Las Pampas - Bolivian jungle

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December 10th 2008
Published: February 12th 2009
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El ShadyEl ShadyEl Shady

I bit into a piece of chicken here and it drbbled blood down my chin!

A traveller without observation is a bird without wings

- Muslih-uddin Sadi

This trip to the jungle turned out to be one of the best 4 days I have had in the last 18 months. Easily on a par with the Inca trail. I had no idea what to expect with it, all I had bee told was there would be a lot of wild animals to see, sweet. Easy enough small plane flight to Rurrenabaque and a night in the town with two Kiwis, Rowan and Kath, who became two very good travel companions and we kept meeting up again and again. The road trip via jeep to the river was uncomfortable to say the least. Stopping off for lunch at a restaurant called “El Shaday” was an, well, interesting little affair, and shady it was. Everyone beginning to get to know each other and sharing travel stories was interrupted by looks of horror all in my direction. As I bit into a large piece of chicken I felt some liquid trickle down my chin, and pulling the meat from my mouth I found a disturbing quantity of blood running out of what seemed to be some vein. Suffice to say the rest of the chicken left
Our uideOur uideOur uide

The drivers learn at a young age in Bolivia
my mouth at lightening speed and I moped up and washed out my mouth and chin even faster. That was lunch for me, followed by several prayers to the gods of food to spare any potential unpleasantries that might be coming my way. Thankfully, it seems they were listening. El Shady indeed.

Arriving at the river we all began to get a bit more excited, journey about to begin. The boats were incredibly unstable and it seemed no one had ever been in one before. Everyone standing at the same time and rocking scarily form side to side, guys, just sit down. Cant believe no one went over at any point. As we set off there were squeals of delight when we saw a Caiman at the side of the river, cameras snapping wildly and our guide laughing even wilder. His laughter becoming clearly justified as by the time we got to camp about 3 hours later, we must have seen at least 500 Caiman and Alligators combined. The journey up the river was awesome. Such a huge variety of weird and wonderful birds and animals, including the Capybara - the worlds biggest rodent. These animals were all
Flight planFlight planFlight plan

herron and another bird
living literally on top of each other, all the birds and rodents mere feet from the Caiman and Alligators and not seeming to be fussed. Truth was the river was so low at the end of the dry season that there was no choice for the animals but to risk getting too close to the predators, living within feet of their own life. Size it seemed was relevant, the capybara often too big to actually be worried about being eaten by the reptilians.

We arrived at what was to be our camp, a raised on stilts version of what looked like the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi. The stilts actually serving a purpose as the river rises up to four meters in the rainy season, forcing the camps height on the stilts. The camp we were at has an annual visit by a 4 meter Caiman that swims under the camp, right under your bed while you sleep. Apparently he took his last human victim four years earlier, one of the local predators did. The camp was fantastic, hammocks in the bar, a beautiful sunset over the jungle in the distant orange horizon. Two in house cats that were possibly the coolest little cats I have ever seen, right in place in the jungle, looking like little black and grey panthers with the believe they were humans and the friendliness of a 6 month old puppy. We settled into our rooms with bunk-beds covered by mozzy nets and toured our plank way tree top village. The showers just a wooden shed, water draining to the jungle floor through the floorboards. I wonder how many times our old friends, natures supreme killing machine, lies submerged in the floods of the monsoon, under the unsuspecting person in the refreshing cold shower, getting dripped on, smelling their prey as they just walk away, along the gang planks of the walk way, stalking them. Or maybe that’s just my writers imagination, we could always ask the last victim…

Our first day was a trip up the river on a snake hunt, the anaconda and cobra. Again, there was an array of jungle animals on the river, unperturbed by our boat making waves as we trundle towards our destination. Our visit to the fields that would usually be a meter underwater was a long day out. The sun was

I forget its name
incredibly hot as we trapped behind out guide, through tall grasses and sporadic jungle, stopping every so often as he poked into shrubs and tree stubs, prodding dead wood and picking things up. We all started to get a little bored in our lack of success after hours of walking, the only ting that held out attention was that one of our group was tackling his fear, of snakes. Fair play to him though, despite the absolute fear that was in his every step, he was there, terrified but tackling the very thing that was his ultimate nightmare, I was very impressed. Eventually there was a noise in the distance, it seemed one of the other groups had found a snake.

We got to a surreal picture of a large group of all denominations gathered around a section of tall grasses. There was a guide with what appeared to be a long tail disappearing into the grass. Everyone standing very close to him snapping away with cameras. At which stage, when I was no more than 3 feet away, and without warning, he removed the snake from the grasses. Now this poor thing had probably been sleeping when he (or she) was grabbed by the tail and pulled into the open air, so you can understand when the cobra started spitting its venom violently at in every direction. Every one ran for their feeble little touristy lives! The cobra was wild with fury, lashing out in all directions, all 2 meters of it, swiping for the guide who was easlessly avoiding its bite like a matador to a bull in a crowded arena. Eventually it calmed down as he began to stroke its tail, and we in turn, took turns to hold and stroke the wild snake. After every one who either brave or stupid enough to do so had their turn, our reptile was release and it, as a serpent does, snaked its way out of sight. So no anacondas but not upset by our finds that day.

The following day was fishing for piranhas. Up stream we stopped at a section, along with another boat and tied up beside. As firstly shown by the guide so we understood it was actually safe to do so, some of us also waded into the water, waist deep and started to fish for one of

3 some?
the worlds most dangerous reputation of fish. Now they were all quite small but it appeared it was quite safe to have a piece of bated hook inches away from your own flesh and they wouldn’t touch you. Which was reassuring as they would make very quick work of any part of you should you have a cut on your leg. Thankfully, it appeared there were no alligators or caiman in that section either! So w dinned on piranha that night, small, tasteless and the smallest fish I have ever eaten, but still the most fun to catch too.

Day three was by far the most fun. We headed down stream and stopped at larger section of river bend. Where we were entertained by our guide calling over a caiman he called “Pedro” and patted him on the head! Then he too some meat and would smack him at the side of the mouth with it and when you could hear a “popping’ noise when he snapped for it. Now in the video it appears that we are teasing him and that we should rightly lose our hands to him, but that’s up to you to decide. What
Snake handlerSnake handlerSnake handler

spitting viper
then you might consider as too be nothing short of stupid, was to go swimming in that river bend with two caiman on the river banks. The only reason we could do this, as informed by our guides, was that this section of the river was owned by the pink river dolphin which protects people and will actually attack any caiman or alligator in its territory. So, again, first show it was ok by the guides to do so, some brave/stupid few of us went for a swim in the murkiest, most dangerous water full of piranhas and watched by some very large reptiles.

Caling Pedro
Popping Pedro
Swimming with Pedro

Breakfast on our last morning was good enough to send out invitations to some of the locals. We were joined by a whole family of local monkeys who were very happy to eat bananas right out of the palm of our hands! The journey back was a little dull, damp and deflating. It had been an amazing time in the rainforest and now we just had to sit in the rain on the 7 hour trip back to the town. The drive however was at least quite entertaining as
snake skinsnake skinsnake skin

recently shen viper skin
the roads were so wet we just skidded the whole way back in the mud. Planes were delayed due to rain as our little twin rowed flyer wouldn’t take off or land in the rain. That was fine, another night out with Rowan and Kath was a lot of fun. The next day however, I learnt the value of seatbelts in planes!

Monky Breakfast

I had always thought that seatbelts in planes were pointless (and have now been shown twice just how important they actually are!) as if you’re going to crash, what’s the point? You’re going to die. Well, as we were coming into land back in La Paz, maybe ten minutes before we touched down, and as we were all strapped in, we dropped. Now I have no idea how much we fell by, but it was violent and far enough to know that if all of us hadn’t been, or it was mid flight, we would have hit the roof of the cabin with quite some force. Very happy t have landed that time safely. The second lesson I have just had yesterday landing in Melbourne (Yes, I am now in Australia, but we’ll

cappibara and herron
get to that) which would also have had people swimming in mid air of the cabin.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26



blur in focus
i c ui c u
i c u

caimen submerged

bananna breakfas

our new friend

risky little manouvre

There were hundreds of them all along the river

probably deid from a snake bite

angry spitting little fella
cappi baracappi bara
cappi bara

worlds largest rodent

all wildlife sharing the river

3rd October 2010
pirana fishing

hi cutie

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