, and chibe (yucca powder), which tastes like mild cheese in a glass.

I’ve had the mother of seven children with skin smooth as a twenty year old address me as ‘usted’ (the formal you).

I’ve fallen in love with a little three year old village kid with a big smile and a wound slashed across his forehead.

I’m in love with two hour lunch breaks. I appreciate the time to digest here.

I am thinking maybe you don’t ever meet your needs fully. You meet partials and you see potential and you hang around, hoping one day they will change and be there with you in full.

There’s a quote I haven’t been able to get out of my head. What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life? It’s been haunting me everyday for the last sixty days.


I’ve cooked an Indian feast for 12 people in a giant treehouse.

I’ve ignored all orders and illegally constructed a hot compost in a garden, digging a 1x1x1 m hole for it.

I’ve heard my sister has fallen in love and it hurts being away.

I’ve nearly burst into tears with my hands in 3kg of acai juice.

I’ve cleaned a forest garden like mad, taught permaculture to two Italians who want to create an eco-community when they return.

I’ve had someone else take credit for my work.

I’ve been treated like dirt by Israelis. Twice.

I’ve supposedly (accidentally) heartbroken a young Frenchman who was in love with me – and I didn’t realise.

I’ve written my master list of vegan favorites – in Spanish – and a 20 page Working with Children – the Work that Reconnects proposal, an invitation letter to all schools of the region and five pages of quotes for the reserve.

I’ve met a monkey man living with 8 monkeys in a swampy forest lake.

I’ve gone looking for crocodile-like caiman eyes on a lake under a sky full of stars – more than I ever imagined existed, 3 dimensional and crystal clear – and seen a thousand fireflies light up the trees on the other side of the lake like a stellar party of beating hearts through the branches.

I’ve been followed by a tapir while traipsing for four hours through humid hot jungle, following a machete-wielding indigenous man from a nomadic river tribe who knows about traditional plants and saves us three times from serpent attack, fished up piranha one sunny afternoon, served lunch on giant banana leaves and almost crashed the boat into a cacophony of wild pigs that can kill puma.

I’ve been led by hand and tail by a baby spider monkey.

I’ve seen jaguar footprints…and walked through where it marked its territory the night before. And survived.

I’ve watched anteaters, squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys weaving through the branches, seen a caiman poking its head above the water, heard the toucan herald the arrival of coming rains, watched pet frogs tear mosquitos out of the air for us – a natural mosquito repellent – in the Casa Grande, seen giant fungi of white and blue and orange, followed a line of leaf-cutter ants back to their tree half a kilometer away, made a wish on the cracks of an ancient tree 900 years old, woken up to the call of howler monkeys erupting through the trees like a sonic boom several miles away, ripped a blood-sucking parasite off my hands, sailed a canoe through a lagoon so clear it had perfect mirror reflections, seen a gaggle of beautiful black river gulls sail through the sky, heard the call of Serere birds – a lot like group sex – and seen half a dozen of these closest living relatives of the dinosaurs cackling in the trees, chased parrots of blue and green and red and yellow off a pile of hanging bananas, scared off roosters, seen turtles climbing over each other in the Amazon river, passed the endangered black heron, illegal logging operations of a forest 1000 years old, mines and illegal netted fishing in community land; I’ve lived in a cabin with ‘walls’ of millimetric mosquito net only, washed all my clothes by hand, eaten under candlelight a fesat of Italian vegan dishes, Bolivian traditional food and adored showering in cold water, been invited to an indigenous tribe to have my hand read by a major shaman.

I’ve had green juice and papaya juice and coconut juice and acai juice and orange juice.

I’ve been brought to the point of frustration and tears in a place so beautiful as this.

And I’ve given up.


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