Into the Amazon

Trip Start Feb 07, 2006
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Trip End Aug 07, 2006


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Make sure to check out Andrea's Travel Blog for more stories and photos of our trip!

Into the Amazon


After the chilly high altitude of the alto plano, we were getting a little tired of the cold, bright sun and thin air of the western side of Bolivia and headed east. Rurrenabaque, a small tourist town in the Amazon, was where we headed.

The town existed to cater to tourists headed into the Amazon on Eco tours and that's exactly why we had come. The flight there was aboard the smallest plane I had ever flown in. The 18 seater was small and cramped but gave us great views over the mountains and eventually over the jungle as we approached the tiny area where the trees had been cut out to make a grassy landing strip.

The air was humid and breezy and finally we could breath easy. Having descended several thousand meters back to a comfortable tropical climate was a real treat which reminded be of being back in tropical Asia. Finally it was hammocks and sandals.

We didn't waste much time and booked ourselves for a 3 day pampas tour leaving the next morning.

Swimming with pink dolphins, alligators and piranhas

The pampas is a grassy and swampy area of the Amazon basin located a bumpy 3 hour drive from Rurre. It's swarming with wildlife. The "Thing to do" around Rurre is to do a jungle tour or pampas tour. The 3 day pampas tours have more wildlife so that's what we decided to do.

On our first day we headed to the camp where we based ourselves. Our group of 18 backpackers was a little too large but we managed by splitting into 2 boats and spending hours zipping down the muddy brown narrow rivers to see monkeys, alligators and piranhas. Pink dolphins swam around our boats as we zipped along.

Although we were in the Amazon, this well traveled area was setup with a stilt house which served as a bar where all of the gringos went to watch the sunset.

On the second day, we went Anaconda hunting. We walked through long fields of tall grass for hours until our guides spotted one and pounced on its tail. The anaconda had just finished eating and vomited a half digested frog in all of the excitement. The 3 meter snake, although deadly, was passed around for photos.

No all tours had the chance to see such a snake, our guide was good though and his keen eyes had spotted it before it could slither away.

The afternoon was spent swimming in the waters with the dolphins. To call it "swimming with the dolphins" is a bit of a stretch. Although there were pink dolphins swimming around us, all we saw was the occasional fin break water then submerge and disappear. The fact that there were alligators and piranhas all around ( we could literally see them! ) didn't seem to phase the guide so I assumed it was safe and swam for a while in the refreshingly cool water.

On day 3 we went fishing for piranhas with little bits of steak. I caught 4 fish and we headed home with a boat load of feisty man eaters for lunch.

In all it was a pretty fun outing but we wished there would have been less people. The fact that several boats zipped along with us hardly left us with the feeling of being in the remote Amazon basin.

Never the less, it's not everyday you can swim with pink dolphins, fish for piranhas and hunt for anacondas!

Into the Jungle













After our tour of the pampas which ended up feeling not as remote as we had wanted, we decided to head back into the jungle but this time to Serere, a large park which one of the original environmentalists who helped establish the park had purchased and built an eco lodge in to help conservation.

This massive area of the Amazon was only theirs and no other groups could visit. To make things better, we were the only 2 tourists who had reserved for the 3 days! We would be the only 2 tourists in this massive chunk of the Amazon.

We took a long tail boat 3 hours up river where a few workers waited for us. Towering over the shore line, thick jungle surrounded us. Trees towering over 60 meters competing for the sun. Our room was a very large grassy hut in the middle of the jungle. The hut had a 50 foot high roof and the walls were made of meshed mosquito net. By laying on our bed we could see and hear the jungle around us. It was heaven!

The main lodge, 500 meters away was a 4 story bamboo and wood hut which was also walled with transparent mosquito netting.

2 spider monkeys which lived freely at the lodge welcomed us and were more than happy to play and climb all over us.

Spider monkeys were almost extinct in this part of the Amazon and these 2 had been sold to the lodge 6 months before. They were still young and very playful.

Andrea was happy to have a cute and cuddly play thing once again.

During our stay we spent many hours trekking into the jungle with our guide Rodo, a master tracker who was reportedly the best in town. We bush wacked our way through thick jungle using a machete.

Rodo chased monkey sounds and constantly would stop, look at a leaf where monkey pee was still fresh and then dart off in another direction.

Even after 20 years of tracking, he clearly still enjoyed his work. We eventually would stumble onto families of monkeys jumping in the trees above. Cute little yellow, brown and red monkeys making loud noises and jumping from tree to tree were very high above us.


The tree line was so high in the Amazon that at times it was hard to see the top!

Massive spiders, termites and ants where all around. Rodo was also a master at medicinal plants. We saw many types, one which was used as anesthetic which we placed on our tongues for 30 seconds before it became numb.

Another fruit was plucked and cut open. Rodo had told us that the clear juice inside was like blue ink and would tattoo us for 3 days. We took sticks and drew silly things on our arms with it. The fact that it was clear liquid made us wonder if it would work. 3 hours later, our arms were tattooed bright blue!

I guess I should have been more careful. I had blue on my face, hand, arms and the happy face I drew looked pretty dumb. The next morning the blue was even darker. Rodo promised it would fade away but after a week it was still very bright.

I also went for a second try at piranha fishing. This time we fished with little bits of a cow's heart. The fish here were massive. Most likely because much lesser tourists visit this part of the Amazon and that they were not yet over fished.

We caught white, red and yellow piranhas. They were big and even barked a low sound when you took them out of the water like dogs.

Through out the entire 3 days, we could hear the prehistoric sounds of howler monkeys in the distance and one morning, in the not so distant, right outside out room!

It sounds kind of like a dinosaur roaring long and loud and makes an eerie mood to the soundscape of the lodge.

We also were warned that 3 jaguars took residence under our room the night before and to not walk alone back to our rooms at night. Apparently if you walk alone, the jaguars might stalk you but in two's it was safe.

This advice we took.

We had enjoyed our stay much more than the pampas. It wasn't cheap but it wasn't something we wouldn't forget.

The next day, after I had plucked out a few ticks who had planted their heads into Andrea's body and were busy sucking blood, we flew back to La Paz and headed north to lake Titicaca by bus.
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Where I stayed
Serere Eco Lodge

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