It's 2:30pm in the afternoon. I'm standing by a police check point on a rural road, waiting for a blue bus. The road is gravel without pavement, very dusty. When vehicles pass by, the smell of emission from low quality fuel makes it even harder to breathe.
This morning I did an exciting and unforgettable mountain bike ride descending 2500 metres, or maybe more. This is the first part of a 6-day bike ride and river rafting tour. I booked it through an agency called Deep Rainforest more than a month before I started the traveling. Now the bike ride part is completed, the next is the river rafting.
The communication with DR has been quite uneasy, or even stressful. Their insistence of paying in advance through Western Union has caused lots of hassles even before I left for the trip. The bike ride is outsourced to another tour operator which DR never lets me know. After the bike ride, through a broken cell phone conversation, DR told me to wait here for a blue bus of a specific plate number. I'm thinking that this trip could be a big group. They need a bus!
The policeman tries to chat with me, but he doesn't know any English, while I basically don't know Spanish. (Shame on me, who took Spanish class a few years ago in Guatemala.) Interestingly, a young lady selling bread to passengers is able to use English very well. She joins the chat when there is no vehicle coming.
4:40pm, the blue bus comes. Confirmed the plate number, I board the bus and expect to see a full bus of gringos. To my surprise, all passengers are Bolivians. This is not a tour bus. Then where should I get off the bus? Luckily my smart phone keeps the initial itinerary that DR emailed me. It says I should go to a place called Caranavi. I ask the driver whether it goes to this place, he nods with a "si" (yes).
Checking my GPS, the distance is only about 50km, but the bus goes really slow. 7pm, the bus arrives at Caranavi. It's already very dark. I get off the bus but find no one waiting for me. I keep repeating DR to the driver but he has no clue. Eventually I find DR's phone number and ask the driver to call. When it gets connected, I am told to go back to the same bus to continue the ride, and go to "Wanai". OMG, what is Wanai and why I go there? It's not mentioned in the itinerary at all!
Back to the bus, I check my GPS again. OK, it's called Guanai. But this name does not appear in the email either. Anyway, I have no other choice. So this is another 3 hours. At about 10pm, the bus arrives at Guanai. Just outside the bus, a smiling mid-age man obviously is expecting me.
His name is Ruben. He speaks very little English, but seems he is able to understand some of my English words. He leads me to a hostel. I tell him that I need dinner. Yes, I am really hungry at this point. It's about 10 hours from my last meal, the lunch. We go to a street eatery and get a simple meal for myself.
While I'm eating, we chat a little bit. The conversation involves lots of body language, which helps to pass the information through more or less. At this point I come to know that Ruben is the guide for the whole trip, I'm the only guest for this rafting tour--Some (probably two) others became sick and were not able to make it.
Only me? I try to confirm several times through different ways with Ruben, he gives me very positive answer. That means I will have to stay with only this person, with minimum understanding of each other's language, for the next 5 days? OMG!
The hostel I stay. It looks quite good though.
The town centre square of Guanai:
A shelter at the street median, probably for rain:
Fruit vendor on the street:
Another view of a Guanai street:
Guanai is by the river of Rio Coco:
A local house:
The school is the biggest building in Guanai, with a nice soccer field: