It was not on my initial To Do list for Bolivia, but after several people told me about the awesome jungle tours and after my body failed miserably at dealing with the altitude to go hiking, I decided to give it a try. Together with Oliver we decide one night to book a flight for the next morning and off we go… or at least we try! First, the booking I made at night didn’t quite turn out (I paid but didn’t get any confirmation. The (English speaking) hotline can fix it the next morning and we arrive well on time for our 11.40pm flight. At check in we are already told that due to the bad weather conditions, the other flights to Rurrenabaque were cancelled but they will regroup everyone in a flight at 1pm in a big plane.
Not too worried we sit and wait, but then don’t get to bord the 1pm flight – together with many others. We enquire, apparently no big plane but 3 small ones, ours is departing at 4pm. More sitting and waiting. Until we are finally called at 4.30pm for an information. There is not going to be another plane today, too late, weather too bad, too dark, … pick and choose any reason you want. They are uncomfortable when we ask about our luggage, we are taken to the carrier belt but only 3 backpacks are there. We need to follow them to the check-in counters where I try to ask in Spanish one of the guys what’s happening and if our packs are already in Rurrenabaque. He smiles awkwardly and admits that the luggage has already been sent to Rurrenabaque with one of the earlier planes. After some more discussion we get each the equivalent of 7€ because they lost the luggage and a ticket for the first flight tomorrow morning. The rest is our own problem, they are not responsible for rescheduled flights. Luckily at this stage of my journey I am the most relaxed person in the world and I didn’t even mind waiting a full day at the airport without taking off. Together with two Israelis having the same trouble as we do we take a taxi back into town, to their hostel which turns out quite nice so we decide to stay there for the night and share another taxi in the early morning back to the airport. They also recommend to us an agency where we can book a jungle tour – we don’t want to loose another day so we prefer booking tonight and being picked up from the airport tomorrow to start the tour directly. We end up finding the agency and booking a Pampas tour. There are either jungle tours (camping in a natural reserve and do some walks, you are deeper in the jungle but don’t necessarily see many animals) or so called Pampas tours (where you are driven around in a boat and can more easily see animals). We also manage to buy a tooth brush and soap, changing my clothes for the night and tomorrow is not going to happen though.
Next morning, new luck! This time its perfect weather, flight almost on time but what an incredible one! The tiniest plane ever (can’t believe I actually asked for a window seat and the guy didn’t even chuckle – there are only 2 seats in each row!), the greatest mountain views ever even though the Amazonas is quite cloudy.
After disembarkation we are picked up and taken to the agency and half an hour later we are already in a jeep, a 4h tour to the start of the boat trip. Our little group consists of the 2 Israelis, a French couple, another French and Oliver and me. The boats are rather long so they can fit all of our luggage, food and water and off we go already! The first day is already going to be amazing! I like to be floating, watching the nature around me so effortlessly. At almost sea-level I am also able to breath and walk more easily again, it’s warm, tropical but not too hot.
And very soon we are already right in the middle of some small yellow monkeys, jumping all around us and on us, trying to steal our food. They are actually fed by some of the guides, I am not very happy about it but it is what it is, this is why I wasn’t quite sure about wanting to do the Pampas tour, it’s very touristy and feeding the “wild” animals is not right in my view. It’s fun nevertheless I have to admit.
Our “lodge” consists of a pier, a dining room, a few dorm rooms, bathrooms, hammocks. Good enough for me! After a good dinner we get back into the boat to drive to the sunset place. There’s no sunset but beer and all other groups. Of course I meet again someone from previous tours, South America is just such a small continent!
The next morning we enjoy a delicious breakfast, prepared by the family who provides the whole accommodation for us. Then we put on some rubber boots, see some close up caymans right next to our lodge and drive to a specific area where we will walk around for quite a while. After seeing the first snake (not very happy again, very touristy feeling!), we start walking into the water,… and as it’s just the end of the rainy season the water level is still so high that our rubber boots are soon not high enough… It’s quite cool in the beginning but then just warm and difficult and we don’t get to see much. But hey, at least I can now claim to have eaten termites once in my life, they tast a bit like menthol (so much about my “vegetarian” diet ;-)).
Finally we are back in the boat and head back to the lodge for our lunch. After a nice rest (sleeping!) we go fishing! First time fishing in my life and I am not successful. At all. 0 fish. But the others are more lucky, sardines and piranhas will provide a nice dinner tonight. We also drive back to the same sunset spot but cannot see much more tonight. But then we are also off for a night tour, caymans have reflective eyes and so we sit with our torches in the boat and try to spot the glowing eyes of caymans – and we see plenty! More beauty is around us, the light of fireflies above the trees is magical.
On our last day we go swimming with the pink dolphins! Ok I admit, I don’t fancy a dip in the brown water that much and rather enjoy watching the others being all excited about the dolphins. Unbelievable the dolphins don’t actually swim away from all the screaming tourists 😉
We are back for an early lunch and then its already time to drive back by boat and then by car into Rurrenabaque. These three days were quite special as I have never been in a jungle and it was completely different from anything I experience during my time out so far. But for some time now I have the feeling that I want to go back. I thought it’s the tiredness of the high altitude, but even here in the jungle I couldn’t fully enjoy my time. I have a longing to go home and it’s decided, once I am back into civilisation and wifi, I will book my flight back home.
Special thanks again to Oliver for some of the pics as my camera died and the smarthphone isn’t made for wildlife pics! And just because even Oliver’s zoom was not good enough, here’s a selection of the amazing shots by my fellow traveller Sylvano (I hope it’s ok Sylvano – very low resolution) – just so everyone can admire the amazing animals we saw on this trip: