I once spent an entire day waiting for a jungle bus. Most of the day was spent sitting in an abandoned petrol station in a small town called Salvaccion, in the Manu National Park, in Peru, in the Amazon Rainforest. Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s a picture of a lorry in a river:
Actually, that’s not a river. It’s a road. The road the bus had to travel to come fetch me, my co-volunteers and our guide, and take us to wherever it was we were going. We had no idea if the jungle bus was going to make it. We were quite content with that; “maybes” and “might dos” and “if you wear this goat’s tooth amulet and swear to the monkey gods of Razek then there’s the slight possibility that you’ll get out of this alive” are commonplace in the jungle.
So we got comfortable under a former petrol station now abandoned. It was basically a roof on four pillars and the five of us made the most of it.
Miguel, Lionel and Alessandra went for exercise and dance (to this day I have no idea why). I played cards with Alix, using my 14-year-old pack of cards from a family holiday to Mallorca when I was seven.
It rained intermittently, and I’m not talking a light London drizzle. It never drizzles in the jungle. If it’s raining, it’s pouring. It’s wonderful to look at and listen to. Our petrol station became our solace. We’d run back to it through sheets of rain after being caught out with a brief visit to a local store for snacks. The smashing on the corrugated iron roof was deafening.
We passed about three hours like that. In England or in America or anywhere western, people would get bitchy and whine about how they can’t wait this long because they have to go and get their nails painted or have something important to do like eat cream cheese bagels and watch crap TV. But in the jungle it made no difference. No one was listening. If you expected a bus to arrive on time, more fool you. If you had a specific schedule and no plan B, more fool you.
For us, we reached a point where it was no longer worth waiting there; the river was too high and we had no way of contacting the bus for “traffic updates,” so we left our petrol station. Miguel had managed to contact a contact of his on someone’s radio (he wandered off for a while and when he came back he said, “Okay, we go now”).
We met Miguel’s friend, whose name I forget, and we were led out of Salvaccion and through a jungle trail. The rain seemed to have abated for a while.
This is where we ended up:
We hadn’t ended up where we wanted to be. But the Amazon Rainforest is full of surprises so long as you’re open to new things. In the end, we spent a few hours at the end of the day messing around on these wooden rafts. It made the waiting around at the abandoned petrol station worth every minute.
[some names changed – I apologise to “Lionel” for calling him Lionel]