Trip Start Aug 12, 2011
22Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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Rurrenabaque was nice enough; lots of bars and gringos but we are getting used to that. Lots of hammocks around the place too. We stayed the night there before heading off early next morning for our tour. The first day was action packed, before reaching the pampas it is necessary to suffer a three hour bone- jarring jeep run to Santa Rosa. When our jeeps turned up we thought we would be set as they looked like two very smart and sturdy red pajeros, little did we know. The first couple of hours went well. The only minor mishap being a stop at an evil toilet (an acolyte of the Inca trail school).
- a toucan
- capybara (lots), a funny animal of the rat family that we concluded looked like a cross between wombat, guinea pig and hippo.
- alligators and caiman (disturbing numbers, given swimming was on the agenda for day two)
- freshwater 'pink' dolphins
- two blue and yellow macaws
- three species of monkeys
- many many other kinds of birds whose names were in Aymaran or Spanish
-grapefruit sized toads and tree frogs
The ecolodge in the pampas was set on stilts and boardwalks connected the sections. It overlooked the river with trees around about that housed the local howler monkey family. Our beds had mosquito netting provided, although we had brought along 55% DEET insect repellent just in case. Others in our group had 80% and even 98% DEET- however worryingly these also faded fabrics and removed nail polish.
We were woken at 5am by the unearthly racket of the howler monkeys. We later headed out for a walk across the swamp in search of the elusive anaconda! Our hopes were not high owing to the presence of two other tour groups also wading in gumboots through the same swamp. There were countless alligators and caiman lazing about the place - just to make things interesting.
We set off around a largish lake, eyes peeled and flanking our snake phobic friend. About halfway round things were getting pretty swampy and still no sign. Then one of the guides gave a yell and reached into the shallows trying to grab something. All the tourists made a bee-line for him, and he held up probably the biggest snake we've ever seen. Our guide Domingo told us it was roughly 3 meters long, and around 7 years old. Apparently they can get to 100 years, and Domingo had seen one as wide as his thigh - rumour has it of snakes easily twice as big but the famers don't have any cameras...
Wrestling with anacondas was quite tiring, so we regrouped in the hammocks after a lunch. Then it was piranha time. There are three species, Domingo told us, of which the red one is the most aggressive. We caught a few of them on our fishing expedition- it's quite a knack. You have to be lightning quick because once you have a bite they quite literally have stripped your bait off the hook. This means yanking the line in fast, and because noone wanted to get out of the boat (because of the alligators) it's wonder noone ended up in the water with all the yanking and rocking. It's ok to be in the water, so long as you're not bleeding. That really sets them off. And humans aren't a staple for alligators, only when they can't get anything else. Domingo bundled up our catches to add to our evening meal and we headed to a riverside field to watch the sunset and drink a beer. Several other tour groups were there and some impromptu games of soccer and volley ball were started.
The howler monkeys did their thing again the next morning, except we were one step ahead. Domingo convinced us that getting up before sunrise and going for a another noiseless cruise was worthwhile.