bolivian amazon basin - the pampas

  • view from the bus
  • valleys below
  • we are eventually gonna cross
  • rurrenabaque
  • walking to our tour
  • the main road
  • a very rare type of snake
  • interesting lunch
  • the canoo
  • my view from the boat
  • biggest rodent in the world
  • big bird
  • we have these back home to - look like snakes in the water
  • pink dolphin
  • pink dolphin
  • pink dolphin
  • big cayman
  • michael jackson
  • cayman coming for a visit
  • perfect reflection
  • bar on the river
  • our boat
  • our lodge
  • our bar
  • our local cayman under the bar
  • mom prefers when i smile in photos so this is for her
  • jochen at sunset
  • view from the bar
  • support team for anacondas
  • swimming capybara
  • anaconda searching
  • anaconda
  • i think a piranha is biting my nipple
  • sunset from the boat
  • fog over the fields at sunrise
  • sunrise
  • another cute yellow monkey
  • early start for flight back - hannes without sleep
  • bus to the airstirp
  • the landing strip
  • our plane back
  • landed safely
  • cute yellow monkey
  • grrrrrr
  • anaconda hunting

On Monday the 1st of June, my 3 German travel buddies (Heike, Jochen and Hannes) and I were meant to fly out to the Bolivian part of the Amazon - a jungle type area known as the Pampas where you get to see anacondas, swim with river pink dolphins and fish piranhas. We booked our flights out for the Monday afternoon but due to bad weather conditions in Rurrambaque our flight was cancelled. Only other way to get to the jungle would be to take an 18 hour non-tourist bus that happens to go through the World's most Dangerous road that I recently did on a bike. None of us were looking forward to this except Heike, as she has a fear of flying, but we were all really keen to get out of La Paz, so on Tuesday morning at 11 we hopped onto the bus.

This bus was the type of bus I imagined seeing when travelling here. Uncomfortable, filthy, smelly, no toilets and it didn't seem very roadworthy. But the excitement of getting to the jungle was enough to forget about it. Forget about it until about an hour into the trip the local sitting behind us took off his shoes and everybody's nasal passage began to disintegrate. This guy had the smelliest feet I have ever been near. God help anybody who has to spend any amount of time near this guy. I will never again be able to eat blue cheese or any other strong smelling cheese. For the next 18 hours we had to deal with this and it just seemed to get worse. Even opening the windows didn't help. We couldn't even eat cause the food tasted like feet. About half of the trip was on dirt road, so we couldn't really sleep overnight.

On Wednesday morning at 8am, tired, hungry and bursting for the toilet we arrived in Rurrembaque and booked ourselves onto the very next Pampas tour out of there. We went with a company called Dolphin Adventures as a few other travellers had recommended them.

Within an hour we were in a jeep on our way out to the river where we would jump onto motorised canoes to get out to the Pampas. The jeep ride was about 3 hours long on a dirt rode and by the time we got to the river we were covered in dust. The boat ride to our jungle hostel though was brilliant. The canoes are about a meter wide and have 15HP engines but they still manage to go at a good pace. The area wasn't quite what I expected because it wasn't really jungle like, more of a savanah, but it was absolutely amazing.

Within an hour we had already spotted pink dolphins, yellow monkeys, caymans (small alligators) and our boat had been invaded by fish that jumped out the water. we also spotted a few capybara - the world's biggest rodent, about the size of a big dog. When we arrived at the lodge/hostel, we got shown our beds and after dinner went up to the bar overlooking the river Yakuna - meaning mother of the piranha.

The next morning we were on the water by 8am, and the plan was to go Anaconda trekking. We all had to wear gum boots because this is swamp territory. That morning at breakfast we tried a bit of piranha that was caught by one of the other groups the day before. It was a pretty normal fish taste. The Anaconda hunting/trekking was not as exciting as I thought it'd be - it mostly consited of walking around in real smelly bog while the sun was beating down. About 4 hours later and after going to 3 different "hotspots" our guide finally found an anaconda. It was only a little one of about 1.5m to 2m but still, at least we got to see it. Because our guide Roberto is super animal and eco friendly, he did not let us pick it up like the rest of the guides. I agree with his philosophy so I was happy to just get some photos.

After lunch, we again jumped onto our canoe to go find some pink dolphins to swim with. The only problem with swimming with pink dolphins is of course that these waters are also full of small alligators and piranhas, so when we got to a pod of dolphins everybody was a little apprehensive about getting in. Me and the rest of the guys were also worried about an amazonia parasite that swims up the urethra and then hooks itself in there and has to be removed surgically. Roberto assured us that they're only found in the Amazon river, and not the Yakuna, so all 5 of us jumped in.

The dolphins are pretty shy and didn´t really let us get close and taking photos even with the underwater camera was really difficult. At one point only Jochen and I were in the water with a couple of dolphins and they were relatively close. Just then I looked over to the edge and saw an alligator sliding into the water. It took us about a second to get back into the boat and I think I soiled myself. Roberto told us not to worry as they're scared of humans so there would be no problems, so we got back in. I started doing some fimling and Heike was also doing some filming from the boat. Just then I felt something tug my leg and I gave a rather unmanly yelp, only to turn around and see Sebastian, a Swedish guy on our trip coming up from under the water and pissing himself laughing. Heike was filming because the 2 of them had planned this. Sneaky bastards! She says she's gonna put it up on youtube soon. Thanks Heike! Also, I think I got pecked on the nipple by a piranha.

In the evening we decided to celebrate such a cool day by having a few cold beers out on the balcony over the river again.

The next morning we were woken up at 5 to go watch the sunrise - a bit uneventful to be honest. After breakfast we went piranha fishing. Pretty basic process - just a line of string with a hook, no rod, and a piece of beef on the hook. The trick is not really to hook the piranha, but to let it bite onto the meat and then yank the string and throw it onto the boat. None of us except our guide caught any. Again he was pretty eco-friendly so he let us take some pictures, showed us the teeth and then threw it back in the water.

We then headed back to Rurrembaque where we hoped to book a flight for Saturday morning back to La Paz, but all the seats for saturday were booked - they're only like 25 seater planes so the seats go quick. So, we're stuck in Rurrembaque for an extra day. We were pretty bummed with this but it worked out well in the end. Rurrembaque - or Rurre as the locals call it - is a really cool place on the banks of the river and surrounded by mountains. On Friday night we decided we needed some party time and headed out to the local bars and tried some of the local shooters, one of which is called F*ck......Horsefly. Jochen ordered these without seeing the ingredients - after downing it we realised it's basically a Mexican Arsehole (tequila and tabasco) so I'll say no more. Hannes got us a round of Coca liqueur, which I think got us all a bit more alert.

On Sunday we're flying back to La Paz and then catching a 4 hour bus to lake Titicaca where the 4 of us will party it up for my birthday on Monday.