Amazon Pampas Tour - Day 2

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

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Friday, January 7, 2011

We got up at about 7am (Andrew had been awake for hours woken up by the screams of the Howler Monkeys 7km away) ready for our breakfast call at 7.30am and spent a while watching the monkeys swing about the trees and the Black Vultures swooping in looking for scraps. Breakfast was really good, scrambled eggs, toast, bread, some deep fried dough speciality and fresh fruit.  Today we were going in to the pampas itself to try to track down at least one of our self selected 'Big 5' (Anaconda, Capybara, Caiman, Toucan and Sloth) – the Anaconda.  We took the boat about 10 minutes up the river staring in to the eyes of several Caiman along the way.  We arrived and moored the boat and the heat suddenly hit us – it was scorching.  We walked for a while through grass that was the same height as us if not taller (it was also home to at least a million mosquito’s that pounced on me at the first opportunity) to a wet land that upon close inspection was full of the beady eyes of Caiman peeping above the surface of the water.  We also walked passed a nest where there were said to be at least fifty eggs being incubated – we took a wide berth on that one not wanting to anger a protective mother.

Walking on we saw a dead Anaconda that had probably been attacked by a bird at the side of the wetland – its’ skeleton scary enough without seeing the real thing alive.  Not long after we came to an even bigger wetland with bigger Caiman basking in the sun, some with jaws open ready.  By this stage the mosquito’s had gotten rife and those who had taken good advice and were wearing light coloured long sleeve tops were fine (note to self find a light coloured top) we on the other hand in the only clothes that we have and that are dark so as not to show the dirt were covered in them despite the lashings of repellent that we had liberally applied.  Also our feet were very sweaty as we were wearing wellies to protect us from Caiman bites – nice but surely Caiman teeth are quite good at biting through rubber surely – it isn’t one of the hardest materials.  We took some photographs with the Caiman in the background – it came Andrew’s turn and the two nearest made a sudden lunge for the water scaring us half to death – wow these animals are so quick.  After Andrew had changed the pants that he filled further ahead another group had stopped and word reached us that they had indeed found an Anaconda.  We made our way over and we were amazed by how placid it looked slowly moving under trodden grass.  One of the older ladies in the other group was moving all the grass away and getting so close to it that we were sure she was going to be attacked but it remained cool and curled itself up in to a coil.  Victor told us that this was the usual behaviour and although this one was only 3metres long (ONLY) if we wanted to see much, much larger ones we would have to walk another 2 days in to the pampas and in to waist deep water (hmmm no thank-you I am fine with the 3 metre one).

We all took photographs not getting too close to stress the animal and the snake didn’t seem to mind a bit, and then we moved further in to try to find a cobra.  Unfortunately despite all our best efforts and us all splitting up and searching the undergrowth we couldn’t find one (maybe that was a good thing for some) and we walked back to the boat frantically swatting away mosquito’s the whole way.  The boat back was a godsend – breeze.  My bright red face lost a couple of shades by the time we got back.  We showered which was no more than a cool drip but immensely satisfying and then had a rest before lunch.  Victor had been adamant that lunch was at 12.10 and that we shouldn’t be late however this was always going to be impossible with him shouting my name over the camp before any food was presented.  It had replaced the cries of "Julio, Julio" in Jacaranda Inn in Cusco.  Lunch was chicken stir fry, rice, pasta, and a few different types of salad.  We had some free time afterwards before our next mission out on the boat so as we had brought the laptop and as it was still very surprisingly working I did some blogging while Andrew slept at the side of me underneath the mosquito net.

Our afternoon itinerary was to go out in the boat again this time in search for Pink River Dolphins and to perhaps swim with them.  Now I don’t feel that I’m being too cautious by my first instinct being NO!  I love the idea of swimming with dolphins after having an amazing time in New Zealand swimming with Hector’s Dolphins, but in a river where the other inhabitants are Piranha and Caiman erm definitely not for me.  We arrived at one area where the dolphins are known to be and low and behold there they were.  We couldn’t actually see them very well owing to the fact that they only came up infrequently and the water was quite brown but we saw the very tops of their heads coming up for air.  Shane one of the Australian guys decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity (yeah swimming in Caiman infested waters) and dived in after which the guide joined him.  Everyone else stayed firmly within the safety of the boat waiting to see if there was any interaction with the dolphins, but there wasn’t so we didn’t get in.  Next we tried a bit of fishing – for Piranha’s.  We were all given a basic line – twine, a hook and some wood to wrap it around.  The meat was chopped up in to little chunks all ready for us to load on to our hooks.  After about ten minutes Andrew  got a few bites and eventually a Piranha hooked only for it to unhook itself before it got flung in to the boat.  This happened again – we all got to see the catch of the day as it got hoisted out of the river only to jump off back to the safety of the water.  Damn.  That was as good as it got but we were all eager to get out again tomorrow and try our luck again.  We stopped off at a very muddy bar for sunset and sat with the other Indigena group drinking beer looking out over the pampas watching the sun go down and trying to not get our feet pecked by some very hungry chickens.

Back at the camp we had dinner this time chicken pasta with salad and loads of different vegetables.  Emma and Paul from Australia got out a bottle of spirit and shared it around the group – Andrew and I stuck to our Cuba Libre as I haven’t ever been any good drinking neat spirits.  Before long the bottle was drained and everyone was beginning to party.  We moved to the bar where Andrew had slunk off to promising that he would be back with a beer for me – he didn’t return and I found him mid drinking game with another group.  All the electricity suddenly outed ad we were left to drink by candlelight on the balcony.  Victor, our guide, who was fully joining in with the party vibe suggested a sunrise trip up the river so we all signed up giving Victor the responsibility of waking us all up at 5am.  We must have all been mental I think it was already 1am at this stage.  He also became fixated on commandeering at least one of our ponchos (the SAS ones that have somehow still ended up in our possession after the Inca Trail).  He made me promise that tomorrow he would be the new owner of said poncho (everyone else had taken to calling us ‘Your Excellency’ as we looked somewhat ecclesiastical).   Everyone gradually went off to bed and we finally left Emma and Paul to it at goodness knows what time and negotiated the wooden walkway back to our cabin – I set the alarm unenthusiastically, how were we ever going to get up tomorrow. (Andrew Edit – He also took us for a secret drunken night walk where we saw a green mamba but we cant tell anyone – we swapped him for the poncho).
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