Caravana: Amazons On Wheels

Brent Plummer
by Brent Plummer
We don't normally post info about group off-road rides, but this one about the 1000+ mileoff-road Caravana ridein Bolivia came in seconds after our post about Glamis being closed, which is a huge bummerif, like us MOians, you live is SoCal... Anyway, this ride sounds awesome, and if we can'tride in the US anymore, we'll take our cash and go somewhere else!

MO reader Caravana writes:

This trip is organized by a group of people fromdifferent areas of work and interests as anincredible adventure to relax and forget dailystresses. This two week journey riding ATVs and dirtbikes through the Bolivian countryside started with only eight participantsin 1997. It is officially called Caravana Eco-Turismo, and it is developinga whole new tourism industry in a country were people can dotons of riding. You can also see and live some of the traditionsand cultural diversity of Bolivia; stories of caimans,piranhas, monkeys, huge butterflies with amazing colors, thefantastic amazons and little villages with great people. This yearthe fourth version of the Caravana had a whole group of peopleworking not only booking hotels, but also getting the routedouble-checked by air and by truck. The places where the Chefwho traveled with them to prepare the meals forthe 200 people were ready too...

Getting Ready to Ride

The organization this timestarted a year in advance -- the day that the 3rd trip ended -- and word of thistrip spread so quickly that they had people coming from all overthe world, some even came for the second time. I had theopportunity to meet people from Germany, Italy, Spain, USA,Aruba, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. All of them looked exitedabout the adventure they were about to start.

Thisyear the trip was to cover 1125 miles of plains and jungle in thenorthwest side of Bolivia. The organizers made an exact list ofwhat to carry and the fact that the weather was mostly very hotand humid left people thinking about the amounts of water tocarry with them in every journey. Food and lodging were readyin every stop and that made people feel more comfortable. Thetrip started in Trinidad - Beni. Most of the people got there theday before by plane and the city made a welcome party!

We finally knew that 123ATVs and about 24 dirt bikes were registered for the trip. We had14 trucks that ride among us helping with possible mechanicalproblems. Two small planes (Cessna 206) and a two-engineplane were there to help with emergencies and believe it or not,to carry the chef from one place to another so food was readywhen the adventurers arrived. One thing new for the Caravanawas that 15 women were part of the enthusiastic group.Last year they had just two girls riding with their fathers, thisyearwas quite different.

The Great Plains

We got together in the main square of Beni'scapital, Trinidad, and prepared to begin out first adventure: Dust and heat would be the maincompanions of this part of the trip that would take about five and half hours. Wegot to cross some rivers and stop and see alligators,big birds and an anaconda in different parts of the roadsidebefore we got to Santa Ana del Yacuma to spend the night. Thenext day we were to inaugurate a new hotel built next to a greatlake. After 100 miles that took almost seven hours because of theprimitive roads, we got into the hotel and found that is had only 44 beds, so many of usslept in tents. We spent two daysthere; the mechanics checked the machines to make sure everything was ready to continue on.

That hotel is in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing else forhundreds of miles. Electricity came from a generator andwater from deep wells, there are no phones, no news,just great views, the lake to swim in and fish -- it looked likeparadise.

The next partofthe route made me think what I was doing there.Because of the heat and riding 125 miles in the dust through a roadwere cows and horses walked -- leaving it churned up from theirfeet and making us shake so bad that I though I was getting myteeth loose -- it was the first time I could describe the differencebetween being tired and exhausted, and it was not fun. I didn'tquit because I wanted to see the next part of the trip. We gotinto a farm to spend the night. The farm was located on the top of ahill, so we pitched out tents and used an old pot filled with well water as a shower.

Then we had a huge thunderstormcoming right at sunset. Sitting thereresting after the storm was over and looking at the amazing colors in thesky made us all recover our energy.

Our next journey was my favorite part of the trip, and was the mostexiting too: No one knew what we were going to see, and howthe road was. They just told us we had 122 miles to the nexttown and around 50 would be in the jungle. We knew the road in thatpart wasn't very good, and we expected the worst because of the rainthe night before. We left the place early in the morning carryinglunch in a plastic bag because the chef did not have any otherchoice.Once we got into the jungle everything looked different. We hadmud (lots of mud), and huge trees on the sides of the primitive road.Sometimes the jungle was so deep that wecould not see the sun. That part of the trip took a couple of hoursbecause we stopped many times to take pictures, eat some fruitand our "lunch". It was easiest to travel in small groups becausewe did not have the dust from the first part. It was fun toobecause we joked a lot each time we rode in deep mud andhad trouble getting through. The parts of the road that allowed us tospeed up were amazing. Many butterflies surrounded us andwhen we stopped they were all around us and we could touchand caress them.

Once we got back to the main road, the rest ofthe trip was easy until we reached Guayaramerin, a city that bordersnext to Brazil. Up to then, the trip was great, we had theopportunity to ride on incredible roads were only cows and horse had trod.We even needed a guide during the trip to ride ahead ofus. First, we thought we were missing the fun because ofthat. Then we thanked the guide because the road was so tricky, andbelieve me, no one wants to get lost in the middle of the plainswith almost no water, no maps, and no pay phones or gasstations anywhere!

Some Things To Remember

The rest of the tripwas amazing. We got into an ecological reservation in a towncalled Santa Rosa. This place is working on the preservation ofthe black caiman and some other great animals. We spent sometime there and I was happy to have the chance to see all that.We had a couple of days to go yet, but it was sad to leave such anice place where people can interact with nature and learn somany things. Everybody was tired; we had around 225 milesahead of us before we reached Trinidad again. In San Borja, thenext town we reached, people from La Paz left the Caravana andwent back home, but most continued the trip as planned. San Ignaciode Moxos, the last town, welcomed us with a huge parade and atraditional show that I'll never forget. Up to that point my armswere tired and my finger numbed. I had cramps in my right armfrom the long hours that I spent riding the quad, but I was sadbecause the Caravana was almost over. Trinidad was the placewhere we started and the place where we finish the adventure.First I could not believe all the things I saw and experiencedalong the 12-day trip. I was tired, dirty, happy and planningto come back next year for this incredible trip.

Caravana 2001

The plans for the fifth version of theCaravana are ready. This new version will be Andino -Amazóniza. The difference from the previous years' trip is that theroute will go through the Andes into the Amazons. The trip startsin Titicaca Lake in La Paz, goes through Pando and will endin Guayaramerin, Beni, crossing the Madidi's national park.Everyone is expecting great views from the mountains, jungle, andplains, and the trip will cover about 1300 miles. To find out more aboutthe Caravana 2001, you can check our websiteat or contact us by e-mail.Or, our phone number is 011 591 334-7145.

The costfor the 2001 will be around $2950 for quad rental,accommodations and meals (airfare not included). A small note:During the 12 days trip, the Caravana used: 5000 chicken eggs300 chicken, 38 pork 1400 pounds of fish The amount equal to 6cows. They also ate: 600 pounds of rice 1000 pounds of potato264 pounds of cheese 270 pounds of onions 300 pounds ofvegetables It was necessary to have: 80 gallons of oil 2000 unitsof bread 1400 gallons of milk, tea and coffee In addition, manymore things that we could not list.

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