Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wild Times in the Amazon Basin (by Todd)

Yet again, bright and early we packed our bags and left our hostal to strike out for the Bolivian Pampas, which is roughly equivalent to the Everglades and swamp areas of Louisiana. Our group had eight members (and we were one of three groups heading out on the same trip). Unbeknownst to us we had booked with the recommended tour agency from the Lonely Planet guidebook...not necessarily a bad thing, since it is always fun to meet folks from other places (we were the only Americans).

We squeezed into our Landcruiser and were off...until we ran out of gas less than one mile from town! Apparently when the local gas station gets its tanks filled, the enterprising locals drain them all and resell the gas on a secondary market. We made several stops at random houses, after which the driver would appear with a 2-liter Coke bottle filled with a yellowish liquid, which would be dumped into the gas tank and on we went to the next stop on the pirate gas tour. After 3 hours of this charade we were on our way, and due to being late the driver did his best to emulate his favorite Dakar rally racer.

Mercifully in about 3 hours we arrived at the river, piled into a little boat, and were off along the river. Almost immediately we began seeing caiman (similar to crocodiles but mostly black in color) lounging on the riverbank, and even in the river just feet from our boat. There was probably a caiman or alligator every 20 yards or so. Same story for capybayra, which are essentially gigantic guinea pigs. Along with those we saw pink dolphins, and several species of monkeys and birds.

Our camp was pretty deep in the pampas, so it was basic (it had running cold water and electricity) but came supplied with a sweet circular hammock room - immediately a beer run was commenced downriver, led by (of course) a very jocular Irish guy named Myles. We enjoyed some good food, good conversation, even music (live and on somebody´s iPod) each evening in the camp. We did have some drama - one of our group members apparently snored quite loudly one night, there was much yelling and consternation (of course I slept through all the commotion while Juli was awakened by it).

In addition to running the river looking for wildlife, we walked for 4 hours in fairly intense heat and humnidity in search of anacondas. At the very end, we heard over the radio that another group had found one so we double-timed it through waist-length grass to get there. Once we got there, a swarm of killer bees began attacking the other group and they were all running our direction telling us to do the same. But eventually the anaconda was re-captured and we stood in a circle watching it unwind itself from its defensive position. I joked with the group, "so when the anaconda unwnids and starts moving towards one of us, they must be the winner". Guess who was the winner. I did my best to stay still as it slithered around my feet and as soon as the coast was clear I ran away to the other side.

We then went swimming with the river dolphins, which neither Juli or I participated in due to her open wound on her leg and to my hestitancy to jump in right next to two alligators. Fortunately the only damage sustained was to another swimmer who got bit by a piranha. We got our revenge on the piranhas the next day by catching a few for lunch, aftr which we jumped back on the boat for the long journey back to Rurrenabaque. Issues ensued during that journey, but we did make it on our flight back to La Paz for the evening, where we got ready to leave Bolivia for Cusco Peru.


Anonymous said...

You are one brave couple! Sounds like a wild adventure you're having. Did Juli manage to photograph this anaconda at your feet?

Juli said...

Yes, I got pictures of todd trying to run away from the anaconda. It was pretty entertaining for me.