Birds, dolphins &a 7m cayman-welcome to the pampas

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
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Trip End Oct 01, 2015


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Flag of Bolivia  , Beni Dept,
Monday, November 19, 2012

The following day we decided to rest and do some much needed washing. The night before there had been a huge storm that had blown all our windows open. All flights were cancelled in and out of town for the foreseeable future and apparently the roads were terrible. We spent the morning do nothing really, getting lunch, relaxing etc. then in the afternoon we had to book our pampas tour and transport back to rurrenbaque. On the 21st the government were conducting the 4 yearly census. Being Bolivia they had a very odd way of doing this- everyone had to stay in their house and it was an offence for anyone to drive on the roads, government officials would then go to every house one by one counting the people living there. We asked if this would be a problem during our tour as it fell on what we wanted to be the final day- some people said it would others said of course it wouldn't- we didn't know who to believe and booked a tour anyway that was due to leave the following day. We also booked our bus- 20 hours on a dirt winding road back to la Paz.
That night we headed out for pizza and beers before going back to back our things for the next few days. we saw Ivan that night and he assured us we'd picked a good tour company so we were excited for the morning and for our trip to begin.
In the morning we collected our laundry- minus a few missing items :-( and met everyone at the tour office. We jumped in the back of the 4x4 jeep sitting on bench seats opposite each other and began our bumpy 3 hour trip towards the pampas. As the tour company was shutting the door to the jeep the guy who'd promised us yesterday that the census wouldn't effect use shouted you'll be back late on the last day because of problems due to the census then he slammed the door banged the roof and the driver left.
Classic Bolivia
The road was extremely bumpy and we were being jiggled around all over the place, the music choice was interesting and ranged from micheal Jackson to YMCA blaring loudly from the stereo.
We arrived 3 hours later in a cool little jungle town called Santa rosa where we had lunch and met our guide- Rambo a 27 year old ex army jungle born Bolivian. We was a tank and definitely not someone you'd want to mess with.
Then we headed to the river bed, as we were paying our entry fees we saw our first snake weaving it's way through the grass. The driver unloaded all our stuff and left us, Rambo was no where to be seen. After about 10 minutes the skies opened and it poured down. We sought refuge in the porch of a nearby building and were soon asked to move.
Rambo arrived when the rain stopped but he'd forgotten the key for the door to the room where the boat motor was kept so he had to go back and find it. It was fine though in the time he took to get it the skies cleared and the sun came out. We jumped on the boat- a smaller version of the one we were on in the jungle- the sides were about a cm off the top of the water and set off. Almost immediately we saw an alligator in the water it's eyes and nose the only part of it that was showing. Rambo said its the perfect time to be on the river as it had just rained and now all the animals would be out trying to try off and he was right after our excitement over the first alligator we carried on down river- there didn't seem to be a patch of river bank that didn't have an alligator basking in the sun- they were everywhere - some still in the water around us.
We saw many different types of birds, paradise birds with little blue spiky hair, herons of different varieties, we saw turtles chilling of logs that were protruding from the river, more capybaras- including whole families, and even a bright pink bird that kind of looked like a flamingo. After we'd been going for a while rambo shouted black cayman black cayman as we saw a monstrous crocodile slide off the river banks and into the water towards us, Rambo couldn't turn the boat in time and it hit into the side if us. It had a big white boil on its head and it was huge - around 7m long! Afterwards our hearts were all beating loudly in our chests as Rambo was shouting amazing so amazing! We rounded the next bend in the river and someone shouted dolphin, our heads and eyes were darting around everywhere trying to catch a rare glimpse of the pink river dolphins, then all of a sudden we saw one- then another, than another. We sat in silence gasping everytime one came up for breath, we couldn't believe our luck. As we cruised down the river more we saw some squirrel monkeys high in the trees on the banks and then some howler monkeys.
We saw more birds, alligators, dolphins and then someone spotted some more monkeys in the trees just to our left. Rambo pulled the boat over and they were so close we could of touched them if we wanted to.
We sat watching them dance between the branches until they all jumped up to higher trees and swung away.
We couldn't believe how lucky we'd been and as we arrived at camp around sunset we were all buzzing. The lodges are on the edges of the river banks raised on stilts and connected by walkways. Alligators claimed their territory by the river and we jumped out of the boat quickly and ran up to the walkways out of reach.
We each picked our beds in our shared room, secured our mosquito nets and went to have some dinner.
We were going on a night boat trip tonight- I don't know why they insist on doing things at night too - and as we walked back across to our rooms to get ready we realised the floor was moving. There was hundreds of frogs jumping around everywhere. We went to go to the toilet and as I went into the cubicle looking right up at me was the biggest toad I'd ever seen- like the size of two fists put together. I ran out screaming.
We climbed down the river bank in the dark and heard some rustling in the bushes Rambo shone his torch and shouted puma puma as a spotted cat ran from the bushes, no way we all said, we couldn't believe we'd seen a puma, then Rambo fell about laughing it was just there pet cat. We forgot about the alligators on the bank and climbed into the boat. As we went down the river we shone of torches towards the bank and noticing loads of pairs of red eyes staring back at us. Yet again everywhere was full of alligators, it's at night time when they hunt and we heard a few snappings of jaws as we passed. On the way back we were told to turn of our torches, Rambo turned off the engine and paddled and we listened to the world around us. Howler monkeys cried from the tree tops, more jaws snappings, splashes of water as the alligators slid into the river from the banks, whooshes of air as dolphins cleared their blow holes and all the while fire flies lit up the trees that lined the banks and bats flew overhead. It was magical and it was a shame when the engine went back on we we headed back to camp. Someone had to get rid of the toad that night before I could use the toilet and tai made sure I was ticked tightly into my mosquito cage before bed.
As we drifted to sleep the noises from the jungle ringed in our ears and we were awoken by the same noises the following morning.
We had breakfast and then got into our Wellies and headed off into the swamp behind the lodge in search of anacondas. Rambo said there was also alligators here and 5 years ago one bit into a tourists leg doing the same thing. We were beyond nervous. As we walked around the edge of one of the swamps to another field we heard a growling, a splashing and a very loud snap of jaws, Rambo laughed- black cayman he said. After seeing the one yesterday my heart started to beat so hard I could feel it in my chest. We quickly moved to the next field and had to walk through grass which was taller than me, apparently in the wet season it's a lake in this area and it's so deep you can't see the grass, the only people that still try and wade through this area then are Israelis - crazy Israelis!!
After a while the grass field opened out into another swamp and we spilt off into pairs to start looking for anacondas - not finding one straight away tai and I soon got bored and moved over to shelter from the rain under a nearby tree, tai then proceeded to spend the next hour jabbing the tree with his stick keeping himself very amused while I spent my time using my stick to jab leaves on the ground till I had loads on the end of the stick! We were so cool for that hour!
The group came back over having had no luck with snakes so we decided to walk further to more fields and through more jungle. It had rained loads and we were all covered in mud and soaked through after a while. We passed through more grass fields and under electric fences until after a while we came to a big lake, at the forefront of the lake was lots of reeds and we could hear bubbles, the guides told us it was the crocodiles. We were stood there for a while chatting while the guides shared out coca leaves, then there was a large rustling and splashing and a snapping of the jaws as a crocodile moved quickly out of the water towards us, the guides screamed which made me scream grab tai and try to run away, then the guides burst out laughing (when they realised the crocodile wasn't coming any closer) vamos they shouted and we quickly left the area. It reminded me of the time in Florida when nan rugby tackled us into the back of the car to save us from a stray crocodile!
We had one last look in another field for snakes and then headed back to camp, we arrived back about 1.30 and realised we'd been walking for about 5 hours! Thankfully lunch was ready and then it was time to head back out on the boat to go piranha fishing! We cruised up the river for a while spotting more alligators till we found a spot that was apparently suitable and began fishing, I (Sarah) felt guilty after they stabbed the first catch through the head and so I just watched the others. Most people caught 2 or 3 reasonable sized piranhas, tai caught 1 and it was the tiniest one ever- I think it was actually a minnow pretending to be a piranha but he was happy!
On the way back to camp we passed a remote spot on the river and there was at least 8 river dolphins in the water around us, with the engine off we sat floating for a while watching them circle around us.
Then it was time to head to the sunset spot where there was a football pitch, lots of other groups arrived there too and the boys played a football match- Bolivia vs the rest of the world. Bare foot and on a make shift pitch in the jungle they played first to three, tai was sliding around tackling all over the place and at one point I even thought he scored a goal but it was someone else. Unfortunately half way through the game it started pouring, all the people not playing (mostly girls) moved inside and the boys finished their match. Bolivia scored a scrappy goal to make to 3-2 and everyone returned soaking wet, covered in mud but happy they got to play!
The rain passed and we headed back to camp, tai had a much needed shower- there was now 2 big toads in the bathroom!
We had dinner and shared a couple of beers, tgey cooked the piranhas that wed cooked today abd served those for dinner.
Rambo told us that the book I'd read about the jungle is actually what kick started tourism in rurrenbaque and the guy who was lost gave the guy who saved him some money and he used it to start the first tour agency there. Another guide came to join us and we said about the cayman we saw and he asked if it had something on its head, apparently people think someone had tried to kill it by shooting it In the head as its known to be vicious but it survived... Could be like something from a horror film.
The following day was our final day in the pampas and much to our delight we had pancakes for breakfast!!
Then it was time to go swimming with the dolphins, we jumped in the boat and headed off in search of them.
It took us a little while to find them but eventually we did and we pulled up along a bank filled with alligators, it's fine apparently as the dolphins keep away the crocodiles and the piranhas... Hhhmmmm. Everyone else got in for about 2 minutes before getting scared and jumping out again... I got the fear! So annoyed at myself!!
We sat and watched the dolphins for a while then headed back to camp for lunch and a siesta before we made our way back to Santa rosa. After lunch it poured with rain so much that the previously muddy ground was now like a swamp! We still weren't sure what was happening with the census as they couldn't get any signal here so we went slowly back to where we'd started to get there for 6- that's when they thought the roads would be open again. Going back the sun was shining and we saw an array of animals although no where near as many as we saw the first day and we relised how lucky we'd been.
When we arrived back we were told we'd be collected at 6.30 so we played a game that one of the guides had suggested, after a while the guide got bored and found out what cards people needed so someone would win and it would be over!
As the sun set we were told the roads might not open till 7-8 o clock and the best thing to do was walk an hour to Santa rosa, so off we went along the dirt track.
About half way down a pick up stopped and gave us all a lift all 15 of us stood on the back of an open pick up down a road filled with pot holes.. It was great fun!
When we got dropped off and found our jeep he was parked right next to a police check point who had told him the roads wouldn't be opened till midnight. About 10 minutes later the police man went on a break and we were all hurried into the jeep and off we went quickly past the check point before he came back!
3 hours later after another bumpy ride listening to mj and YMCA we were back in rurrenbaque. The pampas and the jungle had exceeded all our expectations and had definitely been the highlight of our trip so far!!
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Comments

Mum on

Wow you have achieved so much, you will be able to achieve anything you want when you get back.

Nan on

What an incredible journey you are having.I look forward to reading about the next part of your travels. I can't believe you still remember about the alligator in Florida, Take care.Love, Nan..

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