3 day Pampas Tour in the Jungle of Bolivia (on the River Yacuma)

As Matt had damaged his ankle and we wanted to make sure he would be fit to do all the walking on the trek to Machu Picchu and rather than just sit around in La Paz, we organised ourselves on a bit of a side trip to the jungle in Bolivia to do a 3 day pampas tour.   We had the option of flying to Ruurrenabaque which was a bit costly or catching the cheaper 24 hour bus ride - which sounded a bit like being on the death road but in a bus. So Matt being Scottish and me being a Yorkshire lass guess which we chose.  After a short flight  (ha - bet you guessed wrongly) to Rurrenabacque (in the northern part of Bolivia in the jungle) we had a chilled out day getting used to the heat again before starting our trek the next day.

Day one started at the very respectable time of 8.30am where we boarded the jeep and met the rest of our group - a young french girl, a young British couple with a visiting friend and a young Australian couple (all in their late 20's) and all on trips around the world of varying lengths to time.  We had been told that it would be a bit of a bumpy ride and they didn't exaggerate!  Anyhow, chatting to the rest of the group and getting to know them, the time went quickly enough and we arrived at the river Yacuma (one of the many tributaries of the Amazon).  At the embarcation point, which is around 1000 miles from the sea, we were surprised to see there was a Port Captain's Office and staff from the Bolivian Navy checking out the boats!

        Bolivian Navy Sailor                               Boarding our boat             Our complex was the only one with a bar!           

We started our wildlife spotting - and soon became very blasé about spotting alligators - the river was crawling with them!  Thousands of birds and families of capybaras shared the banks of the river with the them.  Hundreds of alligators and caimans later we arrived at our jungle lodging.  Matt and I had gone to the great expense of a separtate cabin (I decided I'm too old to share a dorm and banos with nippers).  We even had an en-suite (a little hut attached to the big hut).  Great stuff.  Fortunately the whole complex was up on stilts as the first thing we saw was a green mamba!  As Matt was testing out the loo, we heard a very loud croaking noise - searching all around the walls and ceiling we couldn't figure out where the frog was.  Same when I tested out the loo - a very loud croaking noise but no frog to be seen - then I flushed the loo and there it was - in the bowl and heading up under the rim!  No wonder it was croaking so loudly! I'm glad it didn't try to jump out whilst I was sitting on the loo!  Matt managed to 'flush' it out - on about the 3rd flush it came leaping out and up the wall and spent the rest of the time in the space between the wall and the roof peering down on us!  After all that exitement we needed a bit of refreshment so down to the bar for happy hour and then dinner before getting back in the boat for a night trip along the river spotting the red eyes of the alligators and caimans - lots of them!  

               Our Jungle retreat                                  Our mozzie netted bed                         Mean looking alligator

Day 2 and we were woken by a tremendous dawn chorus - not just the birds but monkeys, hogs and goodness know what else - what a racket!  And it was raining to boot - a real rain forest rain!  The rained eased off a bit and it was anaconda spotting morning so we donned wellies and capes and into the boat for a trip to down to the pampas to wade through the pampas grass swamp - water sploshsing over the wellies - it was like being 11 years old again - great fun!  And yes we did spot one - about 2 metres long - and Matt got to hold it.  Back at camp for lunch and a bit of a siesta before off in the boat again for a bit of pirana fishing!  Standing in the boat dangling a line with a bit of pork on it, we were getting bites all the time - the problem was getting them in to the boat.  Some of us did catch some - between 3 and 6 inches long and quite pretty colour - white with orange/yellow patch but a nasty set of teeth!  We ended up with around 15 or so which were then cooked for us for our supper (fortuantely we did have other food as there's not much meat on the piranas).  After dinner we were taught by the nippers to play 'shithead' a very common game amongst backpackers apparently.

    Jean wading through the swamp              Matt and the anaconda                            Matt swimming with alligators!

Day 3 and up with the chorus again and another trip down the river for more wildlife and bird spotting and a swim with the pink dolphins - I chickened out from the start - not for me swimming in the muddy brown water not knowing what was lurking under the surface!   The other nippers took their swimming gear along but when it came down to it Matt was the only one brave enough to get in!  Alledgedly the dolphins keep the piranas and the alligators at bay - unfortunatley the dolphins didn't put in much of show but the alligators kept to the shore!  Then it was lunch and back on the boat for a leisurely return trip down the river and the bumpy ride back to Rurrenabacque to catch the flight back to La Paz.

         Messing about on the river                  Turtles sunning themselves                           Great Egret                                  

          Jungle bird (lovely plumage)                            A Heron type thing                            Capybara