The Amazon Basin

June 4, 2010 - Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

 After a day or two recovering from my mountain exploits (quite how much time spent recuperating in La Paz remains in doubt due to a) the fast pace of the capital and b) pure forgetfulness) Paddy and I made for Bolivia´s nature lover´s paradise; the Amazon basin.  Here most travellers opt for one of two tours, either a 3 day Pampas tour or a slightly longer Jungle trip.  Choosing between the two proved difficult but in the end, having been promised swimming with pink dolphins and caymans, our minds were made up.  The town of Rurrenbaque or "Rurre" is the base for both tours and, lying nestled within the verdant forests of the North East, makes for a perfectly nice few days in itself.  Macaws and strawberry milkshakes go well together here and the squarks and slurps certainly made for a pleasant soundtrack for what felt like 12 hours of continual card playing.

The tour itself began at a civilised 9am and took the two of us, a Candian couple, two Swedish brothers and a bizarre Scottish woman on a 3 hour Jeep ride to the beginning of the meandering, murky waters of the Amazon.  From here a wooden long boat would be our means of transport for the next 3 days.  Speeding along the river, we didn´t have to wait long to see our first glimpse of Amazonian nature as but feet from the boat lay 10 foot long caymans with voracious smiles.  Naturally, about 300 photos were snapped in the first couple of minutes, none of the crew being aware that the entire trip would be full of such sights.  Arriving at our camp in the late afternoon, we were acquainted wih our beds, mosquito nets and Paddy with a boy of 6 who refused to leave his side for 3 days.  At nightfall we again hopped on board the long boat in order to catch sight of the reptiles´ eyes by torchlight.  Seeing their blinking eyes only feet away from you in the darkness was certainly exciting.  A short ride up river and a cold beer waited (along with a plague of mosquitos).

An early wake up, a great breakfast and a short boat ride began the second day as we made our way to the heart of the Pampas.  Here we would be anaconda hunting, a pursuit made popular by both experts and, apparently, complete novices.  After wading through thick, flooded plains of the Pampas (with its own share of wasp nests) we at last came upon the snake´s favourite hangout.  The hunt seemed destined to be fruitless until our guide emerged from the greenery with a 2 metre serpent in hand.  Running off like  madman, he at last subdued the animal so as to let us get a good look and, for the daring, feel.

The afternoon proved best of all as we sped towards the haunt of the Amazon´s pink dolphin.  Seemingly teasing the lense of every tourist, they spring out of the water at random intervals and only long enough for someone to shout "dolphin!".  Nevertheless, jumping into the fast currents and not knowing when a flash of pink would appear next to you was priceless.  Another night at base, international card games and a failed shanghaiing awaited. 

Day 3 of the tour began with some competitive angling.  Successful fishermen sweated and toiled for what seemed like hours until, at last, there emerged a beast measuring at least 3 inches in length.  For an eternity, my attempts proved fruitless until finally I landed my own piranha and joined the legion of heroes.

The Pampas excited and amazed and almost went off without a hitch until the return trip back to Rurre.  Two flat tires and three break-downs were made up for however by a free night´s accommodation and a gigantic pizza.

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