Rising bright and early on Sunday morning eight of us (we had recruited two English) jumped in the taxi and headed to the airport for our flight to Rurrenabaque (Rurre). Most tourists take the 40 minute flight as the alternative is an overloaded local bus that can take at least 25 hours. We had booked a pampas tour of the Amazon for two nights and three days which began from Rurre. After some confusion with the tickets which meant that two of the group had to join us on a later flight we all arrived safely to Rurre. At an altitude of just 105m, the change in temperature was outstanding - we had certainly arrived in the tropics.
We set off from the airport for a three hour journey to Santa Rosa. Loaded tightly into a jeep the long drive on an unsealed road was yet another hair-raising driving event, but interesting all same to see the agriculture in this part of the world.
We arrived at the Yacuma River where we met our guide Marcel and boarded our motorised long boat for a 3 hour journey to our lodgings. The Yacuma River is in the pampas of the Amazon Basin. The pampas area is a swampy wetland which is host to a large amount of wildlife.
The late afternoon temperature was perfect as we gently glided along the river carefully listening and watching for the wildlife. We saw a huge variety including caiman crocodiles, pink dolphins, capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), monkeys, turtles and a huge range of bird life including the vulcher, hawk, woodpecker and much more. Marcel was extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the wildlife which made the experience very interesting.
Pulling into our lodgings for the night we had dinner and went to bed fairly early as with minimal electricity there was not much to do but retire to our mosquito-net covered beds and wall-less rooms.
The next morning we woke early to watch the sun rise. We cruised to a near-by spot and jumped off onto the river bank for a good view point, but unfortunately the clouds came in thick and fast as rain was on its’ way. It was however, lovely to listen to all the wildlife waking up for the day, a very tranquil experience.
After breakfast it was time to put on our long pants and gumboots for our anaconda hunt. Wading for a few hours through the pampas we arrived at a lagoon with literally hundreds of caiman eyes poking above the water surface. It was feeding time and with a loud crunching sound breaking the silence we watched a caiman feast on an unlucky fish.
But our real mission was to find the anaconda, wading through the pampas Marcel soon stumbled across a 5m specimen that was shedding its skin. We all had a close up inspection of this mid-size snake, apparently they can reach up to 70cm in diameter and 10m long.
Pleased with our successful mission we began our journey home. The temperature had dropped suddenly and the clouds burst overhead. We were soaked and freezing by the time we returned to the lodgings to change into the remainder of light clothing we had brought. That afternoon we huddled for body warmth and had a 4 hour siesta as the cold wind and rain battered down.
As accurately predicted by Marcel at 4.30pm the rain stopped, so we jumped back in the boats and headed up stream for a swim with the dolphins. As the air temperature was still cold the water felt very tepid. We all jumped in for a small paddle around but were not so keen to linger with the knowledge that we were sharing the water with piranha, caiman, electric eel and sting ray just to name a few. We did see the pink dolphins nearby, but not close enough to classify as ‘swimming with’. We ended our evening with a slow cruise home watching the reflection of the caiman eyes against torch light above the water. Every couple of metres we saw the glinting red eyes watching us - there were so many of these beasts it was incredible!
It was a chilly nights sleep but we woke the next day to clearer skies and warmer temperatures. We set off after breakfast for a spot of piranha fishing. We all had nibbles but Marcel was the only successful fisherman. It was great to check out the teeth on these ferocious little creatures from the safety of the boat.
We returned for a delicious brunch which included meat cooked on a ground BBQ and various other dishes. We then packed up our muddy gears and headed back to Rurre. Several hours later we made it safely to the airport to board our plane back to La Paz for one night.
We all loved our experience and would recommend it to everyone as a great introduction to the Amazon, but perhaps the real deal would be through Brazil on the Amazon River. It was also obvious that the pampas area we explored was at great risk. There is supposedly a 50 m margin of protection either side of the river but we saw vegetation that had been burnt off to the water’s edge for farming. Very sad, but a reality in these areas.