Amazon Pampas Tour - Day 1

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, January 6, 2011

At 6am we decided to head straight to the Amaszonas office to buy our return flight to La Paz. This had obviously been praying on Andrew's mind and he was paranoid that the flights would be cancelled (this isn’t unusual in Rurrenabaque) but we took the chance and booked the afternoon flight which would hopefully enable us to fit in a jungle tour as well as a visit to the pampas.  Amaszonas have four flights a day to La Paz from Rurrenabaque compared to TAM’s un-regular schedule (however they are about 20 quid cheaper) and as we have a connection to make to Lima we had no choice but to book with Amaszonas and pray that the flight wouldn’t be cancelled or delayed.  We got back to the hostel and packed up our bags – we were leaving our ruck- sacks in the safe store at the hostel as we were only allowed to take our day sacks. 

We crammed the stuff we wanted to take in to our bags which included a bottle of Cuba Libre (rum and coke) and for some reason Andrew decided to take the lap-top, and we went for our free breakfast.  I didn’t notice the tiny mites crawling all over my two bread rolls until Andrew was well in to eating his so I just  pushed my plate to one side and promptly told him about it.  The reply went something along the lines of "you’re in the jungle woman now don’t embarrass me and just eat it".  I couldn’t bring myself to so I just sipped on my coffee watching the mites run off my plate in to the sugar.

We got to the Indigena office at 8.30am and enquired about tagging on a jungle tour to our pampas tour but making sure that we were back for our 5.10pm flight (with the trouble that we have had with flights recently it just wasn’t an option).  The woman couldn’t offer any day tours and couldn’t guarantee that we would be back for the flight so we asked at a few other agencies who told us that it would be no problem and to just go back when we came back off our 3 day trip.  We waited for our 4x4’s to arrive and the heat was getting oppressive at 8.30am – what a change from the altitudes of La Paz.  The cars rolled up at about 9am (complete with the ubiquitous cracked windscreens).  Someone from the company said that we had got the worst car – but we didn’t really know why.  The driver then proceeded to load our bags on to the roof – oh shit the lap-top.  We decided it would be okay all securely packed up in plastic (in case of rain) so we just went with it and got on our way. 

The road was great – cobble stone – for about the first 10 minutes of our 3 hour journey in to the Amazon pampas and then it turned to dirt and the fun started.  We had to have all the windows open (in place of air con) and we were going at such a speed that the dusty, potholed road just sent up plumes of red dust and by the time we arrived at the lunch stop my black jeans and t-shirt were red and the guy sat next to me looked like he had gone grey in the space of a few hours and his white t-shirt was orange.  Even my face felt totally gritty.

We ate lunch in a little village restaurant and had soup and then casserole with rice and noodles it was good and just what I needed after my lack of breakfast – and not a mite in sight thankfully.  While we tucked in the second car in our group arrived and everyone stepped out looking pristine – okay so we definitely got the worst car (or driver).  It only took another fifteen minutes to arrive at the river where we were meeting our guide and boarding our boat up the river to our camp.  While we were waiting for our boat to be loaded a few boats were bringing people back from their 3 day trips.  Who should we bump in to again but Kieron from Ireland who we had done the Salt Flat tour with – the Gringo Trail eh?  He regaled us with tails of caiman giving chase and almost attacking some of his group – hmm I wonder if our travel insurance covers us for injury caused by dangerous animal?  However maybe this was another tall story as Kieron had first introduced himself as a lighthouse painter and it turned out that he actually worked in a bank (Andrew Edit – He promptly started telling the rest of our group 'the truth’ about how he is actually a fridge designer and has the patent for the US and Europe for a fridge with a clear front and how he is likely to be a millionaire by this time next year, another great eccentric solo traveller who we had so much time for).  It was at this stage that the rain started so out came the poncho’s ready for our 3 hour trip up the river Beni to our camp.  The boat was loaded with all the food, equipment and bodies but we noticed that there was only 8 seat and 9 in our group.  Someone was getting ready to draw the short straw until Victor, our guide, emerged with an extra chair that had arrived on the back of a scooter.

The boat trip turned out to be fantastic, we saw so much nature including Caiman, Paradise birds, Eagles, Heron, Yellow Squirrel Monkey’s, Cormorants, Capybara, Turtles and Pink River Dolphins to name but a few.  It was incredible.  From time to time the hoods went up on our poncho’s which were proving to be an invaluable addition to our packs already, but it didn’t do anything too dampen anyone’s spirits so that was good.  In fact everyone on the boat, us, two girls from the Netherlands, one woman from Norway and 4 Aussies all seemed to have a good sense of humour and be up for the craic so it was shaping up to be a great trip.  We arrived at our camp and as we had opted for a private room, it was only a little extra, we were shown to our cabin complete with private shower and toilet which I was thrilled about as the site had suspended wooded walkways with no handrails (this was a measure to protect guests from tarantulas and Cayman in the night) so going to the  loo  in the dark I could have well been the one falling off the edge.  Everyone else was in a cramped dorm (their own words) and had to navigate across camp to the loo.  Anyway the camp was great and had a restaurant and even a bar on site where they served cold beer for 20 Bolivianos for a large bottle.  The heat wasn’t a problem either like we had expected it was a cloudy day and there was a slight breeze and the camp was amongst shade which helped immensely.

We had tea and biscuits and popcorn as the guide explained the itinerary of the trip to us and then had an hour to get ourselves ready for dinner.  Some stayed in the bar but we had a lie down (I had got a stonking headache) in our own little private cabin – it was lovely.  Dinner was Spaghetti Bolognese with bread and cheese which was really nice and then we quickly got changed and made our way out for our evening boat ride up the river to spot Caiman lurking along the river banks.  Well it wasn’t just Caiman that we saw although the golden eyes of so many of these beasts in the bushes sent a shiver up your spine (we also saw some 5 week old babies lying close to the land).  The sky itself was beautiful too lit up by so many stars – Andrew gave the boat a short lecture on what we could see – after what we learned on our star gazing night in New Zealand, they all seemed impressed from the sounds they were making but it was so dark we couldn’t see their expressions (Andrew Edit – Dear me if I wasn’t boring enough already I now can send anyone to sleep in a matter of minutes).  The bats were also quite a scary addition to the evening – they would swoop at the boat and felt as though they were missing your head by inches – Victor assured us that they weren’t the blood thirsty kind.  After a few drinks in the bar with the group we called it a night and were lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle less than a foot from our bed.
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