In the Pampas
15.03.2008 - 19.03.2008 35 °C
Our time in Bolivia so far had been excellent. The only slight mar was the weather at times and that was to be a decisive factor in any trip to the pampas, more so when flying. The reason being the runway in Rurrenabaque is basically a grass strip. If it rains heavily landing becomes hazzardous or even impossible.
Friday morning arrived and we checke out of the hostal. Unfortunately we had a message. Andreas had to cancel as he had gone into hospital during the night. Not the best start to the day. Fortunately it is easy enough to get back all your money on such trips so at this point we thought he may just catch up with us in a day or two. Naturally as Andreas was not coming at this time neither would Christina.
Disaster number two was just around the corner though. The flight was delayed first and later it was to be cancelled outright for the day. The weather was playing havoc with our plans. On a brighter note if Andreas was better he might make it yet.
We decided overnight that if the flight was cancelled again for a further day we would take the full refund and go elsewhere. After a few phone calls we established that we could get the midday flight no problem so off to the airport we went. I think I might be right in saying that LP has the highest navigational airport in the world. As we arrived along the runway we saw several old worn out planes. We assured ourselves that this was merely the plane museum and there was nothing to worry about!
The plane was a small 19 seater and only half full. The cockpit door remained open the entire journey and it was quite interesting to watch what I would call quite a unique style of pilotting, not that I know anything about it. The journey itself was amazing and worth the 60 dollars alone even without the actual trip when we got there. Not long after take off there was quite a bit of turbulence as we headed between the mountains and through the clouds. It really was amazing just looking out the window. The forty odd minutes passed very quickly and soon we were fizzing along the grass in a seemlessly effortless landing.
Rurrenabaque was glorious. The surrounding jungle was vibrant and the weather fantastic. A lovely change to be back in the 35+ degree weather we had so badly missed over the last month.
The following day we pulled up at the agency for our trip where we were met by 7 others. There were 2 Germans whom we had met in Tupiza previously, 2 Israelies and 3 Dutch. Quite the eclectic mix. Initially we had been told there would be 6 maximum but this seemed the norm in SA by now. Nine in the jeep with a driver and a cook. It would be interesting if nothing else.
After a 3 hour drive we arrived at our boat. It was a long narrow boat with a small outboard motor and would be our transport for the next 48 hours or so in the pampas. The itinerary laid out suggested we would see caymen, piranha's, pink dolphins, anaconda, various monkey's and various bird's. It would be quite something if we got all that in we thought.
The next 90 minutes was spent taking us through the pampas to our riverside accomodation for the next 2 nights. En route we began to see much of the wildlife promised such as dolphins and eagles. The day was glorious and we couldn't have asked for more. On arrival at the accommodation we unexpectidly got a room to ourselves, albeit a very basic one. It was brilliant nonetheless.
Before long all the guys were in the river swimming. The current was immensely powerful though and even the most powerful of swimmers would struggle to get upstream.
As the day closed in we set off to watch sunset at a mirador. It was fantastic and they had beer to boot. After the sun finally went down for the night we headed off with our headlamps and torches to look for caymen. After a while we saw their eyes lit up in the water. It was quite odd being in such a small boat surrounded but we were assured always that it was perfectly safe.
A few of us decided that in the morning we would get up for sunrise. It was well worth it for the noise of the animals awakening if nothing else. Certainly it was quite different to the night before.
The morning was to be spent anaconda hunting. To be fair I had absolutely no idea what this entailed whatsoever. We got ready and off we went. The boat pulled up on a bank 20 minutes from where we were staying and we all got out and into the water. For most of us the water came up to around waist height and we started to wade through lots of reeds and flowers in the water towards an island - anaconda island! As you can imagine it took quite some time to get there. When we finally did the hunt was on but in the end all Ali and I spotted were a few rather large, and somewhat quick, lizards. Quite a dissappointment, although what I would have done if I uncovered an anaconda is beyond me!!
We headed back to our accommodation and went for a swim whilst lunch was prepared. Just as I was about to dive in a caymen was spotted about 5 yards away. I shouted to a few of the lads that there was a caymen behind them but nobody took any notice. It was all very panto like at this point. Our guide had told us he hadn't seen one there in 15 years service. Either way, there he was, all 6 foot of him. Soon enough the lads were out and a little releived although I think caymen are generally harmless but they don't exactly look it!!
The afternoon was to be spent swimming with the pink dolphins so once again we headed off in search of our target. Before long we found a large lagoon area and again the guys all got in. There were probably about half a dozen dolphins that kept coming up and swimming around with us. Unfortunately photo's were at a premium here as the dolphins were hard to follow but it was a fantastic experience.
That evening we headed off to another mirador to watch the sunset again. This time was far better however with the clouds helping the light. We took some fantastic pictures and then left for the evening.
On our final day we opted to go swim with the dolphins again. This time however it was better as there were less people around and they came around more than before. Time was now running short so we headed off to finish the trip with some fishing. Our targer: Piranha's. The fishing was quite tricky and in the end we only caught one. This is despite having about 10 on the hook at various points. The equipement was fairly basic and the bait was never on for very long. The sharp teeth of the piranha managing to rip it off in no time at all.
After we got back to Rurrenabaque we organised a night out with our new found friends. By the end of it we found ourselves in a karaoke bar singing all sorts from Dire Straits to Elvis to the Beatles. Quite a night and it's probably a shame we never did it before we went as it formed quite a good bonding session.