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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 31 Oct 2006

Location: Pampas Tour from Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

MapMore long journeys - we met our tour group, the six of us who had booked together plus 3 others - 3 hours by minibus to the Rio Yacuma and then 4 hours by canoe. As we were waiting for our canoe the wildlife encounters began - the fiercest mosquitos we have known started dining on us, taking little notice of the deet we had put on or even our clothes - the most bites were on our backs and ankles! But as soon as we got moving on the river, the real wildlife viewing began. Just round the corner from the landing stage, we saw our first alligators, then turtles, all sorts of birds and finally capybaras - the largest rodent in the world and sooo cute.

Arriving at the lodge we were greeted with tea, popcorn and biscuits and allocated two rooms - one for 7 people and the other for 2 - Wilmoed and Ruben from Holland won the toss and took the double room. We were also told that the shower pump was broken so we could either wash in the river, with the alligators and possibly piranhas, or stay dirty - the preferred option for everyone.

Our first activity was a trip to a local ´sunset bar´- aka a hut along the river by a football pitch, where Colin foolishly had a very sweaty kick-about with Mat from Switzerland (everybody else being more sensible). Had a beer watching the sunset then back to the lodge for dinner - the food was excellent considering the limited facilities and all beautifully presented - beetroot cut into shapes and radish flower decorations etc. Being back at a reasonable altitude definitely improved our appetites. After dinner we took the canoe out to look for alligators - there were loads of them.

Following a good night´s sleep (no snoring) we set off on our anaconda hunt through the pampas behind the lodge. We were lucky to have chosen waterproof wellingtons - others leaked letting in the foul smelling muddy water. According to our guide, Antonio, the wellies were protection against insects and snakes - not water! We saw a false cobra quite early on, but had no luck with the anacondas - but Antonio was determined to find one so we kept on walking. It was so hot and humid that most of the group stopped caring about anacondas and just wanted to make it back to the lodge before they passed out. At last we saw a baby anaconda shyly poking its head out of a hole - Antonio found a larger one but it disappeared into a hollow tree before we saw it - Colin bravely (foolishly?) tried looking in through a hole but couldn´t see anything.

After lunch we went further up river in search of the pink river dolphins, found them and swam with them - Antonio assured us that the dolphins (small and friendly) frightened off the alligators (big and fierce) and piranhas (tiny but fierce) and we believed him. It was wonderful - they didn´t come really close but were only about 2m away swimming all around us.

Next day we went piranha fishing just near where we had swum with the dolphins, which were still around - as were the piranhas! Piranha feeding would be a more accurate description of the activity as they managed to nibble the cow bait from the hooks with ease - it was quite interesting that all our group, who the previous day had been shocked by another guide holding a snake by its tail and were pleased that Antonio respected nature, had no qualms about trying to hook piranhas (not even the vegetarians). Only Mat caught a small yellow piranha, although Erin caught 2 sardines - as we were about to run out of bait, Antonio gave up on us and effortlessly caught a larger red piranha to show us before returning it to the river.

After lunch we returned to Rurre and spent the evening with the group sampling cocktails during happy hour (12 Bols, about 80p) and eating pizza - quite a bizarre experience on the edge of the jungle in Bolivia. Even more strangely, Shanine (who lives in Curacao) was drinking Blue Curacao cocktails!

We were woken up the next morning by the military band and watched a parade in honour of some local anniversary. The Bolivian navy have a base in town next to our hotel - they had woken us up previously doing a training jog in heavy boots singing an American marine style song, which seemed to involve repeating the chant "Coca Cola". Back to La Paz - this time by direct flight from Rurre airport (field).