Rurrenabaque - Pampas and Jungle Trips
Mar 27, 2006
|Checked our bags in at El Alto airport, which by even international standards had good facilities, never mind Bolivian standards. Once checked in we realized we had been delayed by half an hour this gave Paul chance to saunter past live TV cameras that were filming in the airport to try for 15 seconds of Bolivian fame.
We boarded our little 20 seater at 2pm. You could touch both sides of the plane at once and we were that close to the pilots we could tell they had nits!
We had taken travel sickness pills as we had been warned about the turbulence that could be experienced but it was in fact a very good flight. We landed in Rurrenabaque 45 minutes later on what can only be described as a mud strip in a field but even that provided quite a soft landing.
Once the aircraft doors were open the heat hit you and we immediately started to sweat with the jungle humidity. We were collared by a sales rep for jungle and pampas tours as soon as we entered the airport, the tour he was selling was a sister tour to a company that had been recommended to us so we were to happy to accept once a bit of bartering had taken place. As part of the deal we managed to get a night half price in the only hotel in town with a pool, which was a nice Brucie bonus. So with a nice room, good pool, and free welcome drinks we kicked back and lapped up the sun in preparation for our jungle experience.
On the evening we ate in a restaurant that according to the Liar planet, I mean Lonely Planet had the best lasagne in town - we found out later it wasn't even close - water pasta and a splodge of mince doesn't qualify as lasagne!
9am the next day and we were ready to go, although it was slightly worrying for us that the jeep looked exactly the same as the one that took us to Salar de Uyuni! It started first time, which is always a bonus in SA but the driver looked like he was just out of short pants; wooden chocks on his feet wouldn't have looked out of place!
We stopped off after 10 minutes so his girlfriend could pick up a lion monkey (sounds bigger than it really is). We all couldn't wait to have a look but when she showed it to us it leapt forward and started shrieking at us - while we all leapt backwards and shrieked!!
Once it calmed down however we all had a hold of it at got our touristy snaps. After 3 hours and a lunch at a restaurant we arrived at the jumping off point for a four hour trip by longboat down river to camp. Even at the point were we boarded we saw pink river dolphins swimming about which seemed to be a good omen for our chances of spotting wildlife.
On our way to camp we spotted a few alligators and got a little to close for comfort to one when we broke down and drifted into its lair. One group got too close to a gator with one guy taking pictures so close he could practically feel it breathing on him - the gator eventually lost its temper and went a little wild - new underwear all-round for that group!
Stopped off at another point when we saw monkeys in the trees that seemed to know the drill about tourists and bananas - still it was all good fun and the bananas rapidly disappeared. We continued up river at a slow pace and managed to see macaw's, eagles, birds of paradise, pampas condors, falcons, red howler monkeys and flamingo's that weren't pink.
Arrived at the camp at dusk and we soon realized the drawback to all this water was the thousands of mosquito's that inhabit the waterways - we tried our best to avoid being bitten, face nets form Oz came out and Helen put on her rain-mac which caused her to sweat dramatically! Despite all these attempts which now seem somewhat naïve, we managed to sustain a lot of bites with an amazing welt appearing on Paul's shoulder were he had only one layer covering himself.
On the way to breakfast the next day Helen heard a 'snap' and a bird fly off from under the trees next to our camp hut. After breakfast Helen investigated and found an alligator poking its eyes out of the water. The guide came along and teased it out of the water with some bread and then started to stroke it!
After breakfast we donned our wellies and went first by boat, then on foot to a marshy pampas area were the snakes are supposed to hang out.
The grass was up to our chests in places and the ground wet with stinking marshy water - nice! Negro (our guide) made a couple of sticks, which Paul managed to grab - made him feel manlier with a stick! The stick had a 'V' shape in the end which Paul was supposed use to pin down the snake - yeah right! The problem was it was such hard work getting through the grass that you never actually looked for snakes - just kept trying to keep your balance.
After an hour or so and having only seen a raided condor's nest some of us had lost heart and headed back to the boat for a well earned rest. When Negro was told we had set off back he panicked and rushed after us as only a week before a girl had done the same and gotten lost for over 2 hours!! Obviously not English.
Returned to camp for lunch and a spot of piranha fishing. Sarah and Camilla caught the first two followed by Paul and his baby fish. Helen had a go and although it took a while to hook one it turned out to be the biggest out of anybody's - Go Chesters!!
We put them in a bowl for tea but the cooks didn't have time to gut them so we fed them to the resident alligator instead which was great fun!
Adam and Emily didn't catch one, which we took great pleasure in reminding them of.
After lunch we took a boat ride down river and through marshlands to clearer water that had more of an appearance of a lake where we swam with the pink dolphins. This is what Paul was hoping to do in Kaikoura, NZ, so he was in like a shot. Helen followed soon after once she'd weighed up the chances of gator attacks was fairly small.
We tried to take photos of the dolphins but unfortunately they are not like the ones at Water World and they wouldn't jump out of the water, although they did like to play with the ball when we were nowhere near it. Paul managed to get a swim-by touch on his back by a dolphin but by the time he'd spun round it had gone.
Once the swimming was over we watched the sunset over the pampas and headed back to face the mozzies with a little more knowledge on how to beat them tonight.
After dinner we went out gator hunting in the dark, well wrapped up to prevent the mozzies giving us hell.
We all shined our torches into the reeds at the sides of the river hoping to catch the eyes in the light but unfortunately to no avail. Negro pulled up at the edge and went off hunting in the reeds. He came back with a baby gator as he had found a nest - all we could think was where is mummy!?!
It poured it down during the night and the campsite was a mud bath. Set off back after breakfast and 15 minutes into the journey it started to rain - heavily. It went through our waterproofs and we all got soaked, barring Adam who had a cheap plastic poncho that kept the water out a treat! To pass the time we played 20 questions and Charades, we gave Brigitta 'I wanna sex you up' which was even made the howler monkeys laugh.
The return journey was a lot quicker as we were going down stream. We ate lunch and learned how to play a form of poker with dice whilst we waited for our jeep to come and get us - it had been delayed as the rain made the roads very tricky.
The jeep eventually arrived with our schoolboy driver who then proceeded to slide the jeep all the way down the muddy roads back to Rurrenabaque. Half way back it started to rain and the jeep had no functioning windscreen wipers, so the boy stuck his head out of the window, put his foot to the floor and tried to overtake every car on the road - good lad - reminded Paul of driving with his friend Matt!!
Arrived safely and checked into a hostel with Sven and Emily - Paul endured a cold shower but Helen used the owner's personal shower to have a hot one and wash out three days of grease and mud.
Met the group in Camilla's for dinner before hitting Mosquito bar for cocktails. We departed around 1am as we had to get up in the morning for our jungle trip - leaving nearly everyone else to see in the wee small hours.
Next day had breakfast and met up at the Amazonico office for the start of our jungle trip. Mike and Brigitta from our previous trip, two ignorant Israelis, a French mother and daughter and a French Canadian made up our group.
Took a similar long boat (but with comfier chairs and canopy) from Rurrenabaque to our jungle camp 3 hours up river. Once we arrived we had a twenty minute walk carrying the supplies through the jungle to get to camp, we all got there soaking wet with sweat.
Camp was okay - just a bit muddy from all the rain they had suffered in the four nights. We managed to get a two bed hut, the only small downside was that they failed to change the sheets from the last three day group and so the prospect of sleeping on sweaty sheets was not one to look forward to!!
We went on three hour walk after lunch and saw a howler monkey, footprints of an ocelot, a gum tree that holds poisonous liquid and a plant that the natives used to extract a red dye from. It was extremely muddy and wet due to the recent rain - the company only had provided three sets of wellies, which meant the guide had to carry those without wellies across two rivers that were otherwise impossible to cross (we didn't have wellies).
After a game of 'Jungle Speed' and dinner we went on a night walk, using our torches to light the way. Every 10 minutes or so the guide stopped and turned out our lights to be engulfed by the pitch darkness of the jungle and the noises of the animals. We had hopes of seeing a big cat or large animal but to no avail, apparently the water drives them to higher ground for a more comfortably nights kip!
Fortunately there aren't as many mosquitoes in the jungle due to a lesser amount of water so the evening was a lot more bearable, although as extra protection we had invested 70 pence each in second hand white shirts as mozzies don't like bright colours.
Another muddy, wet walk after lunch in which we saw a couple of macaws, a dead pig, and a red brocket deer running away from us. At one point the guide started running and waving his arms like a mad man. Helen was following behind him and suddenly cried out as some flying insect started injecting its poison into her arm. The insects were on a tree that the guide had just ran past. He just stood there though and watched not bothering to tell us what he had just ran away from. We all backed away from the tree and found a different route, no thanks to the guide.
Found a vine over a river and had a swing on it to live out Tarzan fantasies.
Whilst dinner was been prepared we made jewellery (rings) from the nuts of fruit found at the camp. After lunch we opted to leave and head back to Rurrenabaque rather than stay a second night. The walks were proving tough going, with all the water that had fallen and we felt we weren't going to see much more than we had already seen. The two French women, Mike and Brigitte took the same decision. Arrived back in Rurrenabaque that afternoon and got our flight changed to a day earlier. Got a hot shower to scrub out all the dirt, insect repellent and sun cream before hitting Camilla's and mosquito bar again. Discovered the cocktail Mojito - which we instantly liked and will be making when we return (Rum, soda water, limes, mint, sugar, and ice).
During the night we heard thunderous rain outside and woke up to discover our flight had been cancelled due to a wet landing strip. After much chasing up at the airline office we learnt our flight was not going to happen until the next day. We checked back into our hostel and spent the day relaxing on the balcony that had a nice breeze on it.
Money was a little tight as the bank was shut (it was Sunday) but we got by without any drinks on the night.
It rained again during that night but not as bad as the previous one. We arrived at the flight office at 6.45am to find out that yet again the flight was delayed for the same reasons but they were hopeful of getting flights out once the ground dried. After much waiting and checking of the flight lists to make sure we were one of the first out, we were told we would be leaving on the 11.30am flight.
The 11.30am flight arrived on time and we were on our way back to La Paz. The plane was a little smaller than the one we had flown in on and the air was a little more turbulent which led to a flight that was somewhat more scarier - but on the whole not too bad.