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2005: Travelogue by Klaus Braunert

Te actual sojourn 2005 in Bolivia differed from my intentions and with different results. On the one hand continuation of tasks begun, on the other hand the disappointing experience that the trip to Piso Firme had to be cancelled 150 kilometres before the destination due to belated heavy rainfalls. Our vehicle bogged down again and again in the mud and in the end did not make any progress at all. The work to be done in Piso Firme had to be delegated to our colleague Maribel Añez and had to be postponed for two months. On its forthcoming trip in the dry season she was then accompanied by Franz Josef Kerkhoff. A month later the track stretch would have been dry and relatively easy passable. As it were, I had to content myself, to observe things from a distance, having been at Piso Firme before half a dozen times.
One satisfaction was granted me during the interrupted trip: We discovered on the way back a Boa Constrictor (constrictor snake) which I could bring back into the forest, before the trucks with their load of trunks reached it, which surely would have been its end.

On occasion of the acquaintance with the owner of a wood concession and a sawmill on this journey, he casually told us of his frequent travels to Italy, where he was selling his precious wood. This was stockpiled in large piles in the yard, cut into manageable planks, ready for transport. Whoever will therefore in the near future see furniture made of tropical wood from Italy in the supermarket, with an invented quality seal “cultivated in plantations” or something of the sort, I can assure that these were made probably out of the last large jungle trees from Bolivia.

Piso Firme

What had been accomplished previously this year, concerns the continued care for the cabañas (houses) there and the formation of the park-like plot of land.  The large cabaña was divided into a dormitory and a stay area.  Further beds, hammocks, mosquito nets, seating and a refrigerator were purchased.  For further reinforcement and stabilization of the cabañas, material was required, such as wood, tiles, cement and paints. Because most materials were delivered from Santa Cruz, freight had to be paid, which in the case the 50 kg cement sacks is quite a lot. Therefore cement floors in Piso Firms are rare because the people cannot afford the material. These references should inform about expenses this year, not calculated the costs for the salary of the casero and other wages to be paid, as well as payments to the administration of the village (“municipal tax ") and other running costs.

The project Piso Firme lies at present in the slumber of the “sleeping beauty” and waits for visitors, scientists, students, film-makers and friends of nature. What to us appears attractive, namely the remoteness of the place, turns out to be a problem because evidently nobody has the time or the will anymore to venture out for not entirely comfortable trips. The offers in the catalogues of suppliers of nature and adventure trips are in general very costly and still their clients are led almost only to places which any individual tourist can go to without any problem and without experienced guides. In Piso Firme we sometimes have visitors from within the country. For them, a little difficult excursions are not such a large obstacle.

Concepción

Here I spent again some days. The place becomes more and more an important centre for collecting and growing of orchids There are a large variety of  species growing in the wild in the environment and the residents of the place attempt the cultivation of these impressively beautiful plants, as well as the cultivating of hybrid forms. I remark on that because it is worthwhile also for specialists and amateurs to have a look around at the growers and flower friends. There is an annually organized orchid festival attracting many visitors.

We have a house in Concepción on a piece of land of land by the side of a lake. T he place is suited perfectly as an intermediate stop to have a rest on the way to more distant destinations, like for example Piso Firme, national park Kempff-Mercado or into the Bolivian part of the Pantanal.

Single-crop farming and dead forests in the south of Brazil

Before my return flight, I went from Bolivia crossing through the south of Brazil and, exempting a few pieces of remaining jungle near the Atlantic coast, I saw only "cultivated land" in the worst sense, i.e. dead forests, consisting of imported, soil damaging eucalyptus, monocultures and livestock farming as far as you can see. The transformation of these gigantic areas into deserts after the entire endemic vegetation has disappeared, can only be a matter of time.
So, is everything lost already? In ten to twenty years, this question can finally be answered with "yes" if we and other nature lovers (of course also those of the concerned countries) give up and abandon our work.Each year also in Bolivia we see the cleared areas becoming larger.


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