It was really strange to be able to see the pilots, but also really cool. It made me especially nervous when he kept taking his hands off the steering wheel!!
Luckily for me the flight was only a quick 40 minute flight straight up and over the Andean mountain range. The views really were quite breathtaking, which definitely helped to ease my anxiety.
Once we were over the Andes and had bumped our way thought the clouds, BAM! There was the glorious Amazon river…well at least I thought it was until the man in front of me ruined my vibe by telling us it was intact the Beni river. It was still beautiful and exciting to see.
After a horrible landing we had arrived in the lovely jungle town of Rurrenabaque. Luckily for us they had recently had the runway paved, it used to be just grass. Can you imagine!? The airport was quite funny to see. It actually just looked like someone’s house.
After a few dramas with our booking (in true Bolivian style) we managed to check in to our hostel. After spending nearly two months at high altitude it was just the best feeling to be able to breath normally again. I couldn’t help just taking in big gulps of air and smiling. To feel the heat on my skin again and to be able to wear flip flops was a real treat. Rurrenabaque is a lovely little town with a real jungle feel and almost a small beach town feel, just without the beach! We ate at the most amazing restaurant for dinner, it was owned by a former Aussie and his Bolivian wife. It was hands down the best meal I’ve had since entering South America.
Fish curry, wrapped in a banana leaf and put on the BBQ from El Nomadico, Rurrenabaque
The next day we got up bright and early to start our jungle tour. After much consideration we opted to do a ‘Pampas tour’ instead of the jungle tour. The Pampas tour in more about the wetlands of the Amazon Basin and focused more on the wildlife. The jungle tour focused more on the plants of the jungle. I would have loved to do both tours, like a lot of people here to so you can get the most out of your jungle experience but time and money were an issue.
There were 8 people on our tour. A lovely Dutch couple, a German couple and two hilarious English boys. They were all great people and definitely made the trip very enjoyable. The first part of our trip involved a 3 hour extremely bumpy car ride down to the Beni river. The road was unpacked and so dusty. At times I would glance out the front window and just see nothing but dust, the driving just kept on charging through without knowing what was in front of him…best not to look out the front window any more.
After a quick lunch stop we reached the river and was greeted with our new mode of transport for the next 3 days, a wooden motor boat!
We piled in our bags, got a seat and began our three hour journey down the river to our ego lodge. We spotted so much wildlife on the way! More than I ever expected to see. We saw so many crazy types of birds, hundreds of Caiman (similar to a crocodile), monkeys, turtles that like to spoon each other on logs and this other very strange animal which I can’t remember it’s name. To me it looks like a giant guinea pig or perhaps a rabbit with only tiny ears. It has webbed feet and waterproof fur. At one point, one jumped in and swam under our boat the other side of the river in a second. They were really strange but extremely cute!
When we finally reached our lodge it was a pleasant surprise! It was actually really nice. We even got a private room with our own bathroom and hammocks out the front. We grabbed our flash lights, cameras and insect repellent and went to go watch the sunset over the pampas. It was beautiful.
We had a surprisingly yummy dinner them got back into the boat for a night ride down the river to spot the Caimans eyes. Their eyes glow in the dark likes cats eyes do when you shines light on them. It was pretty keeping just seeing all the eyes in the water just meters away from us. At one point all I could see was about 15 pairs of eyes glowing at us along the bank of the river. Our guide thought it would be a great idea to drive up really close to them. I was terrified considering they were on my side of the boat and I was expecting 15 giant Caimans to be there waiting. Instead when we got really close I realised they were just little baby Caimans. Very cute! They all scurried away when the boat got to close, it made me feel a little sad that we had frightened them, it was after all their territory. After our night time cruise we headed to bed for an early night. We slept safe and sound under our mosquito net.
I awoke in the morning to a terrible noise that sounded like some kind of insane monster. I laid there for at least 5 minutes trying to figure out what the hell it was until I realised they were howler monkeys! They make such a horrible noise! After a delicious breakfast, I put on my sexy cream pants and some attractive gumboots supplied to us by lodge, god know how many other people had worn these shoes before me (best not to think about it) and we got into the boat. We were going to hunt for some anacondas!
I really don’t like snakes and I was a little scared but I also really wanted to find one. After about an hour of trudging through the mud and wading in the marsh in extreme heat, I suddenly just couldn’t careless if we found a snake or not. I wasn’t really enjoying myself. My boots kept getting stuck in the mud which I found quite terrifying! Sometimes they just wouldn’t budge at all and I didn’t know what to do. Also wading around in the marsh was hard work and scary since we were after all searching for anacondas who are excellent swimmers. I was extremely sweaty and covered in mud. Hurry up and find a snake so we can leave I kept thinking. After walking through some really tall, itchy grass we came to a creek. Everyone in front of us started cheering. The guides had found two anacondas in the creek. One was a baby and the other one was really big. Apparently the guides hadn’t found two at the same time in over a year so they were really excited and even taking pictures of the posing with the snakes. Then it was everyone else’s turn to hold the snakes. I was a little horrified by the fact that they were actually handling the snakes, we were after all in their habitat in the wild and I didn’t think it was very Eco friendly. The poor little snakes were trying their hardest to swim away while people took it in turns to hold them by the tail, for this reason I did not hold one of them. I did get very close to it though to snap some pictures!
After another hot, itchy walk through the grass and mud and marsh we made it back to the boat. I went back to our room for a quick cold shower and a change of clothes before lunch.
After another delicious meal we got back into the boat for some swimming with the dolphins and piraña fishing. Shortly after beginning our journey we found two pink dolphins swimming around. The boys jumped into the water without a second thought whilst the Caiman watched on from the banks. For me, between the brown water, the caiman and the piranhas it just didn’t really appeal to me, or maybe I was just scared haha. Instead I sat back and tried to snap pictures of the dolphins and laughed along when everyone screamed when something touched their legs. It really was lots of fun. After swimming we headed up the river for some fishing. As soon as we put our lines in we all immediately were getting bites, these fish were smart thought they just kept nibbling at our bait and not getting the hook. We had to try three different spots before we started catching something. There were lots of sardines, dog fish and catfish being caught. I was quite proud of myself when I fought a catfish, my first fish ever! Then I didn’t know what to do with it as I wasn’t going to touch it, luckily my guide carefully took it off the hook for me and put it back in the water. Our guide finally caught some piranhas and Tom caught one too! They are just the weirdest fish, I definitely wouldn’t want to get bitten by those sharp teeth!
We kept some piraña and a big catfish to cook up for dinner. Surprisingly the piraña actually tasted really nice. It’s a mild, white fish but it has a lot of little bones in it. We got a complimentary glass of wine and cake after dinner since it was our last night. After dinner we sat in hammocks with group and had some beers. It was a nice night. We went to bed around 11pm as we had to get up early to watch the sunrise the next morning.
We got the the spot we were going to watch the sunrise at 5:30. It was pitch black and the Mosquitos were out in full force! We stood there for over an hour and watched the sky change colour and finally the sun began to rise. It was so big and bright orange, a sunrise like I’ve never seen before. All the birds began to wake up and fly across the pampas in big groups, it was a fascinating sight to see.
We headed back to the lodge to back our bags and have breakfast. We then chose to go for more dolphin swimming and piraña fishing as it was so much fun the day before. Again everyone caught lots of fish and piranhas. We had lunch then packed up the boat to start our journey back to Rurrenabaque . The boat ride was really nice, hot and with a cool breeze. Perfect weather to sit back and relax and spot some wildlife. The cat ride back however, was far less enjoyable. Our driver was a crazy driver. Firstly he suddenly decided he needed to drive back 15 minutes to the petrol station we just passed to fill up his car, he then drove a bit more and decided he needed to change one of the tyres on his car to an even shitter looking tyre with basically no tread left on it. For the next three hours he drove really fast, slammed on his breaks, flew over bumps and served all over the bumpy unpacked road. I wondered whether I would make it back to Rurrenabaque alive. At one point I some how fell sleep and awoke to smashing my head hard on the window as the driver decided to serve to the other side of the road. No more sleeping for me! I was so glad to make it back in once piece.
We all went out for cocktails to celebrate and say goodbye. Then it was back to the hostel to sleep and prepare for the scary plane ride back to La Paz.
The jungle really was such a beautiful interesting place. Although I didn’t enjoy every single second of it, I really did love it and had the best time. That’s another big fat tick against my list of dreams and goals. Next up, the Salar De Uyuni!