The eight days that we have spent with Rambo, we form a bond and it isn’t until we say goodbye that we realise the effect he has had on us.
Over that time we learn that he is one of 29 children, his father is just about to turn 103 and has had ten wives in his lifetime. Rambo tells us that his dad smokes a pipe with home-grown tobacco but only eats food produced on his farm. He says he is a pretty wholesome character. His brothers and sisters are scattered around the world.
Rambo is single and lives with five men. He says that once he wanted children but now it is too late and he believes that not having children and a wife keeps him young. He tells us this as a hassled, tired-looking woman with five children walks into the bar and we laugh. In trying to guess his age we had thought he was in his thirties. He is 49 and is fit.
The day after our jungle tour, Geezer and I are in an outdoor bar waiting for our flight to La Paz wishing that we’d had a better goodbye. Geezer looks out over the balcony and sees Rambo crossing the street. “Rambo!!!” he yells out and Rambo races up to join us.
He is on his way to get his machete sharpened but we have two precious hours with him alone so he tells us about his life.
When he was 22 he worked for a petrol company and was part of a team laying a pipeline deep in the Bolivian jungle. It is an area where an indigenous tribe lives and no one enters the area because the tribe is so dangerous.
Rambo and 19 of his work mates ventured into the area and were busy working on laying the pipe. He tells us that he heard a noise and out of instinct darted behind a tree. He then watched all 19 of his work mates get shot with poison darts to the neck that had been spat out of a tube by this tribe. The tribesmen then sliced their chests open and ate their hearts raw. He said he lay silently for hours, paralysed with fear. When he was sure they had gone, he made his escape and came across a woman from the tribe who helped him to escape beyond the tribe’s boundary.
This tribe wear no clothes. They are cannibals. The women live on the boundary and are not allowed to venture past a certain area. When they give birth, their babies are taken away before they even know its sex. The baby girls are mostly killed. If they have a boy, they are allowed to keep it until the boy is a toddler and then the men send him out into the jungle to fend for himself. Only the strongest survive.
Rambo then tells us about being a guide and how he is most at home in the jungle. He has a property in rural Bolivia with horses, sheep and a massive patch of jungle riddled with wildlife. He plans on retiring as a guide in 2012 to live there permanently.
He loves that we call him Rambo and we are surprised when he tells us that no one has ever come up with that nickname. He so looks like Rambo.
When it comes time to leave, we hug for a long time. But then he looks me straight in the eye, points to both of us, puts his hand on his heart and says ´para siempre in mi corazon´ – forever in my heart. And then he is gone.
I’m howling my eyes out and Geezer sheds a wee tear behind his sunglasses. It is a long time before we say anything. Rambo is one local we have met who will forever be in our hearts.