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Leaving Encanta

Sarah Faegre | Oct 07, 2008


A new turn for the worse give us a final conclusion to the nest of Encanta and allows us to confirm the neither eggs was viable. Now we make the most of our last days with here with the family and try to escape before the flood turns deadly.

February 10th

Today I turn 26.  We are stranded in the flooded Bolivian lowlands at the rapidly sinking Encanta, where the family jokes that now they are like armadillos-forced onto the tiny, remaining bits of raised land that are still above water.  The galpón is flooded now and the outdoor living area is a tiny bit of raised land next to the pig pen.  We have moved the contents of the kitchen outside, since the water in the kitchen is too deep now, and are using the top rail of the pig pen as a counter. 

The BTM project finally has a conclusion-yesterday the nest box was invaded by wasps and probably the wasps will have success where the macaws didn't, creating little wasplings and perpetuating their species.  Steve suited up in several layers of clothes and a mosquito net over his head and braved the angry wasps to retrieve the still-intact egg, which we knew was certainly dead since it had been without incubation for over 24 hours. 

Last night we opened the egg and got a confirmation for what we had already expected: the egg was infertile, or had died in the early days of incubation, just like the other eggs.  The macaws had spent more than 3 weeks incubating 2 infertile eggs, only to have their nest cavity usurped by a colony of wasps.  I suppose it would have been much sadder had the wasps taken over a nest with live eggs or chicks.  Still, the pair is very distressed and hanging around the vicinity, crying over their loss.  It is interesting to note that the last bird to give up on the nest was the male, who Steve saw enter the nest yesterday morning and stay for 40 minutes despite the colony of wasps which carpeted the entrance and the inside of the nest box. 

Last night there was a tremendous lightening storm around 1:30 a.m. which pelted us with rain and incredible gusts of wind for 2 or 3 hours before I got back to sleep.  It was raining and blowing so hard that I was getting wet, even with the double rainfly-tarp system.  But at least the platform held up and the water in the tent was minimal.  One of the rooms in the family's house has water in it, but it is only the food storage room and the food is up on platforms.  The two rooms in which they sleep are still dry-but for how much longer?

No word from John since yesterday, when the price of the boat he had contracted to come and get us jumped from 700 to 2000 Bs (about 250 USD).  I said yes, despite the price, because I am really in no position to barter.  "If someone will come here to Encanta in a boat and get us out, I will pay the price," I said.  John said he would have to see if the boat was willing to come all the way to Encanta and would confirm with me at 3:00 pm.  At 3:00-nothing.  At 7:00-nothing.  Rolando was appalled when he came back from the chaco and learned that I had agreed to pay 2000 Bs. for a boat.  He has other, more affordable plans to get out, but since his last plan did not work out and the new one is just as uncertain, I will agree to whichever plan I can confirm first. 

February 11th

It has been storming for over 12 hours-the dark, ominous front moved over the already flooded Encanta and opened fire with rain and 30 mph cold wind.  At 11:30 pm the strobe-light lightening began.  Fat drops of rain began to fall, and soon the thunder was cracking straight overhead with such ear-splitting force that I startled and plugged my ears and cowered deeper into my sleeping bag.  As the hours wore on I slept fitfully and the water rose higher and higher around the tent, splashing in through the mesh underneath the rainfly. 

Now it is noon the next day and the storm continues with cold wind and rain blowing constantly from the south.  The water is level with our tent platform and the bottom ¼ of the tent is soaked.  The family's house is flooded with 1 foot of water and there is not a dry patch of land in sight.  We are nothing but a few flimsy structures in the middle of a river which is now running with a forceful current.  Animals are dying and there is no way to make a fire to cook food.  The situation has become critical: we must get all the people and animals out today or as soon as possible. 

Loreto is entirely flooded.  Trini is flooding, just from the rain, but the water is coming with such force from the river that there is fear that the retaining wall, which encircles the city, might break.  This would be utterly disastrous for the tens of thousands of families living in the center and also for us, as we would loose all of our belongings (currently stored in Hostal Las Palmas, in the center of Trini).  If the retaining wall breaks, Trinidad, the capital of El Beni, will become a flooded wasteland with a flooded airport and no way out (except by boat).  We are in the middle of it all, a tiny spec among tens of thousands of desperate people and a lot of water. 

Already pigs and chickens and one horse have died.  Any belonging that falls or is dropped becomes lost in the current.  The wind is shaking the tent and blowing so hard that it sounds like we're on a beach near the pounding surf.  Don Basco is on his way from Loreto to rescue us and the animals.  John never came through and we haven't had any contact with him since he said he would confirm our boat trip two days ago. 

In theory, Don Basco will arrive any moment with the boat and they will begin taking animals to the chaco (the tiny, garden/island a few kilometers away from the house).  If all goes as hoped, all the animals, people and important belongings will be out of Encanta by the end of the day.

8:00 pm

We're out of Encanta-Steve and I, the family and the remaining pigs and chickens rescued by Don Basco and 2 others guys who helped Rolando move the pigs to the chaco and took us out to Esperanza.  So, at the moment we are lying in a wet, broken tent that we just spent half an hour patching together after a horse stepped on it.

The family is spending their last night in the flooded house at Encanta, hoping the earth walls don't collapse on them in the night.  The pigs are probably contentedly munching on the corn and chasing away the capybaras...(or will the capybaras chase away the pigs?) in the chaco.  Really, there's not much of an "away" for any person or animal to go to from the chaco, which is an island of about 300 meters diameter amid a vast, flooded wetlands that is now truly traversable by boat alone. 

Tomorrow Don Basco will go back with the boat and move the family and all their belongings to the chaco, and then help Rolando swim all 20 horses to Esperanza.  The 3 school-age kids will come to Esperanza in the boat with Don Basco so that they can join on our eventual voyage to Trini, where they will live with family members and attend school (assuming the center of Trini doesn't flood).  John was due to arrive in Loreto today, though we don't know if he will arrive with the 2000 Bs. rented boat, or simply as a passenger on another boat. 

Outside Esperanza things sound pretty grim.  It rained for 15 hours straight last night (and into the morning) and Loreto is entirely flooded except for one street and half the church.  Trini's retaining wall has broken in 2 places.  Trini, which is the capital of the Beni Province, houses nearly 100,000 people and is slowly going underwater despite the peoples' efforts to keep the water out with sandbags and pumps.  I was told today that Trini is actually lower in elevation than Loreto and up until now has always been protected by the combination of pumps and its circular retaining wall. 

The current news is the airport is already partly flooded and we may not be able to leave Trini.  We have no idea how bad it will be when we arrive.  Will the hostel where our baggage is stored be flooded with water?  We can only wait and see.