A Sloth in the Wild
Apparently really rare to see in the wild but we managed to see 2 on the way to the pampas!
After the Inca trail we headed back to Bolivia to finish off the parts we hadn´t managed to get to in time before our date with them there hills. Our friends Esther & Bianca (as appearing in Chapters Easter Island, Sucre, Potosi and La Paz...) recommended the trips they´d finally managed to book and relying on their good judgement we booked EXACTLY the same trips! and we weren´t to be disappointed.
So we started by flying to Rurrenbaque
...the town (in the loosest sense of the word) that provides the gateway to the MADIDI national park jungle and the pampas
. It´s a nice relaxing place and we stayed at a lovely hostel (ORIENTAL...just in case anyone is going that way).
We started with the Pampas trip, 3 days tripping along the rivers and flooded plains looking at a whole host of animals. We did our trip with BALA TOURS...highly recommend them! It was just Gordon and I on the trip, although others were at our lodge the day we arrived and more came the day we were leaving, but for the boat rides it was just us two and our guide. Considering we were in the middle of no-where the
lodge was amazing and the food they served up superb...and as always in Bolivia...far more than we could eat.
We had a long drive to get to the river, however luck was on ourside and we managed to spot 2 SLOTHS and quite a few birds along the way that made it more interesting (and the bumps more bearable!).
Once at the river we had lunch and then set off on an afternoon trip just back up the river a bit to do what was my highlight.....swim with river dolphins (PINK) It took me a few moments to prepare myself for the jump in but then Gordon kindly helped with a big push! We played ball with them and they played bumping into our feet.....it´s amazing how simple things can be so hysterical.
That night we went Cayman hunting (just to look not to eat). We found them positioned in the water where we´d been swimming just a few hours earlier...nice! luckily I´m told the dolphins will defend us. Our hosts also found us some Night Monkeys playing in the trees by our lodge...although my eyesight wasn´t good enough to actually see them! Oh and they found
us a nice poisonous snake and some frogs around the place.
Next day we got up early to go bird (and turtle) watching along the river and also managed to find some Howler Monkeys and Squirrel Monkeys in the trees that lines the river. We finished with a treck along the road to try and spot an Anaconda but luck was not our´s for this one....oh well. At this spot, on the shores we saw the largest rodent in the world...the Cavyvara...quite cute looking but blimming enormous! the size of a pig. After lunch it was boiling so we all (including all the workers at the lodge) went for another swim with the Dolphins. This time I managed to have a pretty good game of ball with them and Gordon managed to have one eat his feet! (they´re no longer friends I´m told)..they obviously like the taste of cheese.
On our last morning we went bird and monkey hunting again and were very lucky this time to find a whole colony of squirrel monkeys in a bush. Our guide crashed the boat into the bush and the monkeys started to jump onto and then off the boat. They
are a very curious and bold monkey (and luckily very small and harmless! unless all 100 decide to attack you that is). We also manage to see (unusually) a porcupine up a tree..
To name all the birds we saw would require a better memory than mine but I did note quite a few. Now I´m no means a twitcher but to watch them fly across the rivers, make their calls to mates and fish in the waters was very entertaining (still love monkeys and dolphins though). Those that I can remember are...
Jabaru, Heron, Paradise Bird, Kingfisher, Snail Kite, Vulture, Hawk and Toucan (this addition is for Sarah who likes birds best!).
Overall we had a fine time and would definitely recommend a Pampas trip to anyone.
The day after arriving back from this trip we set out on our jungle trip...to a lodge called Chalalan...an eco lodge run by the community that live around it. It is based on a lake quite deep into the jungle (in fact an 8 hour boat ride up river for us that day!) Again, given the remote location it was amazing how well set up the place was and
what lovely food was served. Our only concern on this location was that an 8 hour ride was a bit too far for a short stay (for us 2 nights...for one poor guy only one night!).
This concern is especially because it was only just after rainy season and yet still it was pretty impossible for the boat to pass up some parts of the river (Dry season is most popular so imagine if the river is even lower!) so much so that we kept having to get out of the boat to lighten the load and at one point, even with us out the boat the driver managed to ground the boat in the middle of the river..far away from where we were stood! After a 10 minute wait the herioc boys decided it was time to help mister boatman unstick the boat.....so off they waded out across the current....the slipped and staggered across. It was at this point that we saw it was not quite so shallow....underpants were getting wet (and that is all some were wearing!!) and saw that the current was actually pretty strong (they also told us after how the rocks flowed down with
the crrent and bashed ther ankles as they tried to hold their balance). It was quite comical to watch but not so comical to be part of. Eventually (after what seemed like an age) all of them reached the boat and with the extra strength they managed to push the boat free..wooo hooo our heroes. They all climbed in the boat and then set sail up stream to pick up the "ladies".
As we expected from the reviews of people who had done pampas and jungle before you do see more animal life on the pampas trip but we were lucky and across our 2 days we saw White Lipped Peccaries (very smelly wild pigs), tarantulas, enormous ants (not that I´d call that lucky!). We saw more Squirrel and Howler monkeys, as well as Cappucin monkeys. Birdwise we saw the horned Screamer and Hoatzin (disgusting smelly birds that are so disgustingly smelly that nothing will hunt them even though they can hardly fly...both of these facts due to their special stomach system that is like that of a cow). Also, thanks to a great telescope we got some close up views of toucans, McCaws and a White Collared Hawk.
In addition to the animals we actually had some interesting walks hearing about the trees and their quirks or even medicinal properties.....it´s amazing what people survive with, even nowadays as they´re no way near a doctor. Tree sap can cure Leishmaniasis, a nasty disease transmitted by sandflies, other leaves have antibacterial properties... and a lot more things I can´t remember! There are trees that walk (all be it a few inches a year) through their moving roots and other trees that grow by strangling others...who knew there´d be murder amongst the flora!
Anyway it was all good fun and we loved seeing the animals in their own environment. We really enjoyed our time in MADIDI and would recommend it to anyone even for a short holiday....it´s only an hour´s flight from La Paz.
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