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Bolivia: Picacho Organic Farm

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Bolivia: Picacho Organic Farm

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Deep in the Bolivian Amazon, approximately 250 miles northeast of Santa Cruz, lies a rustic and soulful farm called Picacho.

I found out about the farm by becoming a member of the British based organization World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). By paying their 15 British pound membership fee, you’ll receive a list of hundreds of organic farms worldwide at which you can work for room and board.

Picacho is one of 11 Bolivian farms registered with WWOOF, and is without question worth going to if you’re looking for a destination off of the beaten track. What we experienced far exceeded all expectations, and if you’re lucky enough to end up there, I think you will agree that it is truly unforgettable.

Getting to Picacho

I was on my way to the Santa Cruz international airport about to fly to Brazil for two weeks to visit a friend in Rio. Another friend Mitch was about to take the weekly bus to Picacho, (yes, there is only one bus that goes there and it leaves once a week on Thursdays) and the plan was to meet at the farm two weeks later.

When I returned to Bolivia from Brazil, ready to hop on the weekly bus north into the jungle, I was surprised to receive an email from Mitch sent only a few hours before my plane landed, saying that his bus had never arrived at Picacho.

In epic battle with mud, bus loses

I met up with Mitch that night and was astonished by what he told me had happened.

In the dry season, the bus normally takes three full days to arrive at Picacho, but it was the beginning of March, which is still a very rainy month in eastern Bolivia.

He explained to me that after about eight hours of travel on a muddy road through pond like puddles and small rivers, the bus came to a halt. It was stuck in such a muddy section of the route that the tires were barely visible above the canyon-like ruts that dug three feet deep into the road.

Mitch knew that his three-day trip was going take longer than expected. Knee-deep passengers did all they could to help, but their efforts seem pointless.

After two days of sleeping on the bus, eating nothing but bread and fried foods from a small village nearby, and drinking only warm soda they managed to get the bus moving.

Fifteen minutes later, they were stuck again and it took another three days to get out this time before turning around and embarking on a slow return back to Santa Cruz. Eleven days had gone by before the bus, covered in mud, rolled back into city.

Plan B

After hearing about Mitch’s epic adventure, I was surprised on how determined he was to still go to Picacho.

We heard that the final destination of the weekly bus was a mining village about six miles from the farm, and that occasionally there was a small plane that shuttled employees, food, and supplies to the mine.

We went to the small domestic airport and somehow convinced the pilot to fly us into the jungle. It was a cargo plane, so we paid by weight. At one dollar per kilo, it was 105 dollars for Mitch, and because I’m lighter, I paid about 80 dollars.

We boarded the tiny plane and enjoyed a low 45-minute flight over the jungle. We landed on a dirt runway and hopped into an old red truck that took us into the village. After negotiating for about three hours, we finally agreed on an understandably expensive price for a ride to Picacho in what seemed like one of about three automobiles in the village.

Everything is scarce in the Bolivian jungle during the wet season because the only road connecting the villages to the resources of the city becomes practically impassible.

Living the life orgánica

A friendly Swiss woman named Uschi runs the farm and there can be up to eight other people there at a time. The only electricity is from a generator and there is no contact at all to the outside world. No telephones, no Internet, nada.

Uschi may be the most resourceful chef in the world and I can safely say that the food we ate there was the best I’ve had in my life. Not only was it delicious, mostly everything came directly from the farm.

The water we drank and used to shower was sourced directly from a mountain stream running through plastic tubes all the way to the farm. It’s the same water we swam in while exploring the mountain stream. Occasionally, after a heavy rain Mitch and I would venture through the jungle with machetes to clear leaves and sticks from the water source.

We harvested bananas, coffee, pineapples, and limes, fed the chickens and pigs, helped spray the horses and cows for ticks and other insects, built shelving, helped build a mud oven, cared for a pregnant mama pig and her new born piglets, fished for dinner, helped cook, and spent a whole lot of time meditating, doing yoga, and practicing our Spanish. There are horses to ride, a beautiful waterfall to swim in, and land to explore. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Things to know

There are things to know before you go to Picacho.

Once you are there, there is no way to reach civilization, and no way to know for sure when you’ll be able to leave. The bus may or may not be running and you can never depend on the plane, for it is usually for cargo and cargo only.

That being said, if there is somewhere you must be on a particular date in the near future you must be okay with not making it. Flexibility is key. If you were to get very sick or injured, you must be prepared to be on your own for much of your recovery.

Prepare for the jungle

There are a LOT of insects, so be sure to bring insect repellent with a high DEET content, long sleeve shirts, and socks. You’re in the jungle, so if the thought of spiders, snakes, alligators, or jaguars freaks you out, you may want to reconsider going. The week before we arrived they caught an Anaconda in the chicken coop strangling a chicken, and the day we arrived we found a rattlesnake in garden and cut its head off. Tarantulas crawl around at night and little worms and sand flies nest in your skin. It is the Amazon jungle.

Will not be disappointed

The month I spent there was one of the best experiences of my life and I look forward to the day I return. It is a place where you can become one with nature and live away from all the distractions of modern society, something that is hard to come by in this day and age.

If you make it to this majestic farm, you will not be disappointed.

Comments

Marius
September 21, 2011

Hey! I am in bolivia now. Could you tell me how to get in touchwith the owner? mail?

Marius

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

Hey Marius, will have Nick answer. Thank you for reading the blog.

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Nick Runkle
September 21, 2011

Hey Marius,

You cannot reach the owner of the farm because the farm has no electricity. The owner has a contact in Santa Cruz that can help arrange a visit to Picacho. Her name is Claudia.
Information for arranging a stay at Picacho can be found at the following site:

http://picacho-bolivia.blogspot.com/

A first step would be to register with WWOOF international. Better contact information is on the WWOOF website upon registration.

Good luck!

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