Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 16 August 2008

Beni and beyond

I have been away for what seemed like a really long time. I had the great fortune to fly from Santa Cruz to Sucre the other day after two weeks of being away. The flight plan brings you directly over the Rio Chico valley, and I was able to take in La Palma from the air. It felt like coming home. To fly over my community, and then to land in the familiarity of Sucre.

Home is where your everyday is. Home is where your familiar, your boring, your comfortable, your challenge, your loved ones and your frustration are found. Every day, Chuquisaca feels more like home. I smiled when I heard people saying un ratito instead of un ratingo. In the Bolivian lowlands, the diminuitive takes on this less-than-pleasing-to-the-ear form, and I had had enough. 🙂

I spent a week on vacation with my good friend, Russ, up in the Beni Department. We went to check out the famed fiesta in San Ignacio de Moxos, and it did not disappoint. We remarked that we felt like we needed our passports to get there because it felt like such a different world than the Quechua speaking mountainous, desertified region of Bolivia we call home. The flat, fertile plains of Eastern Beni were teeming with wildlife–crocodiles, flamingoes, snakes, you name it.

We spent most of our time in San Ignacio itself taking in all of the traditions. The bullfighting, the dancing, the music. The people were so warm and their dress so colorful. It was a great time.

After our vacation we wound up in Santa Cruz for a week long All Volunteer Conference, which was actually both fun and productive in my opinion. It was great to meet volunteers from other groups and other regions. There are so many quality and inspiring people in Peace Corps Bolivia. I consider myself lucky to be a part of this community.

I am back in Chuquisaca briefly before heading up to Cochabamba for more workshops and conferences (this time just for B47s). Things are good. All seems to be relatively quiet on the political front, which is really nice. But, this is Bolivia, so anything can happen.

Enjoy these pics from Beni. Love to you all.

Russ and I at the Rio Mamore, the largest river crossing en route from Trinidad to San Ignacio de Moxos. (The dirt road crosses three rivers, yet there are no bridges.  Balsawood rafts cart the passenger trucks from one bank to the next. A system that works pretty well…when it’s not raining…)

(Drunk) Men run through the crowd in San Ignacio with fireworks alight on top of their heads. A wonderful idea in theory. Pretty hilarious in practice, too.

Sunset over the laguna in San Ignacio de Moxos. Peace comes in so many forms…

Another brilliant Mojeño idea: grease a 40 foot pole in the middle of the Bull ring and put prizes at the top. First one brave or drunk enough to climb up wins the goods. But he also has to figure out how to get things to the ground. Here, this year’s champion attempts to catch a rope that will allow him to lower his prize bicycle to the ground without smashing it to smithereens. I love Bolivia.

Rain makes the dirt road between San Ignacio and Trinidad nearly impassable. Here, the men all try to pull the truck off of the raft and up the steep muddy hill. It took a tractor to actually do the job, but the men put forth a valiant effort. Even Russ. 🙂

Bull Fighting in San Ignacio de Moxos. The main social even of the festival. They say that someone dies every year, and they believe that their sacrifice will yield a good harvest…

Traditional headresses of the Macheteros.

Local men carry Chicha de Camote (fermented sweet potato) out of the Cabildo (community center).

Sometimes you can’t just say you are happy.

Local men parade with bajones, local traditional wind instruments.

Flowers are pretty.

The cathedral on the plaza in Trinidad.

This is a big Anaconda. Reportedly 7 meters in length, 150 kilos. I doubt those stats are accurate, but pretty close! A local man pulled it out of the river with his buddies one day and decided to keep it as a pet…

Never lose touch of the kid in you.



  1. Looks like it was a great trip and entertaining fiesta. But — no photo of you with the anaconda draped around your shoulders? And how was the chicha de camote?

  2. Wow. Those pics are awesome. I have no idea how someone could climb that pole, greased or not. And nice action shots in general! You might get a call from sports illustrated.

    I’m getting pumped for my visit!

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