The remote town of Rurrenabaque, gateway to the Bolivian jungle, is notoriously difficult to get to.
You can catch the bus. It weaves down from the altiplano and through the yungas region. Depending on the weather, the trip can take anywhere between 14 hours and 3 days, as rain turns the road to thick mud. Guide books tell you to bring lots of food and be prepared to work.
Or, you can take a 40 minute flight from La Paz. We took this option, but even this isn’t as simple as it should be. Despite having four flights each day, it is really just one plane going back and forth. Any delay on any flight pushes the whole schedule back.
When we flew in Rurrenabaque airport was closed due to damage from recent rains. Instead, we landed in a paddock in a village called Reyes, and had to bus for an hour into Rurre.
Once you make it though, you experience quite a pleasent tropical town, set on the bank of the Beni River, and surrounded by jungle.
Longboats rule the rivers
It is also home to the most motorcycles I’ve ever seen.
Bikes for everyone
Nobody walks; nobody drives; but there are motorbikes everywhere. There are taxi motorbikes, on which modest or skirted women sit side saddle so as to not straddle the driver. There are also kids way too young for licences riding scooters home from school, or just for fun late at night.
Most visitors to Rurre are there for tours to the Pampas or visits to the jungle. Similar to Uyuni, it is mostly a transit town. However, I found it to be much more pleasant. It is hot and humid, and a cold Paseña beer has never gone down so quickly. But there are some decent places to eat and drink, and the town is relaxed.
Particularly good is the French bakery, run by a real life Frenchman. You have to get in early though, because he runs out of stock feeding all the backpackers.
One more thing about the flights. Rurrenabaque is an unlit airport. This means planes can’t take off or land after dusk. We returned from the jungle to find we had been bumped onto the last flight of the day. Of course, earlier delays meant this flight got cancelled.
Looking up to the mountains in the distance
So we got stuck in Rurrenabaque, eating French pastries and missing our international flight out of Bolivia.