We continued to the town of Guayamerin, which borders Brazil, for a day off the saddle. I took a ferry across the river and did some exploring in Brazil. The next day we chilled on the sandy banks of Riberalta where I rolled my Rancher. I wanted to get some photos of guys ripping it up on the mini-dunes, but no one understood what I meant. So I showed them. I started cranking some hard turns in the soft white sand. People took out their cameras, so I stepped it up a notch. I cranked a hard left in the soft sand and rolled the Rancher in front of the entire motorcade. I got up immediately, put the rig back on all fours and rode off, earning the nickname of "Crazy American." But I did earn the respect of the infamous ATV and drinking club Quadra Cochinos ("Quad Pigs").
The Cochinos made me an honorary member and awarded me with a bag of dried coca leaves. Chewing coca leaves is part of the Bolivian culture, like wine is to France, and it's legal. It is true that coca leaves were used to flavor Coca-Cola, but your ancestors didn't get high from the leaves. When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain and fatigue. Massive quantities of the leaves are required to chemically extract the deadly marching powder. Coca-Cola did once contain an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass, but the company removed it from the ingredients list in 1903. What I found out is that it gives you an energy boost like Red Bull but without the caffeine jitters. On the downside, it also works as a laxative. Thank goodness for wet wipes.
In the middle of the dryness, we came upon a little oasis with palm trees and barefoot villagers waiting to welcome us. Their small children waved as we approached. A bucket of already-peeled grapefruits was our gift, and the villagers had cut a little ring at the top of each grapefruit so we could squeeze the juice directly into our cottonmouths. I was amazed at their generosity; they had so little, yet they offered what they had. They were just excited to see us.
Near the end of the trip, I broke my overloaded quad's frame on a deep sarteneja but, with help, I tied it together with some blue nylon rope. Then, a little later, I ran out of gas. The frame breakage had pulled the gas line out of the exterior tank. The quad was dead for the rest of the day, so I left it for the chase truck to pick up. I got a ride to our lunch spot and scored a ride to our night's base camp in the Caravan's private two-prop plane. I made it to town and arrived at the hotel before everyone else. The combination of dust and smoke created an asthma attack in my sensitive lungs. I rarely have problems, but this had gotten serious. My lips started turning blue as my lungs struggled for air. I didn't have anything with me. None of my stuff would fit on the plane. My passport, inhaler, everything was hours away on the chase truck.
Finally, some of the people started arriving. I gave them the universal sign for "I can't breathe. Do you have an inhaler?" One dude understood and came back a few minutes later with someone's spare inhaler, saving my ass, and thereby preserving it for my future pink dolphin husband.
Flora And Fauna
The Beni savannas are the third largest complexes of savannas in South America. This eco-region has been identified as a plant diversity and endemic center. The rivers in the Bolivian Amazon offer a great opportunity to spot a variety of animals like pink river dolphins, caimans, monkeys, blue-throated macaws, toucans, anacondas, piranhas and capybaras. Nowhere else on earth is it possible to see so many bird species.