From one of the Bolivian capitols, I flew up to a small town located on the southern edge of the Amazon. In order to make this happen, I had to wake up with the sun, and taxi back to the airport. While waiting to board I ran into a Japanese girl taking my same tour. Her English was actually better than my Japanese, which impressed and surprised me. We soon boarded my first prop plane in ages and were off.
I really enjoyed the flight because our cruising altitude was below the peaks of the surrounding Andes, and the ground below us quickly changed from barren rock to lush jungle. We landed at the smallest airport imaginable, and then climbed down into the field to walk into the ‘arrival hall’.
We taxied over to our tour operator and were off in no time. It was nine of us in all, jammed into a rugged vehicle with a driver and all our luggage battened down to the roof. We were all facing each other and had a three hour ride down a dusty road to start getting acquainted. It was a diverse group, with Holland, Japan, Canada, ‘Murika, Afghanistan, and Mauritius present. I represented the USA well by not only knowing of Mauritius, but for being the first American he’s ever met to also know its capitol. We had a ‘small world’ moment when one of the Dutch guys realized that we had spoken with each other at the Houston airport! We were all sweltering in that cramped steel box, and were more than ready to stop for lunch.
We finished eating a little lunch and then drove on to reach the starting point of our pampas tour. For the next couple days, we would be staying out in the swamplands to seek out and admire the wildlife. We boarded a long boat and then set off down the river to cook in the sun and see what we could find. Twas very relaxing indeed.
At first we were simmering at the sight of any living thing, but by the tenth turtle and nth bird we were showing an appropriate level of excitement. Incredible was when we came up on a tree filled with little yellow monkeys. We weren’t exactly sure what our guide had in mind when when he plowed our boat right into it, but after brandishing a banana his intentions were clear. These little guys poured out of the tree and into our boat, climbing over any and all to get to the fruit. I’m sure we violated some regulations about feeding the animals, but I was better off by it and they looked hungry.
We arrived some time later at what would be our lodging for the next couple of days. This was series of bungalows above the swamp all connected to a ring of wooden walkways. It had a lot of atmosphere, though it was clear that we were going to operating on just the bare necessities. We had a snack and relaxed briefly before going back out on the boat. We had all gotten about as much boat as we needed for the day, but there was little else to do so off we went.
We came back to feast on a decent dinner. There was no such thing as air conditioning, but I reckon that the two hottest rooms in the whole complex were the mess hall and bedrooms. I ate as quickly as possible every time so that I could get out and chill in the hammocks.
That night we went back out in the boats to hunt for caymans, which are similar to alligators. The only way to spot these things was by shining a light as we motored about, and hoping to find it reflecting back off their eyes. We did come across one or two, but success or not we could still enjoy the couple that lived below our bungalow walkways.
That night I was way too hot to sleep in my bed, so I forewent the mosquito net protection and instead opted for the slightly cooler hammock. This was the start of a whole lot of hammocking for me. That next morning we got up early, and right after breakfast put on some boots to go mucking around a swamp in search of snakes. Our guide was describing which were dangerous and to be avoided. His advice was irrelevant though, for after hours of empty handed snipe hunting, we were ready just to be done. I was expecting the anaconda hunt to look something like what I’ve seen in National Geographic, which it did, minus the snakes. What I wound up with instead were some tired legs and nasty smelling swamp soaked shins. We did at least see a massive cobra swimming in the river.
Around the time that this was finishing up my health took a sharp downturn. I had a headache, loss of appetite, and a constant yearning for the bathroom. This last element was complicated by their lack of toilet paper, so every dash to the can had to be prefaced by stealing napkins from the kitchen. While everyone else was playing football, I was just dead on the hammock, and completely uninterested in our continued outings of just looking at the same wildlife. That night of sleep was made miserable as well, as not even the hammocks could defeat the still air and incessant indigestion. I spent a lot of time in here.
I awoke the next morning far earlier than I would have preferred. And though I was far more interested in sleep, at the impossibility I decided to join some others for another boat ride to see the sunrise. I was feeling better, and felt rewarded for getting myself mobile and on the boat.
Needing to fill the time, presumably, we took another boat trip that morning before finally returning to a last meal and then making our return. One of the most interesting animals we came across were the pink dolphins that lurk in these rivers. There are a couple spots where they congregate, so we all swam there in the stinky, opaque river along with them. These dolphins weren’t nuzzling right up next to us, but they were close enough to make it a cool experience.
We were all ready to be back at the jetty where this whole adventure started, and the best part about it was the ice cold beverages being sold by the local ladies. The coke was expensive, but worth every centavo. We had another long ride down the dusty road before arriving back to Rurrenabaque where we unpacked and unwound, adventure accomplished.
We all checked into the same hostel and decided to make that night a party before going our separate ways. Drinks were cheap, and enjoyed alongside the incredibly refreshing pool and also in hammocks, of course. We also went on the hunt for a meal, and came away with some salchipapas and hamburgers. Street food is the best!
We had a good crew and parted ways in high spirits. All but one of them were off the next day, never to be heard from again.