Soiling our Pampas

Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
Trip End Jan 01, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, November 24, 2008

After the andrenaline rush of mountain biking down the worlds most dangerous road, we needed some R & R.  Luckily, Coroico, just so happens to be THE most relaxed town in Bolivia.  Set on a steep hill side, in a lush green valley famous for coca farms, life here happens at a slow pace.

We checked into a nice hotel up above the town, grabbed some pizza and wine, recounted the excitement of the mountain biking, and planned out our week as we travel deeper into the Amazon basin of Bolivia.  The next step was taking another overnight bus to Rurrenabaque on the Rio Beni.

Welcome to the Jungle
We arrived in town at the wonderful hour of 4AM.  Needing sleep we started venturing towards the downtown only to wake up multiple gangs of street dogs.  Finally, after trying 3 different hostels, someone let us in to get some sleep. 
Once we woke up we found ourselves in a cooker - temperatures in town were easily in the high 30īs with near 100% humidity.  Like Colombia, Arik was a walking waterfall of sweat. 
After deciding on Fluvial Tours for our trip into the Pampas (marsh) we bee-lined it for an awesome swimming pool oasis above this caliente jungle town.  The view from the pool was great and all of a sudden it felt as though we were on some sort of vacation - drinks by the pool and the heat....oh the heat!  Charis was as snug as a bug in a rug.  We hung-out to watch the sunset and then jumped on some moto-taxis back into town.  We had heard amazing things about the Pampas tours and were wanting some sleep to leave lots of time for Oohhing and Ahhhing in the Bolivian wild.

Tour Day 1
Up at 7:30 and on our dusty way by 9:00.  The first leg of the trip involves 3 hours in a jeep on dusty backroads before being whisked away 3 more hours into the wilderness by river canoe.

Our group of 8 consisted of us, a french couple, 3 english girls, and a swiss real estate agent.  After meeting over a hundred people on the road we were starting to wonder where all the Americans are...we have met atleast 20 Canadians and much more of almost every other nationality, but a mere 3 Americans! 

Anyways, once out of the jeep and in the river canoe we met our guide, Bismar, and started up the river.  It is the very end of the dry season so the river is low.  This also means that the animals are concentrated around any water sources.  Not 10 feet from our starting point did we see our first aligator.  Then it was turtles, raptors, capibaras, eagles, paradise birds, rare pink river dolphins, more aligators, and caimans.  The trip was like boating through the zoo, except we were a whole lot closer to the animals than allowed in a zoo.  On our 3 hour ride up the river we spotted hundreds of aligators, a dozen huge caimans, and many many other animals.  The animal density was considerably higher than even the Galapagos Islands, just amazing.

We arrived at our basic camp on the side of the river and then quickly got back in the boat for a trip to the Sunset Bar, the Pampas version of civilization with an actual fridge!  Once the sunset on came the bugs.  There were thousands and thousands.  It made our night canoe to search for red eyed aligators interesting as these crazy bugs would swarm hundreds at a time.  Charis did very good to keep her cool - luckly there are no stink bugs in the Pampas. 

Tour - Day 2
Today was the big day, a walk through the Pampas to spot snakes!  We started early to reduce time spent in the mid-day heat.  After a few hours of walking we reached a pond in the middle of nowhere.  It was full of crocs, jumping piranahs, and birds.  Instructions from the guide were to spead out and look for snakes....uhhhh ok...
Like the reincarnation of Steve Irwin, Arik was first on the trail of a huge snake.  Oh Crikey, Iīve found an Anaconda, and what a Beauty, Arik yelled in his worst australian accent.   The huge snake ended up being a Cobra...double crikey...and the guide had Arik help him wrangle it in for a closer look.  Big, scaley, smelly, and vicious looking. 

Next we scoured the Pampas for another 2 hours looking for the mother of all snakes, the Anaconda, which can grow up to 9M in length!  Unfortuately we were unsuccessful at finding an anaconda in the Pampas...luckily beacuse if Arik had to wrangle that one he said he would probably have made a mess in his Pampas (ha!). 

Back at camp we did see an anaconda, unfortunately it had just encountered an aligator and was missing part of its head...even though it was still alive we let the little guy go up to snakey heaven in peace...only to be dragged away by another aligator minutes later for lunch....  The snake was probably 2M long and really thick, many times thicker than our friend the cobra.

We spent the rest of the mid-day having a siesta.  

There was lots of excitement for the afternoon as we were fishing for Piranahs!!  First fishing spot we had to abondon due to an over agresive Caiman in the area (this thing was almost 5M long).  Once at the second spot we baited our hooks and cast away.  Now piranahs wonīt bite just any hook.  These ones particullarly enjoyed a nice sirloin cut served rare.  As soon as the hook drops in the water you feel several bites and tugs.  The trick is to jig the fish while it is trying to inhale your hook.  Harder than we expected we were able to land a few each.  Two white piranahs and four yellow piranahs.  None were very big, so we threw them back in.  In the river they only grow to about the size of a human hand.  In larger lagoons they can reach 7lbs and a piranah school can devour a human body in 15 to 20 minutes...

Another evening at the Sunset Bar and then back to camp to sweat away the night.

Tour - Day 3
Up early for our last day, we walked to watch the sunrise over the grasslands.  Very nice. 

After breakfast we headed for our last adventure of the trip (it was like the excitement never ended), we were going to swim in the aligator, piranah, and caiman infested water with the pink river dolphins.  The story is that when the river dolphins are in a group they will protect humans in the water.  This was a comforting thought while sliding into the river only a few feet from the peering beady eyes of aligators.

The dolphins were swimming around, doing their thing, grabbing a piranah breakfast and puffin fresh air through their blow-holes. 

It ended up a few of the aligators are fairly calm around people, and even though they are completely wild we pet them....crikey crikey crikey.  As you bend down to pet them you can feel their hot breath shoot out their prehistoric nose - creepy. 

The Pampas tour was amazing.  Originally this stop wasnīt on our plan, but after hearing from so many travellers about the trip we decided we better go.  The area is one of the most un-spoiled of the Amazon basin, allowing for so many amazing oportunites to see animals.  The pink dolphins were believed extinct until found again in this region in 1950, and here we were swimming with a dozen of them.  The sad part is that even though this area is untouched, the tourist trail is wide and there are always agencies who donīt respect the environment.

Now catching a snake isnīt so eco-friendly, or is taming aligators, but there are some groups doing serious damage by killing the animals and littering throughout their habitat.
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stephaniemae on

This trip sounded amazing I enjoyed reading it!

arikandcharis on

Re: Bolivia
It was pretty amazing! Something totally different that is forsure!

cmarytracey on

The comment about stink bugs reminded me of something I have been wanting to tell you ever since I was in Toronto two weeks ago.
Guess what?! They have stink bugs in Ontario!! Yes, you will never escape them Charis, so get used to them.

Although, interestingly, this year was basically a 'non stinkbug year'.

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