DAY FORTYFIVE – DAY FORTYNINE
I flew to Rurrenabaque on a tiny plane and landed on a strip in the grass. Incredible how 45 minutes earlier I was cold in jeans and sweater and then I was sweating in the amazon basin. Rurrenabaque is a little town surrounded by green tall trees and one hill. The Bení river brown and calm flows next to the town. There aren’t really any cars around only motorcycles. Your taxi ride is on the back seat of one of those. The streets are filled with tour agencies, hostels, restaurants and market stalls. From Rurrenabaque I went on our 3-day Pampas Tour. We were a group of six and plus a tour guide, who was nice and funny. It was me, a Chilean couple or friends (no one could figure it out) who kept to themselves. The guy however could imitate any kind of animal! Two Austrians who actually understood me when I spoke Schwiitzerdütsch. One was annoying because he would just not stop talking and the other was fun and clumsy. An Australian who was loud and then Gareth. An Irish living in London with whom I later would travel.
Day 1: We drove in a Jeep for about two hours on the bumpiest road ever imaginable. Then we had lunch and continued our travel on a boat/canoe/something between a boat and a canoe, a banoe. We went down the Yucuma river passing by millions of caimans (obviously that is a bit exaggerated but there were a lot!!), turtles, capivaras (basically a giant guinea pig), monkeys and various birds. In the beginning it was so exciting so see these animals and everyone shot away with their cameras but then everyone realised that you could see them every few meters. However it was very exciting to be so close to the animals. The banoe ride went on for around three hours until we arrived at our lodge. The river was low so we had to climb up stairs to get to it. The lodge is surrounded by trees, birds and monkeys making noises and caimans hanging by the river. Once settled in we got back on the banoe and continued on the river until we arrived at this “soccer field” (basically a grass field). There the gringos played against the native tour guides and we watched the sun set. By the time we headed back to camp it was dark so we turned on our headlamps. We could see dozens of caiman eyes when the light shines directly in their eyes. Their color was this fiery orange and suddenly they looked much more threatening than when they just lazily lay by shore. Once we turned off our lights we could see blue green fireflies.
Day 2: It was so pleasant, calm and relaxing to wake up to the mixed sounds of birds and monkeys. After breakfast we went out to search for anacondas in and around a swamp. We all got rain boots but that just made things harder. The water was knee deep so the boots quickly filled up with water making walking much more difficult. And just to really assure it’s not too easy the ground was muddy which made your boots get stuck so every move you almost fell over. The thought of falling in the water in this swamp to me was terrifying because I just kept imagining this fat 6 meter long anaconda dragging me away once I’ve been isolated from the group. But only if I were alone and fell. So I made sure of never being alone. While our group still stuck close I just realised that there is about a 10% chance of actually seeing an anaconda. And to me anacondas don’t seem like the type that would come out and play as soon as they hear a noisy group of tourists. I started to believe that there weren’t any at all. But believe it or not there are. Or there is. But I’ll get to that later. The walk went on for quite some time and I started to get really angry with the mud and couldn’t wait to walk on solid ground again. We returned to our lodge and had some time to rest before we went piranha fishing. Now that was fun and successful. Well not me but everyone else. Everyone but me caught all kinds of fish. They caught piranhas big and small, some normal fish, a snakehead fish and a catfish. My fish just ate the meat off the hook and never got caught. No fish were harmed . The soccer field was nearby so we went there again. There we talked to other groups and there was in fact one group that found an anaconda! It wasn’t until then that I realised that I had been looking for something completely different. When I hear anaconda I’m thinking of this huuge fat snake. But the one they found was quite small like someone’s pet snake. So anyways some people played soccer and the rest hung out when suddenly it started pouring rain. It actually got cold. We’ve been sweating non-stop for days and then we actually got cold. We waited for it to calm down before we went back to camp.
Day 3: That morning I got woken up by the not so pleasant sound of Irish men. It was our last day so we had a lot of free time to walk around or just hang. I really wanted a picture of a monkey so I walked around a bit. I saw a couple of howler monkeys in the trees but it was too dark to take a photo. Then I saw a few of these little monkeys. They came quite close so I was able to capture them with my camera. Then suddenly more and more kept coming until I was surrounded by all these cute monkeys. They wouldn’t let me touch them but they didn’t mind the camera although they’re not an easy target! Then it was time to get back on the banoe to end our tour. On the way back we stopped at a place to see and swim with pink dolphins. Is what we were told. Because of the dolphins it’s safe to swim because they keep the caimans away. They weren’t like pink flippers. You could see the tip of their fin every 5-10 minutes, which didn’t make me feel all that safe in the water but I wanted to experience it. A few of us got in the water. Suddenly the Austrian girl screams because she got bitten by a piranha. And then she got bit a second time. That freaked us out and right then we looked to shore and see a caiman slowly getting in to the water. Like the little girls we were we screamed and swam as fast as we could to get back on the safe banoe. The caiman wasn’t after us he just wanted to cool off. The Austrian girl however had actual teeth marks on her leg from the piranha and she was bleeding. It was very exciting but I didn’t dare to go in a second time. But I guess I can say I swam NEAR pink dolphins and caimans. Back in Rurre we ate banana bread and a lot of ice cream and we had a fun night together.
I hadn’t expected my trip to be like this. I expected more of a jungle experience in a lush green forest with colourful animals big and small. The pampas is nothing like that. It was very brown and muddy. It just couldn’t quite keep up with my previous experience on Huanya Potosí. I wouldn’t call it a must-see tour or place. I feel you could easily leave it out and explore other parts of Bolivia. But it was still interesting because it was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I saw a few new and exciting animals and I always love to see animals. Finally got to wear those shorts of mine and ate the best banana bread I have ever tasted before.
I had the same flight back to La Paz as Gareth. We were both headed to Sucre so we decided to travel together. Our flight was in the morning and then we had all day to spend in La Paz before our bus left in the evening. We saw quite a bit of La Paz that I hadn’t seen before. It was a beautiful day to walk around and take it easy.