I laughed as we stepped up on a milking stool to get into the twin prop aircraft in the Bolivian Amazon. I remember saying something vaguely inappropriate to a few of my group members, of course, as the guide, I was supposed to be putting them more at ease but now, six weeks in, they knew me and I them.
Seated, I could survey the rutted strip laid out before us from the tiny window. Our discomfort as we bounced along to the far end of the runway was not dissimilar to what we had been experiencing the previous weeks touring in 4x4s.
How many times had I made this flight, seven, eight? I mentioned that on occasions some people became euphoric with the lack of cabin pressure control. I could see some in my group hoping to experience this free high.
The aircraft lined up with the runway and as the pilot accelerated, from my central seat, I had an unrivalled view of his actions and our line through the front windows, shortly we would leave behind us the wonders of Rurrenabaque and climb to the lofty heights of La Paz.
The pilot was chuckling idly with the co-pilot, their eyes obscured by the ubiquitous aviator glasses and the nose of the aircraft tilted skywards.
But we rose no further.
The pilot levelled the aircraft out at an altitude of roughly two to three meters above the ground.
It dawned on me then. He was aiming at the tree-line at the end of the runway.
Before us lay a formidable obstacle, the Amazon, and we were headed directly at it.
In the split second before the pilot pulled up soaring over yet perilously close to the tree tops all the while cackling maniacally at his joke, a member of my group described my face as being nothing less than “resigned to death”. My eyes did not open wider but the colour drained from my face and I was at peace.
Richard McColl is a British freelance journalist based in Colombia, tune in to his weekly podcast “Colombia Calling“.