Bolivia 2015

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Gene returned to Bolivia for the fungal adventure run by Larry Evans of the fungal jungal and Daniel Winkler of Mushroaming. This time I took Avianca which was probably a mistake; arrived at 3 am and other problems.

La Paz is a city built in a mountain valley. The airport is on top of the altiplano in El Alto. The cab ride ($10 US or 80 to 100 Bolivianos) takes you out of the thin air to the acclimatizing Hotel Milton (at $18 a night, excellent but not fancy). The view from thier rooftop patio is great and the markets are for blocks around.

After a day of acclimatizing, we head out past El Alto and over a pass to Coroico, checking for and finding many mushrooms in the altiplano.
Coroico is in the high Jungas, a transition area with palms and ferns. This is an endangered terrain because of people cutting down the vegetation to plant coca which depletes the soil. This has brought more prosperity to the region...at a cost.

The first night we stayed at a lodge with a view of the valley. There was a festival (Candelaria) in town, jamming traffic. Our wonderful driver Pacifico once got out and was able to get other drivers to cooperate to unjam.

We also stayed at Senda Verde, a refuge for animals of this ecosystem rescued from animal trafficing. A beautiful place to stay and a great benefit for the animals. People move mostly within the fencing, except for the lodging area.
Spent a day on a fungal foray up a gorgeous creek and found 80 different fungi. The small group included Don and Pam from Seattle, and Christian from Munich (three in back in the Senda Verde picture). Daniel and Christian are very competent photagraphers and we spent much time documenting our finds.

Lunches for these several days were from the markets in La Paz: fresh bread and cheese, avacados, tomatoes, and onions along with the ubiquitous fruits. Living can be relatively inexpensive in Bolivia.

On the way back across the pass to the airport, an action group had blockaded the highway. Pacifico ("the peaceful one") came through again; he was able to convince them to let us past as long as we took an alternate road through the mountains, much higher and, if I were driving, much scarier: barely one lane with rocks and washouts. a wall on one side and hundreds of feet on the other (not pictured). Luckily, I had learned to trust Pacifico so that I could just enjoy the remarkable ride! /tr>
We came in to La Paz quite a different way, along fields, side streets, alleys, and very nice suburbs that Pacifico knew.
After a very nice lunch of rotiserie chicken, we visited the Tierra de Luna, a badlands landscape formed after the the local mountains raised and the sediment washed down.
Finally we got to the airport in time (thanks to a delay) for our Amazonas flight 40 minutes north to Rurrenbaque in the high Amazon. Not only were folks celebrating Candelaria there but also the 171st anniversary of the founding of Rurre. The celebration went through three days and all of two nights. Got to respect that ability to party.

Then onto the river Bene! First day we went to an eco-camp by 'Wizard Mountain' where we had a great hike, good collecting, and excellent lunch before returning to Rurre. The next day, we were on the river again up to Madidi Jungle Lodge on the Rio Tuichi off the Bene in Madidi Park. This whole area is cordoned off by a line of mountains, a notch through which we boated.

Along the way one can see evidence--change in the dip of the sediments--of when the Andes rose up and the rivers went from flowing toward the Pacific to towards the Atlantic. Madidi Jungle Lodge and Chalalan are ecolodges run by the local indigenous peoples. They do a great job of learning other languages so that they can share some of their culture and maintain their lands through ecotourism. The lodging is great and the food is as much local as they can reasonably do.

Fungi were plentiful, beautiful, and as usual, a lot were new to us. More hours spent photographing and collecting. Thankfully this area is less changed than other areas, so that large tropical trees abound. A herd of peccaries visited near the eating area each morning. More birds than we could identify kept us busy at other times.

So, another great Bolivia trip. Thanks to Daniel and Larry, and all the Bolivians who offered their hospitality.

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