South America Blog Posts

Week 19 – Getting sick in the Bolivian Amazon

In my last vlog I had just finished a long journey north through the Beni region to Pando. I arrived at a very basic hostel and was finally getting some rest. Although, there wasn’t a shower and only a long drop toilet. I took a rest day and I wasn’t feeling so good. I thought it was just because I had been cycling so far all week. So I relaxed and made sure I was eating and drinking enough. In the evening I cooked myself some fish pasta. My usual energy boost meal on the road.

A rude awakening

I woke up in the middle of the night feeling weird. I thought that I needed to throw up. So I got some clothes on and ran outside. After a few seconds of standing bent forward in the grass it became apparent that I didn’t need to throw up. I needed to get to the toilet. As there’s no running water in that village, there’s just a long drop toilet. I walked to the end of the field to a wooden hut. Opened the door to see a wooden box raised from the ground with a hole cut in the top. As my headtorch flashed over the ‘toilet’ I saw maybe a hundred cockroaches scatter into the darkness. I have to say that I didn’t sit on this wooden box. I opted to use it like a squat toilet. At least this way I only had the risk of a cockroach running on my foot instead of across my bum cheeks or up my back. So yeah, it turned out I had somehow picked up a case of food poisoning.

A difficult decision

The next morning I felt pretty rough. I just wanted to relax in bed, drink something nice and eat some easy to digest foods. The only problem was my location. I was in the middle of nowhere, no running water and a room with no door. I checked the map and saw that the next town was 75km further down the road. I didn’t feel like I was comfortable enough to recover in the place I was staying. So I decided to go for it. Cycling 75km without eating anything. I told myself that I could take it steady and when I got to town I would have access to all the things I might need.

A hard days ride

It turned out to be a long, hard day. The road surface wasn’t so bad and the scenery was really nice. But I was struggling to appreciate it in the condition I was in. I kept zoning out, just slipping into my own mind and cycling. I would catch myself doing it and try to force myself to take in my surroundings. I stopped in each village that I passed through and drank an energy drink to keep me going. Eventually I got to the town of El Sena. I managed to negotiate a really good price for a decent hotel room. Probably just because the owner felt sorry for me. But I was finally in a comfortable place. I took a shower and bought drinks and bread. Then I just settled in for a couple of days of recouperation.

Spending time in the village

For a day or so, I felt really weak and pretty low emotionally. But once I was eating properly again, my strength came back and with it came my positive energy. The day before I was planning to leave, I got a message from Yuri. He mentioned that he had a friend in a village a days ride from El Sena and that I could go stay with him. So that was how I was introduced to Rozen. The next day I cycled out to meet him and stayed with his family. They were all so friendly and welcoming. They live in a beautiful little village called Mandarino. All the neighbours came over to say hello and the kids were amazed to see my drone flying around. It was really nice to experience a small taste of village life. So peaceful and laid back. Rozen explained how much he preferred this lifestyle rather than working in town. As he put it, when you work in town you got to work and come home to sleep. But now his life is spent with his family. His son is like a close friend and he can give his daughter a lot of attention as she grows up. They make some money selling things from a small shop on the front of their house and they are happy.

Pit stop in Puerto Rico

As the week was coming to an end, I headed to the next town along my route. A small town called Puerto Rico. I took a rest day before heading out again. The next leg of my journey would take me through the rest of the Pando region, through the South of Brazil and over the border into Peru. But we can talk about that next week.

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