I just got back to La Paz from the jungle, and all I can say is that the
jungle was everything I hoped for and more. Like I said before,
Rurrenabaque was much more north and deeper into the jungle. Very hot,
humid, and a lot of rain. After being in Ollanta 3 months where the
altitude is high and there is almost no humidity, this was a great change.
So in my last post, I was getting ready to go out on my tour for 3 days.
Overall, the tour was relatively expensive at $150, or $50 per day. But it
was well worth it.
We started out by meeting at the office of the tour company and I met all
of the people I was to travel with which included several Australians, some
English, Irish, and Germans. We jumped into a few 4x4s and took a 3 hour
ride to the middle of nowhere. When we got out of the jeep, we were swarmed
by mosquitos. In these 3 days, I have never been bitten by so many
mosquitos in my life. Luckily malaria isn´t too prevent in this area so I
don´t have to worry about that.
So right away, we jump into a long, canoe like boat which has a motor and
we are on our way. We were told before the tour that we would see a good
amount of wildlife, and they weren´t kidding. Within a few minutes, we had
already seen pink dolphins (seriously) and several different types of
birds. Within 30 minutes, we had seen monkeys and caimen and alligators.
With my specific guide, we were 5 Australians and me. I got to know them
very well over the 3 days, and they´re all great, interesting people. One
couple, who are 23 and 24 years old, have been traveling for 9 months now.
They just finished up with doing 8 months in Asia and are now doing 5
months in South America. One couple spend 3 months in Asia, 3 months in
Africa, and now 3 months in South America after quitting their jobs. These
people have definitely seen a lot more than I have!
We arrived at our ecolodge, which is a few small buildings right along the
river. There is a small building for the kitchen and dining area, a
building with several rooms with dorm rooms, a small building for the
hammocks, and bathrooms. I was extremely excited to be able to use a
mosquito net for the first time in my life. For how many mosquitos there
are outside, you really do feel protected when in bed inside the net. It´s
the only time you won´t have mosquitos on you!
Some of the tour highlights were several boat rides, a walk in the Pampas
searching for snakes and anacandas, a night boat ride to search out
alligators, and fishing for piranhas.
The walk in the Pampas was cool, although unsuccessful. The Pampas are
swamy, wetlands in the area which are home to many snakes, anacandas, and
other wildlife. So at 8am Monday morning, we put on our boots and started
walking, sometimes in water up to a foot high. We walked for a few hours in
the extremely humid hot wetlands, but we didn´t see any snakes. We did see
a cool green tree frog, an armadillo, and different types of birds. I must
say I was hoping for an anacanda!
We also went for a night boat right, which is really nice. We all grabbed
our flashlights and shined them along the banks of the river looking for
red eyes…caimen and alligators. In an hour, I think we saw 15 or so
different ones. Apparantly, they´re not very dangerous to people (luckily),
as the guide would put the boat within a year or two of the alligator
before it would swim off. At one point, we all turned off our lights and
the guide turned off the engine, and we just listened to the sounds of the
jungle. With extremely clean air, there were thousands of stars out. The
combination of the insects, ocassional birds, and occasional movements in
the water made it seem surreal.
Finally, on the last day, we took the boat to a few different places to go fishing for piranhas. It was hilarious to see the guide cutting up a raw piece of beer and putting it on the fishing lines. Unfortunately, it´s not the season for there to be many piranhas because the river is pretty high in the area, so we didn´t get any bites.
Many of the lodges have their own tamed alligators that just hang around and they feed. A few times, we stopped and one of the Australian guys was set on getting pretty close to it. So he would sometimes be within a yard of the alligator with some meet that he is luring him with. A few times even touched the meat on the nose of the alligator. Steve Irwin isn´t the only crazy Australian!
A few times, we jumped out of the boat to swim with dolphins that were swimming around. Swimming around with pink dolphins in the Bolivian Amazon is not something I planned on doing in my life. A few times, the dolphins even rubbed up against some of the swimmers. One of the times, I was swimming with a few people around some dolphins, and the people in the boat pointed to the other side of the boat and said there is an alligator. Us swimming thought they were joking and were surprised when we got back into the boat and saw there actually was an alligator on the other side.
At another point, we pulled up next to these large rodent animals (not sure what they are called), but are dog sized rodents and are very slow moving. When we pulled up, we also saw these orangish monkeys in the trees. After a bit, the monkeys even jumped onto our boat. Some people pulled out some bananas (which I think is a bad thing to feed the animals) and 6 or 7 monkeys swarmed onto their boat. One of the monkeys was carrying a baby on its back, which I thought was cool to see. We also saw 3 other types of monkeys and a few sloths (which really just do not move much). We saw the biggest bird in the pampas (again, forget the name) but was about 3 feet tall.
Finally, on Wednesday night, we got back to Rurrenabaque and we all decided to go out for a drink. Somehow, for as many tourists that come to the area, there are no ATMs in Rurrenabaque or Coroico, and I quickly got low on cash. I really had to think about what I was spending my money on. I exchanged the $25 that I still had to get some leeway, but I still only ended up with 6 Bolivianos afterwards, or about $0.90. I didn´t eat as much as I would´ve the last day, but I made up for it when I got back to La Paz and got some money.
The bus ride wasn´t quite 20 hours, so it was shorter than I originally thought. But of course, always interesting. Across the aisle from me was 4 kids from the ages of 3 to 7 or so. Of course they were playing and playing for hours. There was also a baby sister that would sometimes be behind them with their mom. But at one point, she was in the seat across the aisle from me. She started gagging while looking in my direction, so the older sister starts to pat her on the back. Well let´s just say I am lucky there wasn´t enough strength behind it to make it to me, so the vomit it went straight into the aisle. Of course, we just leave it there…why not? Also, the same baby sister at one point was sleeping laying on the floor while the mother was on the floor closer to the window. The baby´s head was part of the way in the aisle where someone not looking could easily step on her. Luckily no one did, but you have to wonder what she was thinking.
So now I am back in La Paz and spent most of the day on the computer, doing my laundry, and also had a walk with a friend I met here a few weeks ago. I am getting addicted to this hot purple drink from corn they have here called Api. It´s served extremely hot, and it´s pretty thick, and is served with a pastry with cheese in the middle and powdered sugar on top. I just had it again this afternoon and love it. It´s similar to chicha morada en Peru, but thicker and served hot.
So I will spend the next 4 days in La Paz until the day after Christmas. My friend is coming from Peru to spend Christmas here, so luckily I will be with someone I know! It won´t be the same as being at home, but at least Skype is readily available!
Safe travels everyone!