A day in the jungle and swimming in waterfalls
Oct 22, 2009
|Much to our surprise we actually managed to sleep quite late today and we didn’t wake up until 8.10 in the morning. This must be because we’re still on Bolivian time… But we were feeling very tired from yesterday’s traveling and we probably needed our rest.
The breakfast served in the hostel was surprisingly good and they served some fairly nice bread. I haven’t had western style bread in a long time and I really enjoyed getting their white buns with nice hard crust. They also had a nice selection of fresh fruit that Iris really liked.
Our first trip was meant to go to some caves close to Bonito. As we were feeling a bit tired (and somewhat stingy) we really wanted to skip it and tried talking to reception. But no luck - we had to go since it had been booked. While waiting for the departure we went back to our rooms to do some quick laundry. As we returned for the departure of our coach to the caves we got lucky. It had rained during the night and because of this the caves had to be closed. We didn’t have to go in the end!
As we’re researching tours and how much they cost, we decided to try and shop around and see whether different tour organizers charge differently. We experienced the Loki in Cusco and La Paz were much more expensive than the normal tour organizers. Hence, we wanted to check that we weren’t getting ripped off by the hostel.
We wandered down to the village and managed to find some tour organizers along the high street - after stopping at the supermarket and topping up toothpaste. The tour organizers were not too great. They didn’t speak much English and they had a very limited offerings. The types of tours they organized and sold were very similarly priced to the hostel. Hence, we decided to stick with the hostel and go for the convenience of having people explaining everything in very good and clear English.
There is a peculiarity with these tours that we didn’t get to start with. They charge the tour and transport separately. The cost of transport is only known right before the tour start as the cost will be shared by the number of travellers which makes the total cost a bit of a mystery until the end. But now we understand the reason behind this arrangement - there are a lot of Brazilians doing their vacations here and many will have their own transport - their cars. Hence, they won’t need to be driven everywhere like us. All other tours in Peru and Bolivia haven’t really catered to locals and hence no-one who has their own transport…
We got back to the hostel at around 11.20 and got ready for our tour we had booked for the afternoon. We were going to a big local farm - Hacienda Formosa. They have a river running through and a number of small waterfalls that we wanted to see. We have been told that they are really amazing and it’s also possible to go swimming next to the waterfalls. This is something that I have always been quite keen to do. Iris was a bit more relaxed about it.
Our bus departed close to noon and the ride to the hacienda was close to 30 minutes. We were greeting by a nice guy from the hacienda who quickly took us to their lunch buffet.
It was a really nice buffet lunch with a really nice selection of food. The staff at the hostel had said that the lunch was really nice but this was far exceeding our expectations. They had a nice selection of salads and vegetables to satisfy our craving for fresh greens. The selection of meats was really good too. They had a nice chicken dish, some marinated beef and some really nice sausages. They had also made a really nice dish out of a pumpkin - we’ll probably try and replicate this in London. The buffet was truly impressive and far exceeded expectations. We ate so much that we were concerned that we might not be able to swim...
We also had loads of very nice Brazilian coffee. They really know how to make it!
After the lunch we met up with a slightly chubby guide that was going to take us around the forest and show us the waterfalls. Unfortunately he only spoke Portuguese and we were unable to get all of his comments. He seemed knowledgeable though.
The whole path was very well prepared. There were loads of pathways and walkways made of wood. There were also loads of wooden stairs and viewing platforms. A very well prepared path which made a very good impression on us.
We walked for probably 30 minutes in the rainforest on the paths but we weren’t successful in spotting animals. The only thing we saw was a few lizards, a turtle and some birds - nothing more interesting. But we’re not disappointed. You normally struggle to see any animals in any forest in my experience.
As we made our way along the path we also got to ride on a small boat/canoe along the river for 10-15 minutes. This was really nice experience to see the river so nice and tranquil. The forest looked really great as it reflected in the river. Magical. As we drifted along the river we got to see a turtle sitting on a log in the water as well. This was a great surprise and we got a few good photos.
The last two hours of the trip was spent swimming next to seven waterfalls. This was really great and I really enjoyed doing this. It is said that the positive ions generated by waterfalls really cheer people up - this certainly held true for me. Iris really seemed to enjoy the swimming as well but she wasn’t as enthusiastic as me.
The waterfalls were not particularly large - the highest ones were two or three meters high. Most of them were quite wide and had the gentle riving splurging down. Next to the waterfalls the water was surprisingly quite calm and the river flowed very smoothly. Swimming next to the waterfalls was very much similar to swimming in a normal pool - with the exception of the waterfall of course.
The guide was very good as he jumped into the water at every waterfall and swam with the group. He also had a number of life buoys at every waterfalls that he swam around with supervising everyone.
It was also possible to swim through the waterfalls as well and see some small “caves” behind them. Quite interesting feeling having the water pounding down on us as we swam through the water. But there wasn’t too much to see behind the waterfalls - the main thing was the sensation of swimming through it and being “behind” the waterfalls.
At the end we also jumped from a small trampoline into one of the ponds next to the waterfalls. The drop was about 3-4 meters. We were somewhat concerned about jumping here but after the guide (in very poor Spanish) had explained that they had checked everything using divers, and after he jumped himself, we felt safe. This was Iris first jump from any trampoline - but she did great. I also jumped once and the experience was really over before it started.
After a lot of swimming we returned to the estancia’s main building. There we were surprised by a really nice buffet with cakes and biscuits. They had prepared about eight different types of sponge cakes - normal, lemon, chocolate etc - as well as quite a few biscuits. We hadn’t been told about this but we definitely didn’t mind the cakes. We were quite hungry after all the swimming and we ate greedily.
The garden to the estancia was really nice and had quite a lot of nice flowers. There was also a pond next to it where a small crocodile/caiman lived. It was fairly small - maybe one meter long - and harmless to humans. I ended up taking a few pictures of this nasty beast. But as it got slightly close to me I had to escape. This may not have been a rational instinct as the animal was allowed to live next to the house and hence must be of no risk to humans. But I really hate these types of animals…
We only got back to the hostel at eight in the evening. On the way back we also spotted a tarantula on the road. The guide and the driver was very fascinated with their find and they ended up taking more pictures than we did. This is a bit strange as these should be pretty commonplace for them?
We ended up discussing options for going to a lodge in the Pantanal with the staff in the hostel’s reception. They showed us a lot of pictures from there and the lodge seemed very good. However, the breakdown of the pictures really put me off going. About 25 percent showed the hostel’s rooms and the food. The other 25 percent showed various nice animals such as colorful birds and deer. These looked very nice and tempting to see in real life. The remaining 50 percent was dedicated to the types of animals I hate the most - crocodiles/caimans, snakes, lizards, spiders and bugs. This really put me off going and we quickly decided not to go to the farm. Iris hadn’t been too keen on going in the first place so it wasn’t a big deal to her. She isn’t that much into animal spotting as she normally fails to spot the animals…
We ended up going to bed close to midnight after one of the best excursions on trip so far!