Tambopata River Rafting Trip
Recommendation: Adventurous persons comfortable with dangerous fast moving water situations and damp, muddy, buggy, uncomfortable camping situations. Previous experience not necessary.
Marketing Literature Description:
Day By Day:
With over 20 guided adventure trips to our credit, [plus at least that many done without guides] Doug and Margaret rate this trip in the bottom 20%. The wilderness experience was total and the adventure and physical exercise was satisfying. But, the scenery is average. The wild life was sparse [due in part to illegal hunting]. And the conditions were very dirty. Our guide -- Alvero Sabocal -- was by far the worst guide that we have ever been assigned. The highlight of the trip was probably an excruciatingly arduous 18 hour drive from Puno to Curva Alegre that afforded the opportunity to see a part of Peru rarely available to tourists. The lowlight of the trip is a tossup between the despicable behavior of our guide -- drug abuse, filth, narcissism -- and a significant accident which jeopardized our well being and was due to unsafe and unethical practices of a local motor boat driver hired by our guide to bring us back to civilization.
Vehicle to Put-In Point
A light duty king cab 4WD pickup truck was used to transport 5 persons and all the gear to the put-in point in . This vehicle was inadequate in many ways.
5 persons in a mid size King Cab for a 16 hour day is torturous. Margaret endured the middle rear seat the whole way.
There was insufficient room for equipment in the pickup bed. As a result everyone except the driver had bags on their laps -- for 16 hours.
The pickup had street tires which were inadequate in the mud.
The pickup had insufficient clearance which resulted in high centering a number of times.
The pickup's suspension frequently bottomed out.
Nevertheless, the driver was both skilled and patient and the journey was completed. Doug and Margaret own a jeep and are veterans of some of the America's toughest 4WD tracks. So for us, the trip was not particularly un-nerving. It was just terribly uncomfortable. And the contrast between the Mayuc service to which we had grown accustomed and this leg of the journey was striking.
When we mentioned our dissatisfaction to Alvero the guide, he said "the jungle is an adventure" which was an implied scolding for whining. We were also dissatisfied at having to spend 16 hours [from 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM] getting to the town where we were to sleep. We noted that larger trucks and busses traveled at greater rates of speed and experienced fewer periods of inching along.
The Mayuc marketing literature "bus" transportation in one spot and "truck" transportation in another. To us, it appeared as if someone tried to save some cost at the expense of our comfort and safety. Our Guide Alvero claimed he did not have anything to do with the arrangements.
We arrived so late the first night that the lodging which had been arranged for us was no longer available. Our guide found us a filthy, hot, bug infested room instead.
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Alvero Sabocal was the guide assigned to us by Mayuc for our Tambopata River Rafting Trip. Before leaving for the river, Chando warned us that Alvero "talks a lot". What Chando didn't tell us is that Alvero doesn't know how to listen. And as a result Alvero cannot read other people -- most importantly guests. Therefore his social graces are about equivalent to those of a 14 year old in the Western World [based on our experience of having raised two sons through their teenage years]. Alvero also has a need to prove how capable a guide he is which leads to him treating his clients as 12 year olds. Now imagine how little fun you might have being treated as a 12 year old for 9 days and you have an idea of what it is like taking Mayuc's Tambopata River Trip with Alvero as your guide. If this description does not create a clear image, dont hesitate to email us at doug[at]djhome.net and we can provide plenty of examples.
Alvero suffers from lower back pain and according to his chiropractor a mis-aligned pelvis. It was unfortunate to see him wince when lifting and rowing. We felt sorry for him at first. But then when we entered the first class IV rapids we felt sorry for ourselves. What would happen if Alvero's impairment were to get in the way of a critical river maneuver. Suddenly the river was threatening and our safety was questionable.
Alvero is one of the most disorganized individuals to whom we have ever had to entrust our existence. It took hours to pack the boat each morning. The comedy of watching him put up the tarp each evening gave way to pity. The day's "plan" would change back and forth half dozen times. He even got "lost" 3 times on the river he claimed to know well; one time he was convinced we had to paddle back upstream. We would get the same lecture three, four, or more times. When we encountered him at the airport ready to depart for home, we got another lecture [which turned out to be wrong] on how to navigate the various queue's.
Alvero was dirty to the point of being disgusting. His personal appearance was ratty. The tent he provided us was not cleaned from the last guest. The cooler which held our food was wretched; at the end of the trip the fruit was growing mold! His attention to dishwashing degraded as the trip continued. He would use the tablecloth as a rag. He was hard on equipment and ruined some of our personal equipment as a result.
We suspect Alvero was using cocaine during this trip. Several times a day he would grab the plastic sack with toilet paper, slip a small personal Tupperware into the sack, and hike out of sight. He would be gone 10-15 minutes -- much longer than necessary for a bowel movement. Plus he would occasionally forget to take the potty shovel. Upon return, there was obvious snorting and nasal passage clearing. He was extraordinarily fidgety after these soiree's and he would launch into 30 minutes of meaningless jabbering.
We also suspect Alvero was not utilizing all the available food, but instead hoarding some for unknown purposes. At the beginning of the trip we were shown two generous sized well preserved ham's with a proclamation that this will provide meat throughout the trip. Instead, we had ham one night -- one small piece each. The last two nights Alvero claimed there were no real meals left to prepare so he would "improvise". We ate vegetarian; one meal was just rice and quinoa.
Others apparently have also had difficulties with Alvero. The first day on the river [and after the point of no return], Alvero repeated the "jungle is an adventure" and not for sissies lecture and described how two other sets of guests had recently pleaded to end this tour after just 3 days. We thought it was strange that he would brag about guest relations failures.
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Motor Boat from Take-Out to Town
We had been met the previous afternoon [20-Jun-08] by Victor B. – boat captain and perhaps boat owner from Puerto Maldonado. Victor’s job was to transport the 4 of us from our final night rafting camp and take-out point just above the Tambopata Research Center to Puerto Maldonado. We had contracted for and expected a private boat to ourselves. Instead – without our permission – Victor had brought along 8 additional friends and family. These unexpected 8 had lots of luggage and camping equipment. When we added our 4 persons, our heavy floating white water raft, and our camping equipment, we had a very very heavy motor boat. All total, there were 13 persons and so much equipment it was hard to move around.
We proceeded down river from the Tambopata Research Center for about an hour and started hitting submerged logs. Victor's family and friends thought is was great fun to the extent of cheering him on during one near miss. Alvaro too was using encouraging gestures. The third collision was with such great force that a hole was made in the bottom of the boat – about two meters from the bow on the right side and in the middle of a structural element. Pretty soon the boat was filling with water and Victor’s 8 additional friends/family started bailing in ankle deep water. Victor drove the boat to shore where we could all see a four cm hole with a piece of tree branch sticking through. Victor and Alvero’s plan was to remove the stick and plug the hole with something.
We – Doug & Margaret – felt very unsafe in Victor’s overloaded and now damaged boat. There were not enough life preservers for all occupants. And we were never offered one to wear. Neither Victor nor Alvero wore a life preserver either. In fact, only two preservers wore life preservers.
To our good fortune, a boat from Wasai Lodge came along a few minutes after the accident and we flagged them down. Alvero refused to help us with this. They were kind enough to give us a ride. We felt much safer – we even had a life preserver to wear. We were in a boat that was not overloaded – we did not hit any more logs. Lastly, we were in a boat that did not leak water. Alvaro and some of Victor's friends threatened Wasai Lodge with sanctions for helping us out [the threats were in Spanish and later translated to English by Wasai Lodge guests].
As we shared our dismay of Victor's service with the Wasai
Lodge staff and learned of many more improper practices carried out by Victor
and his unexpected 8 family/friends.
1- Victor was playing with the engine kill wire instead of wearing it on his wrist
2- The boat was overloaded for the water conditions
3- There were insufficient life preservers
4- Victor had bragged about taking his group of 8 family/friends all the way to the confluence of the Tambopata and the Tavara. As proof, we were offered clear drinking water from a small stream near the Tavara. We later learned that Motorized travel is not permitted beyond the Research Center.
5- Early the morning of 20-Jun [the same morning that Victor would have been near the Tavara], we heard gunshots and the faint sound of a motor boat This was about one hour’s float below the Tavara. While on Victor’s boat, we noticed him moving about a high power rifle [complete with scope]. We later learned that hunting is forbidden in the Tambopata National Park.
6- There was a very large bushel – about 100 liters – of all the same kind of fruit on Victor’s boat. Why would someone bring so much on a camping trip?
7- When we arrived at the ranger check station between the Tambopata Research Center and the Washi lodge, we all got out to register. Victor’s boat arrived 5 minutes later and Alvaro and his helper got out to register. The other 8 family/friends did not register despite having camped one or more nights.
It now seems evident that Victor used our request for transportation to subsidize an illegal hunting vacation for he and his friends. We cannot imagine what might have happened had the authorities stopped us during a random inspection.
The Wasai Lodge People increased our safety and provided certain transfer. Alvero and Victor managed to fix the boat by stuffing a cotton sock between the boards. They did arrive at the Wasai lodge 20 minutes after we did and tried to get us to re-join our pre-arranged tour to Puerto Maldonado. After realizing so many wrong and unsafe activities, we decided to stay instead to part company and stayed the night at the Wasai Lodge at our expense.
With this website posting we wish to alert others to the fact that the Tambopata River Rafting Trip may not live up to the expectations set in the marketing literature. Feel free to contact us at doug[at]djhome.net should you desire additional information.
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Marketing Literature Description:
Mayuc provided the following testimonial in the process of promoting the trip. This testimonial aligns with the Mayuc we experienced on the Salcantay to Inca Trail to Machu Picchu adventure. How could our Tambopata trip be so radically different?
The best advice that I can give is to book this trip without hesitation. It was unbelievable. We have traveled extensively on adventure trips to many areas of the world and this was hands down the best experience of our lives. I cannot emphasize how great a time we had. Everything was perfectly planned and executed right from the beginning. The amount of preparation and planning that these guys put in was truly remarkable. At no point were they unprepared for whatever the river or the jungle had to offer us. Honestly, it felt like we were on an adventure with close friends or family, rather than a tour group. The Mayuc team took care of us every step of the way. Safety was never an issue. Both the guide and the safety kayakers were real pro's. Even when the river got rough, which is what you hope for, these guys responded within seconds. We were all amazed.
Beyond the rafting itself, the team knows the jungle and river so well that they we would often stop during the day to climb up into a hidden waterfall or explore further into the jungle. It seemed as if they always had something new up their sleeves, some new way to take our breaths away.
A few additional things. Based on previous experiences, I had expected the food to be simple and rather bland. It was the complete opposite. Every meal was something different...they really take cooking to an art form...this was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
If you are interested in the adventure of a lifetime, do yourself a favor and book this trip. YOU WILL LOVE IT!
Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions. It was one of those experiences I will never get tired of talking about.
Robert Louis M.D.
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Day By Day:
Still under construction....
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