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Published: December 6th 2008
Day 609 (27.11.08)
Our tour to Las Pampas was to begin today so we gathered at the tour office to wait for our jeep which was to take us to the river point at Santa Rosa. The three of us were joined by Spanish Marc and a Bolivian couple and their German exchange student. Sady we pulled the back seats in the jeep and spent the next three hours with our knees inserted into our nostrils as we bumped along the road to our lunch stop.
After some food we made the short journey to the river where we joined several other tour groups waiting to board our boat for the journey down river to our lodge. It turned out that there'd been some kind of a muck up with our tour agency and we didn't have a guide. The lady from the agency drove to town and after a long hot wait came back with Fernando, a guide from another agency. He didn't speak any English but she promised us as she left that we'd have an English speaking guide from the next day onwards.
Ready to go we boarded our little boat and began to make
the journey down the river. When you go out on tours to experience local wildlife you can only hope to see the wildlife. Wild animals are just that and so you can't guarantee that you'll see them. That's the price that we choose to pay for the chance to see animals in their natural habitats. However, within 5 minutes we'd seen white herons, capybara, alligators, turtles - you name it. It promised to be an incredible couple of days.
Over the next three hours we journeyed downstream slowing and stopping to view the animals on the banks or in the water. The sheer number of animals we saw was amazing with barely a few seconds passing before something else caught your eye. To add to our first sightings we also saw black caiman, blue herons and numerous other species of bird, monkeys and the fantastic pink dolphins the area is famed for.
Part way through the journey we stopped at the bank so that we could have a swim. What!? Having just seen plenty of alligators lounging in a sinister fashion on the banks and floating silently in the water we weren't sure this was a good idea
but as other groups were already swimming safely we decided to give it a try.
We were joined by a pink dolphin or two and all was well in the warm murky waters until Chirssie felt two sudden sharp stinging pains in her leg. 'Something just bit me' she yelled as everyone swiftly made their way out of the water. With two small round bleeding bite marks on her leg it appeared that Chrissie had made contact with another of the local inhabitants, a piranha! Thankful to have escaped with her leg just about intact (!) but a little shocked Chrissie was glad to get back into the boat as we continued on our way to our base for the night.
We arrived at our basic but comforatble looking lodge to find that, as opposed to what was promised us, the lodge was not exclusive to our tour but already had three groups in residence. With no hammocks available we walked down to the lodge's Dolphin Bar for a cold beer and to catch the sunset over the vast areas of grassland beyond the riverbank.
After an excellent dinner Fernando took us back out into the boat
armed with our torches so that we could spot the eyes of the alligators in the dark. Every rock of the boat felt magnified as we floated along in the dark close to the banks and the many alligators dotted around. It was quite an exciting little trip as we saw their eyes reflected in our torchlight and heard the regular swish as one of them entered the water nearby!
Back at the lodge we swung in the hammocks for a while, covered up despite the cloying heat to protect us from the numerous mosquitos, and then went to bed.
Day 610 (28.11.08)
We were woken by an extremely noisy howler monkey making himself heard in the trees nearby. After a nice cold shower and a good breakfast no English speaking guide had appeared so poor Isabel was stuck with the job of translating for us for the rest of the tour. We made a quick hop in the boat to a point just upstream. This morning we were off to search for Anacondas. We walked across the grasslands and found a group of trees where the Anaconda can often be found tucked out of the heat
in holes in the trunks of trees.
Once again wrapped up against attacking mosquitos (which turned out to be able to bite through clothes!) we spent the next few hours following Fernando as we searched for snakes. We finally found one curled inside the hollow root of a tree and were pleased when Fernando did nothing to encourage it out. His treatment of wildlife was excellent throughout the trip but we were lucky there. Many tales are told of guides who poke sticks at creatures and allow tourists to hold wild snakes and these were confirmed when another group arrived in the same spot and the first thing the guide did was to poke it with a stick. Isabel firmly told him that this was no way to treat animals and thankfully he stopped but stories from other groups we met on this trip show that much of this happens out here and many of the tourists actually encourage it by picking up snakes, having their pictures taken with them, touching alligators and suchlike. We only hope that there are other touirsts out there that do what we did and tell guides that this is not what they want
As the cloud of the morning cleared and the temperature rose we headed back to the lodge for lunch and a couple of hours to relax. We were entertained by a group of red monkeys having their lunch in the nearby tree.
In the mid afternoon fernando again took us out in the boat, collecting his gorgeoius little 6 year old daughter on the way, as we were to go swimming with the pink dolphins at a spot where there were several of them. A little wary of entering the water again after yesterday's piranha attack, Chrissie, assured by Fernando that there it was definately safe here and by the fact that his daughter happily jumped in, braved the waters for a dip. We had a happy time swimming about and watching the dolphins with Mark swimming as close as he dared to a group of three alligators calmly watching our antics from the banks not far away. As we returned home we were lucky enough to catch sight of an Anaconda bathing just on the edge of the river.
We returned to base for tea and biscuits and then another beer accompanied sunset in
the dolphin bar. When it got dark we were treated to some great music from the guides and from Marc on our tour as they swung in hammocks, playing guitar, drums or whatever they could get their hands on and sang some local songs.
After dinner, another good meal which included cake and wine tonight (real treats!) we relaxed and chatted in the hammocks until bedtime.
Day 611 (29.11.08)
This morning was our chance to get some revenge on the piranhas for their vicious attack on Chrisise - we were off Piranha fishing. A little way down the river we moored up and armed with our lines and some meat we set to work.
They turned out to be pretty tricky to fish for with Chrissie, not really sure she has the patience for this activity, managing to catch only the rare and unusual 'stick' fish. Mark however kept the revenge attempt going and caught one piranha and a small catfish - excellent work. Between the group we caught enough fish to give us an excellent addition to lunch for the day. The cook fried up our haul and served it up with lunch and with
Chrissie keen to bite back we tucked in. The piranhas only have the smallest amount of meat on them but it tastes good and it turns out that revenge really is sweet!
It was now time to leave Las Pampas and whilst we would be sad to leave the incredible wildlife behind we would not miss the mosquitos or the heat! The journey back to Santa Rosa was filled again with huge amounts of animals to keep our attention.
We said goodbye to Fernando who had been a great guide and managed to secure the front seat spots in the jeep for a little more room on the journey back to Rurrenabaque. Back in town we found a pharmacy to get some drops for Mark whose eyes had got infected again over the trip and then set in to try and get some moeny back from our tour.
The agency expalined the situation about the guide and having to share our lodge with several groups and after only a little persuasion agreed to give us some money back.
We found a cheaper hostel than we'd got on our last quick stop in Rurrenabaque and as we
settled into hostel Jislene we made the most of the free bananas, the hammocks, and the crazy little live-in monkey.
We grabbed some food and then settled into the hammocks with a bottle of rum, Marc (and Mark) on the guitar and some singing to finish what had been a fantastic three days.
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