Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog

finaly, the plane is ready to take off from La Paz

but before engine starts, let's bring out the ol' fire extinguisher

landing at the airport in Rurre

on the streets of Rurre

river at the city

We saw a lot of these. I just called them "fuzzy chicken".

Look at the"gordita" capybara!

I have nothing to say here, except that these guys like the...

More monkeys. Now if only I knew why do these pictures look...

Drinking bear at the "sunset bar" seemed to ease the mosquito bite...

The camp's self declared pet, Frederico, showed up for breakfast.

102 degrees, 100% mosquito saturation, searching for anacondas

Red howler (sp?) monkeys. Their woice would test serious Halloween fans, too.

Rurrenabaque city

leaving the low land

with no pressurization in the plane, oxygen mask will do, too at...

After some debate about whether to take a 16 to 20 hour bus ride or to fly to the small town of Rurrenabaque, we decided to take what we thought was the easy way and fly. It did not start well. After getting up at 5 am to get to the airport, the flight was delayed for 6 hours. Of course, they didn't give any information along the way about what was going on or even that it was delayed. On the bright side we met a very nice couple from New Zealand who we had met on Huayna Potosi a couple of days earlier, so we had a lot to talk about with them. Finally the flight left and the plane was not as small as I had expected - it was about 20 passengers or so. The fun part was landing on a grass landing strip with jungle vegetation all around, just like something out of a movie (later this grass landing strip would come back to bite us...)

Our goal was to do a short tour of the pampas, which is the wet grass lands in the area. There are also jungle tours in the area, but we had heard that the pampas had more wildlife that you can see on the tour. The reason for it is because there is one river draining the grasslands that the animals go to for water. What we didn't know was that because the rainy season had already started, the grasslands were pretty much saturated and the animals don't need to go to the river at this time of year. We did see one type of species quite too much -- mosquitos. We had heard that they were worse this time of year, but it was very, very bad. We were constantly covered from head to toe in clothes, even though it was about 90 - 100 degrees. On top of the clothes we had enough deet on to literally melt my sunglasses, so I don't even want to know what it was doing to our skin. All of these precautions only mildly deterred the blood suckers.

Complaining aside, we did see several different kinds of monkeys, including howler monkeys which make the eeriest sound. We saw the animal I wanted to see most - capybaras, which were just as cute as I thought they would be. Our guide called them "semi aquatic rodents." Unfortunately I didn't get to see them swimming which I thought would be adorable. We saw tons of birds, and although I'm no bird fan normally, I liked the Tucans and the fuzzy chickens were ok, too.

Back to the complaining then...There's a common problem we've found throughout South America - tour companies will tell you anything to get you to sign up on their tour. Sometimes you know they're lying, like before the Huayna Potosi climb the lady in the office said it's "always good weather" on the mountain. Clearly this is not true and you wonder why they volunteer this kind of false information which just wrecks their credibility. Anyway, on this tour the companies all lied about your chances of seeing wildlife, in particular anacondas. In the dry season you might have some chance of seeing them, but in our opinion and after 4 miserable hours of tramping around marshy grasslands (the grass was usually over my head and the water was usually deep enough to flood the rubber boots they had provided) at midday, in the sun, we would say that your only chance of seeing them in the wet season is if they just coincentally decided to lay in the path you are walking, which is to say about 0% chance. We would have appreciated that information before hand. We still would have gone on the tour but maybe looked for anacondas for an hour instead of 4, or spent more time on the boat. There was a bar a short boat ride away where our guide would ferry us every evening, probably knowing the only way to keep us happy was to ply us with cold beers.

As a final blow, on the way out of the pampas our boat's engine broke down and charlie voluntarily paddled all 10 of us for about an hour while the guide tried to fix it. It was necessary not only to keep us moving but more to keep us out of the bushes on the sides that were thriving with more mosquitos than in the center of the river. We were supposed to have a flight out the next day at 1:30 pm. We showed up a few hours ahead at the office to confirm the flight and were told that it would be at 4:00 pm instead. The weather was bright and sunny so we were a little suprised about the delay. When we asked why it was delayed, the answer was because some other people on the flight were still out on pampas tours. That was slightly irksome as we usually don't expect whole flights to be delayed for our convenience, but whatever. Of course, a little before 4:00 it started to rain a little. We went back to the office at 4:00, only to find out now the flight was cancelled (the grass runway is actually not a cool thing). We were also informed that the next flight wasn't for 2 more days. This was an extremely small town and we had no intentions of staying there that long. The only thing we could do was book a flight on the other airline (more expensive) for the next day and after much negotiations get some of the other ticket refunded. We got up at 6 am to get the flight the next day, which was of course delayed for 3 hours, this time because the flight wasn't fully booked. This plane was actually very small, for 12 passengers, and they didn't bother to pressurize the cabin. Instead when we got to around 19,000 feet they passed out oxygen masks.

I guess the lesson is that the tour might be very nice in the dry season (we had met other people who had been there months before and had seen tons of animals and no mosquitos), but we would not recommend it in the wet season.

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