Published: September 3rd 2011July 11th 2011
Late morning we take a very short flight over the mountains, still rugged but now thick with jungle and streams. As we near Santa Cruz the land begins to look very familiar...it's flat and green and tropical and at 450m, Santa Cruz itself is big and sprawling. The residents know they have plenty of land and have spread out on it. We joined the throngs in the streets and square, eating ice-cream and window shopping.
We had the crappiest hotel so we booked across the road for when we returned from the jungle. We also wanted to leave our winter woollies somewhere. After walking all around town and searching high and low for a super cheap bag to store them in, we walked into a baby shop, found the owner spoke good English and had plenty of spare boxes. We packed it, took it across the road and returned to our crappy room. Tuesday
We left before dawn and breakfast for the flight to Trinidad. It was in a twin engine plane seating about 18....we all had window seats. At Trinidad's small airport there were lots of police/army guys (not sure which) hanging around. Then, after stopping to
At Sucre airport
not sure who this sword wielding female is
buy insect repellent we are driven out to the river port with a Danish family of 5. The town was full of motorcyclists and our driver told us that most were taxis. On the drive out to the river he pointed out crocadiles (caiman) and storks.
The Mamore River runs north about 15 kms west of Trinidad and the port is actually a river crossing. The banks are 5-7m high and narrow tracks are cut into the pale silty soil so the cars, buses and trucks/semis can drive down and onto the dodgy looking barges, powered by outboards back and forth across the river. We waited for a Swiss family then boarded the covered wooden boat belonging to the Reina de Enin, our flotel for the next 4 days, and headed upriver to where she was tied to the bank.
Once aboard we continued upriver for several kms have breakfast then turn and motor downriver past the port and to our first mooring (always tied to the bank). We saw a couple of the pink dolphin where we turned but they only surfaced for air and were difficult the photograph in the brown silty water, hence, we have
no photos of them even though we saw them every day. (murphy´s law ruled...when we had good sightings, the camera was in the cabin and when we got the cameras, the dolphins had gone off).
It'a late afternoon and we've travelled over 20 kms downriver. We get in the red boat and are taken to a muddy lake (seems everything is muddy) above the river bank, to fish for piranhas. That involves having one of the crew bait the hook and hand you the short line tied to a short stick. You then swing the hook in an arc 3 or 4 times before letting it fly to land neatly out in the water. Well that's the idea. Some of us were more successful than others. Same goes for actually catching a fish. I was soon bored, standing in the mud in the hot sun and for some reason my nose was dripping like a tap. We managed to catch 3 small fish and the mud managed to catch 2 guys and fire ants got everyone. Over 2 hours later but much cooler we head back to the flotel where they have lowered the net pool at the stern
and we jump in to clean up and cool off. The water is cold. The kids and crew play with rubber tubes. It's a very friendly cruise. Wednesday
The boat has 3 levels on two boat-shaped pontoons. Our cabin, quite roomy, was bottom level at the front, dining room upstairs with wide decks, and hammocks and deck chairs on the top. Passengers came and went but were generally a good group. Food was great, particually the fish, and very plentiful.
Today a group of Bolivian models arrive with their photographer/cameraman and costumes to make a doco for local TV. While they pose around the boat we head off on a 2 hour walk in the jungle. we see 100yo palm trees, strangler figs (love trees) birds, parrots (yes I know that parrots are birds) white faced monkeys, cocoa trees etc.
We continue down river and moor near an island and spend the afternoon at the beach, swimming canoeing, playing soccer, exploring or just relaxing. We had a small party before dinner with the crew playing guitar and singing. Our captain, Barbara was leaving for holidays and Coco, the owner and his son, Inti, had joined us in
crossing the Mamore River
barges are powered by outboard motors
her place. Thursday
Today we walked from one bank to the other where the river makes a bend and turns back on itself. We reached what had once been a thriving village but much of it had been washed away in a flood and only a few families remained. We found a family eating breakfast outside their small one room hut with dirt floor and mossie nets. Outside ran a few kittens and chooks. Near the river men sat mending nets and outboard motors. Down on the river kids fished out of canoes tied to the bank while women and girls washed clothes in tubs. Huge catfish lay over a smoking fire. Old fridges lay about the bank or on canoes. Crops grew on the sandy flats across the river.
We get in our boat and motor back around the bend. Near some dolphins, 8 of us jump in the river but it's flowing fast and we never get closer than 5m and soon they are gone. But the water is cool and it's pleasant floating down the river. We then return to the beach and have a mud bath letting it dry on us before washing off
in the very fast flowing water running between the islands.
That evening after dinner we go out with Inti and Eduardo to hunt caiman. We cruise the river searching in the flotsam on the bank until we see their glowing eyes. We then ram the boat in, Inti hanging over the bow ready to grab it. by hand. However they are either too big or too fast. He finally catches a baby and we pose for a photo. The moon is almost full and bathes the river in light.
During the night I'm woken by the sound of a chugging engine (there is little traffic on the river) as a fuel barge cruises past. I watch as it doesn't make the sharp turn of the 180 degree bend in the river and runs into the bank. I drift back to sleep and the barge is gone in the morning. Friday
The water was cool and so silty that you can´t see more than 10cms below the surface. I don´t know how the birds find their fish, but the cormorants and fish are plentiful.
The river is about 200-400m wide, the banks are steep and high as
the dry season comes to an end. During the wet, water covers the land at least a meter above the river bank. It is hard to imagine so much water. No wonder the Amazon is 200kms wide near it's mouth. The Amazon basin (it's whole catchment area) is the size of Australia. The weather is good and there are very few mosquitoes.
It is our last day. We pack our bags as we have to leave just after lunch and now we are going horse riding while the Reina cruises another 12kms downstream. At the top of the bank, where we have moored twice, we find enough scruffy horse for all of us and amble along the jungle path by a creek till we reach the horse ranch located on the edge of a large expanse of grassland. Inti comes as well and enjoys a gallop around the paddock. The rest of us walked, trotted, cantered or galloped, depending on riding ability. The horse I got just wouldn't move faster than a slow walk no matter how hard I kicked it's ribs. However it soon sprang to life with a light tap from the whip.
There were a
couple of dozen horses, a donkey, pigs, a monkey, ducks, chickens and two very fine blue and yellow macaws. We were also shown the skins of a boa and caiman and large turtle shell.
We left with the Swiss family in the tinny, taking a tributary about 50m wide, often with floating grasses and hyacinth almost blocking our way. It took us over an hour to get to our exit to dry land. It was 8.5kms as the crow flies but 32kms by boat. We returned to Santa Cruz in the same small plane and next day, went to the airport for our flight to Iguazu.
There are more photos below