Following a reconnaissance in 2011 John Blashford-Snell (JBS) and a team of six set out for the region on and around the Rio Beni in North Eastern Bolivia in August 2012. Their task was to provide aid for poor communities, make a brief study of an archaeological site and list the wildlife seen. Approved by the Scientific Exploration Society, the project was supported by Just a Drop, the Simón I. Patiño Foundation and other kind friends.
John Blashford-Snell’s team consisted of a dentist, a medic, who was also a qualified archaeologist, an economist, with much experience of community aid work, a civil engineer, a cartographer and an administrator. All were widely travelled and with expedition experience.
En route for Ojaki village it was necessary for the team to cross the Rio Vaqueti. The Chief of a village close to the Rio Vaqueti promised that he would build a bridge in three hours for the expedition’s cars to cross the river. Bridge over the Rio Vaqueti
This seemed incredible but the village men, plus wives and children, appeared at the river. Swimming into the flowing brown stream, they heaved up huge thick, pre-cut planks of hard wood, around 35 feet in length, that were resting on the river bed. Now lying in front of the Expedition team there was a prefabricated bridge, which when not in use simply lay underwater.
Just as the Chief had said, within three hours there was a bridge over which the cars drove with care. It was held together by its weight with no bolts or fastenings. “This is the most incredible piece of civil engineering I’ve ever seen” commented Julian Butter.
On the final night the expedition held its traditional Burns Supper with Stahlys Quality Haggis brought specially from Scotland. Attired in ‘Highland costume’, Dave Smith gave the address to the “wee beastie” and although the villagers clearly thought it all rather strange, a jolly evening was had by all.