Rurrenebaque - Las Pampas

Rurrenabaque Travel Blog

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Sausage boat

We had to escape La Paz so arranged a trip to the pampas to get to one with nature and avoid the Wild Rover bar. We turned in early and I set my alarm for four so we would be up in time for the flight.

I should mention that my ‘phone had been water damaged on the death road such that the buttons had become somewhat temperamental.

4 a.m. arrived and the loud strains of Hip Hop by Dead Prez came blasting out of my phone. I tried to turn it off but the buttons weren’t playing - shit - everyone in the dorm was going to hate me when I woke them up.

I jumped out of bed to try and get the phone away from the sleepers when I realized my major faux pas. I was only wearing boxers and had raging morning wood.

Friendly locals

With one hand attempting to stifle my tumescence and the other frantically trying to get the ‘phone to shut the hell up I sprinted (albeit in the style of Quasimodo) to the door in the dark, enjoying a comedy slip on the way.

I finally made it to the bathroom, took out the battery, calmed myself down, checked that my wrist wasn’t broken (it was quite a heavy fall with a non-textbook landing) and then went back to the dorm. The lights were on and Irish was packing his bags - it turned out we were the only two people in the dorm.

At the airport a beautiful and surprisingly tall air hostess was in front of us at the baggage check and we joked that she would be our hostess.

As we got onto the piss-takingly diminutive ‘plane we realized that it was going to be improbable, unless she was going to crawl on her hands and knees down the aisle with a shoebox full of coffees.

'Nam sunset

The aircraft was so small that there was an open cockpit, with the sign ‘authorized flight personnel only’ although there was barely enough room for the pilots to fit in there, let alone any interlopers.

After the forty minute flight we touched down in Rurrenabaque - hot, humid and full of mosquitos.

We got the airport bus to the tour office and then onto our minibus. It quickly became apparent that we were in the sausage tour group - one couple and seven blokes. Spiffing.

The first part of the journey was a four hour minibus journey to the Madidi National Park. This was down very basic roads - stones rattled the undercarriage of the van, if anything overtook us we had to stop to wait for the dust cloud to clear and the bumps on the road took such a toll that I had to get clothes out of my bag to use as seat padding.

"Pink dolphins"

Nowhere near soon enough we arrived at the river and climbed into the boat for the next leg.

This started well, kicking back in a boat in the sunshine, oohs, aahs and camera clicking as we went past alligators and capybara. After about an hour the boat suddenly ground to a stop.

‘Okay, the river is low at the moment so you need to get out and push…’

The water was quite shallow with no alligators to be seen, so it wasn’t too much of a problem… the first time. On the twentieth time we scrambled out of the boat, pushed it for a few minutes before tumbling back in it started to get a bit old.

About four hours later we made it to the jungle lodge, had amazing food then pootled around the corner in the boat to the sunset bar.

Sat on a wooden walkway above the trees and river, surrounded by mosquitos and with sixties tunes in the background it felt like we were getting a taste of ‘Nam.

Wobbly road
Without the claymores, napalm or violence, obviously.

We then headed out on a night time caiman hunt - torches make their eyes flash orange. The highlight was when a huge alligator surfaced right next to the boat and thrashed around a bit, leading to soiled underwear all round.

Day 2

We woke to the sound of monkeys throwing berries and shit (actual shit) at the tin roof of the lodge. A feast for breakfast then on with the wellies and off to search for anacondas.

We found the first five anacondas quite easily, as they were dead. After a good half hour of poking around in the wetlands we finally found a live one, poked it with sticks for a bit and took photos. The joys of nature.

Then we carried on walking just long enough that it began to get tedious before returning to the lodge for another excellent meal.

Teeny 'plane

The afternoon was piranha fishing. After about two hours I finally caught one - it became clear that the fish were small enough to nibble around the hooks so none could be properly caught. Of the seven piranhas that we caught all had been hooked through the eye or side with a lucky (or unlucky from the aquatic viewpoint) line cast.

We then adjourned to the bar again then back to the lodge for tea with a side plate of grilled piranha. Tastes a bit like cod.

Day 3

The third day started with the hunt for pink dolphins. After a fair bit of boat pushing uncomfortably close to alligators (with me jumping into the boat in blind panic when my foot got caught up in some sticks) we saw a greyish dolphin surface very briefly. Job done.

The afternoon was stupid time. We were taken to an alligator infested pond, and went swimming in it while a tour guide kept at least some of them busy with bits of raw chicken, though I couldn’t help worrying that the chicken was just the entrée.

We then did the reverse trip to Rurranbaque, punctuated with a trip to the airport on the back of some local’s motorbike, sans helmet of course.

Tired, sunburnt and mosquito-bitten it was good to get back to La Paz.

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Sausage boat
Sausage boat
Friendly locals
Friendly locals
Nam sunset
'Nam sunset
Pink dolphins
"Pink dolphins"
Wobbly road
Wobbly road
Teeny plane
Teeny 'plane
photo by: jendara