The saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. Travelling is helping confirm this to be true.
In Sucre I met a lovely Dutch couple whom I planned to meet in La Paz for a trip into Rurrenbaque, we conversed via Facebook and I was going to get myself onto the same tour as them when I arrived in La Paz. Unfortunately, when I arrived in La Paz, the aeroplane was full and there was no way I’d be able to make it out in time to start the trip. I’d missed out. As you can imagine, I was very upset. I’d left a friend in Sucre to make this tour and was now stuck in the middle of a city. My stomach was dodgy and I was exhausted after the bus journey. I was basically fed up. Asking around, none of the tour operators could confirm that a trip was happening the following day so I decided to simply fly out to Rurrenbaque and worry about accommodation / tour when I got there.
I had a lazy day picking up some new insect repellent (100% Deet) before sitting in the airport for 3 hours (the traffic was much lighter than expected). The plane was tiny and to get to my seat I was walking double through the cabin. There was a little sign which suggested that in the case of emergency the cabin crew would pass out oxygen masks – the cabin crew were the pilots whom I’d prefer to fly the plane in an emergency rather than pass out oxygen masks! Still, after take off I fell fast asleep waking up as we landed.
On the bus into town we all got chatting and I met Charlie and Sophie, two girls from London. Charlie was quite shocked that I didn’t have a tour or somewhere to stay but I was more than happy – I ended up following them to a hostel, sharing a room with a nice Canadian guy called Justin, and then booked myself on the girls tour. As I was doing so, a German couple from the plane also booked on the tour.
The first day started off ominously – the Land Cruiser needed bump-starting before we even left. As we drove down the road we all were chatting and getting to know each other and had the joy of having multiple break downs to talk about. The car really wasn’t in a great way and was constantly misfiring, but we did make it in the end which is the important thing I guess! When we got there, we needed to wait for the boat and were told we could swim in the water, but looking across the river we could see the heads of alligators – there was no way we were going in the water!
The boat arrived, we piled on and within minutes came across a load of Spider Monkeys. The ran through the trees beside us and one even jumped onto the spare seat about one metre from me. They were really cool and the Ulla started to fed them a couple of Pringles which brought them even closer.
As we continued we started to see plenty of alligators and caimans. There were everywhere and it’s fair to say I’m terrified of alligators, crocodiles or anything else of that ilk. Surprisingly however, I wasn’t scared here. I don’t know why, but their presence in the water didn’t worry me as much as I thought it might! It wasn’t just alligators and caimans though, There was loads of birds too and I was able to recognise Cormorants and Herons, but the others where a bit of a mystery – some of them looked a little odd compared to the normal pigeons and seagulls you get in England!
After a couple of hours we reached the lodge and went to watch the Sunset at a little bar where people were playing football and volleyball. It was here the mosquitos came out and we started to get bitten. It didn’t matter than we all had insect repellent on, the little blighters still bit us! A quick run back to the hostel and we had tea.
Afterwards we jumped back in the boat and went searching for alligators at night. Their eyes light up a brilliant orange and it’s an extremely scary sight. All around you could hear howler monkeys, insects, bats, birds, alligators…. The night was alive with noise!
After tea the Germans went to bed and the girls and I joined a group of Irish lads in the hammock room. This was perhaps one the strangest experiences I’ve had in terms of groups of people. There was one bloke there who talked constantly and was exaggerating and telling all these wonderful and fanciful stories and just wouldn’t shut up. Whenever I tried to speak, he’d put on this mock English accent and take the mickey out of what I’d just said. It was the first time I’d been in a situations where the group just wasn’t friendly to me – the “leader” had an objective and I was in there way. t was certainly strange as it was the first time I felt excluded as a traveller. I took an early night anyway.
On Day two we went searching for Anacondas. Or rather, we walked around a swamp getting bitten countless times, catching too much sun and not seeing any Anacondas. We did however see wild ostrich. It started to get a bit monotonous walking around and around and around in search of something that was staying hidden (and which we had no idea of what to look for!) We started to get bored and Charlie started to feel unwell in the heat so we called it a day and headed back to the Lodge for lunch.
A couple hours rest in the hammocks and off we went again, this time to fish for Piranha. Fishing for Piranha is really easy – all you do is bait a hook with ham / bacon and dangle it in the water. You then just need to snag the fish and bring it on board! Piranha aren’t as scary as you’d expect, but they are slippery little devils and removing the hook was a difficult task indeed – I had to leave it to the guide to do and even he was cautious!
We had a little bet on as to who could catch the biggest fish. Ulla took the early lead catching a good sized Piranha and the rest of us either couldn’t catch anything or were catching tiddlers (which the guide put back). Charlie then came up trumps and caught the biggest one – just as we went to take pictures of it, the hook came out and it fell to the bottom of the boat. We got it back, but there wasn’t the victorious picture we all managed to get. After the first fish, Ulla moved on to trying to catch Catfish to no avail and I ended up been bait man and fish unhooker for the girls.
Back to the lodge for tea and we tried the piranha we’d caught. It had quite an odd taste. Not bad by any means but since I’m not a massive fan of fish I was happy to leave mine for Ulla to finish off. A bottle of wine, a few beers and an early, sleepless night.
We had a very early start on day three – it was meant to be 0530, but we slept in to 0600. For some reason throughout the trip I was always the one holding people up, be it for a toilet trip, a shower, sleeping in… I was always last. It was odd as I always managed to choose the worst time to do something. Anyway, I digress, the reason we were up early was to watch the sunrise and catch the animals early in the morning.
The sunrise, was well, a sunrise. The only difference here was that the place the guide decided we should stand to watch the sunrise had alligators. He rammed the boat onto the bank straight on top of one and for the first time on the tour, I couldn’t get out of the boat. I wasn’t stuck, but there was no way I could get out of the boat first. I just couldn’t do it. The guide started to get annoyed at me, telling me to get out, for me to reply “no” repeatedly. I have a genuine fear of the blumin things and their proximity wasn’t helping! Ulla thankfully got out first and I was then able to follow suite, but up until then! Ugh!
Back to the lodge for breakfast and off we trundled to find the dolphins for a swim. I was nervous about the swimming but jumped in and swam about as Sophie and Silke joined me. Unfortunately, getting back in proved to be mighty tricky. I’m not the most graceful of people in the water and trying to clamber back into the boat ended up with everyone laughing at me as I dragged myself onboard. Not exactly dignified but at least I didn’t end up exposing myself! Around the corner the dolphins were spotted again, this time they were much bigger but I didn’t dare jump back into the water for fear of not getting back in the boat.
It was strange there though. You had ourselves and another tour group of three who were sitting quietly enjoying watching the dolphins surface and swim about and then three Israeli groups turned up making a cacophony of noise, jumping in the water, screaming and trying to herd the dolphins. It spoiled the atmosphere somewhat as the place suddenly went from the Amazonian Pampas to a tourist hotspot.
Back to the lodge for lunch and then hightailing it back to Rurrenbaque on the boat and car (which didn’t break down). On the way it started to rain really heavily and it was great to see. Apart from the Inca Trail and a couple of days in Sucre, it’s been clear unbroken sunshine during the day and whilst I wasn’t missing rain, it was a pleasant change – especially since I was inside the car!
Back in the Hostel I started chatting to some Australians guys and we all played pool, had tea and a few drinks in town. It was great fun and very nice way to end the trip! The following day was a bit of a ‘mare as my flight was delayed for 2 hours and I had to hang around without food (all the places were closed) – if I’d known I could have done some exploring, but as it was I ended up just sitting waiting!
Reflections and Costs
As iI said at the top, one door closed and another opened and I’m extremely glad it did! I had a lovely time and enjoyed the company of some wonderful people – whilst I’m upset I didn’t get to make the trip with the Dutch couple, I’m extremely glad I had the opportunity to meet Charlie, Sophie, Ulla and Silke!
We used the Indiegna tour company. Our guide, Hime (goodness knows on the spelling!) was grumpy in the mornings and could have explained a lot more about what we were seeing, but he was happy to take us to look for animals when we asked. The Lodge was basic, but clean and the food was pleasant. I’d be happy to recommend the tour company.
Park Entrance: B$150
Hostel: B$95 for 2 nights
Food and Drink: B$120
Total: B$2537 or roughly £230.
The trip was expensive for me (the flights especially) but overall I’d say it was the best tour I’ve had so far and nothing really went wrong (well apart from my camera breaking halfway through)!
More pictures of Rurrenbaque Pampas trip
Many, many more pictures of my Rurrenbaque Pampas trip can be found in the Digitallery album South America − Bolivia − Rurrenbaque Amazon Pampas trip
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