Well that was a much longer break than I expected! Apologies. I blame a combination of terrible Bolivian wifi and two weeks living out of a camper van. But I’m back!
A little while ago we did a trip to the Bolivian Amazon, not the Amazon river, but low lying fertile plains near a place called Rurrenabaque.
We took a comically small plane from La Paz up north to Rurrenabaque. I’m not a nervous flier but I kind of freaked out when I saw just how tiny the plane was. I’m talking 18-seats and you can’t stand up straight inside. I think part of my problem was with how claustrophobic it was. I popped a Peruvian Xanax immediately and buried my head in my sweater for the whole 40 minute flight. Our descent was extremely turbulent and at least one guy made use of the air sickness bag. Not great.
The following day we set out on our Pampas tour with Dolphin Tours. Basically you can do a jungle tour and actually see the jungle, but no animals. The Pampas Tour is based along a river and you get to see plenty of wildlife.
After a three hour drive and a lunch stop we pulled up at river and jumped in our boat.
We had only ventured maybe 20 metres upstream when we spotted our first caiman (alligator). The first of about 2500 I reckon. This is not a tour to take if you get squeamish about reptiles.
After a while we started seeing the world’s largest rodent: the capybara. Otherwise known as ‘oversized unimpressed looking guinea pigs’.
The caiman and the capybara and the birds all hangout on the river banks in harmony. We were hoping to see some Discovery Channel style caiman vs cabybara style battles but… nothing.
We also spotted some yellow squirrel monkeys:
Around this point of the tour the skies opened up and unleashed heavy rain, which barely stopped for the rest of the trip. That’s Ollie and Anna in the boat behind us, friends we met on the trip and subsequently spent the next month travelling with.
There was a brief rain interlude for sunset though. Which we watched from a field, with a bar.
A field with a disappointingly small, but no less disgusting, anaconda.
The next day we set out on a hunt for more anacondas, which was a really just a three hour walk through a soggy field. Apparently the anacondas don’t like the rain either. Our guide was so determined to find us an anaconda, he kept looking under shrubs and in bushes but it was no use. That afternoon we did the far more successful activity of fishing for piranhas. It was mostly successful for everyone else, but I caught one fish and it was the biggest. Success. The food on the trip was pretty great for Bolivian standards!
That night they even cooked up the piranhas for us:I tried a small bite, it was like any other white fish really.
Our final activity was to swim in the river with pink dolphins. Yes the same river that is home to the piranhas and the caiman. Apparently both are petrified by the pink dolphins (to be fair they are hideous) and stay away when they are around. I don’t know… I saw some caiman pretty close and opted out. Also I wasn’t remotely tempted by the brown sludge colour of the water.
After the dolphin swimming it was time to collect our water logged belongings and start the two hour boat journey back to the dock. That was when the rain got even heavier, as demonstrated by Ollie in this photo:
We sat in the boat, water collecting around our ankles as well as pelting us from the sky.
I was seriously relieved to get to the dock and into the car.
But the fun wasn’t over. Due to the comically small planes being unable to fly in the smallest amount of cloud and rain, we were stranded in Rurrenabaque for 4 days. We attempted to get a bus out, with no success, so we spent our time drinking wine and playing cards with our new friends Ollie and Anna.
It was amazing to finally get back to La Paz, which I never thought I’d say. The Pampas tour is a great and cheap way to see the Amazon, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re on a tight timeline because everyone I’ve spoken to has been stranded there.