After sustaining more than 70 mosquito bites on one leg in the depths of the Bolivian Amazon, I feel authorized to advise on these matters, and so I present you with a handy little guide to packing for South America or planning what to take travelling in hot countries.
1. MOSQUITO REPELLENT: I recommend getting at least tropical strength, if only so that you can smile smugly at the depressed checkout lady at Boots. You are going travelling. She isn’t. Watch out for super strength (i.e over 60% or so) Deet, though, as that bad boy is strong enough to melt plastic.
2. MACHETE: Because you can cut down undergrowth and branches that are in your way. And look hard and macho. Just be careful to avoid your shins.
3. TRAVELLING PANTS: You know the kind: stripy, loose, cotton baggy pants that resemble pyjamas. We mocked them when we first arrived in Bolivia as the garb of tragic GapYahs, until we tried some on and realized they are the comfiest thing since duvets. If they have drawstrings on the ankles, they are also fantastic for keeping mosquitos away from your skin whilst keeping you cool.
4. MOSQUITO NET: for similar reasons to necessary item number one. Make sure you tuck it in tightly underneath your mattress and hang it high enough that you won’t rub against it in your sleep.
5. TASTY SNACKS: stalking monkeys in high humidity can get tiring. Take water and high energy, sugary goods such as Snickers bars to keep you going.
6. A LOVELY GUIDE: Ours was a very nice Bolivian guy called Ever. Ideal for chitchat, machete wielding, raft building and generally keeping you alive. Ever could make the noises of every jungle animal we met, which was both awesome and hilarious. We also taught him to knit.
7. A WATER BOTTLE CARRIER: Humid jungles sap your energy fast, so always carry a bottle of water with you. A bottle holder that straps onto your shoulder is ideal.
8. ALL WEATHER CLOTHING: I ended up wearing both a packable mac (for the torrential rain) and a bikini (for swimming in the river as the sun sets). The weather in the jungle is weird.
9. A DIY FISHING KIT: A.k.a some string and some raw chicken. Because this magical combination will let you catch Piranhas. Fry them up ands they are delicious.
10. FRIENDLY TRAVEL COMPANIONS: To count your mosquito bites with.