La Paz - Rurrenabaque - Cochabamba
10.10.2011 - 13.10.2011 36 °C
After my near death experiences mountain biking down the Most Dangerous Road in the World (http://www.gravitybolivia.com/view?page=12), I decided to opt for a relaxing trip to sea level. Rurrenabaque (http://www.rurrenabaque.com.bo/index.php?mc=144) <sorry this PC doesn´t let me do links> is in the Amazon Basin on the Beni River surrounded by green hills, jungle and endless pampas. Who knew that Bolivia wasn´t all Butch-Cassidy-and-the-Sundance-Kid-hot-and-dusty.
Fact Freaks may like to know that Bolivia has 22 National Parks that account for 18% of the country. Madidi is one of the world´s intact ecosystems with 44% of New World Mammal species, 38% of tropical amphibians species, almost 1000 kinds of birds and more protected species than any other park in the world.
After arriving on an 18 seater plane, experiencing serious turbulance over the mountains and coming to standstill at a shack on a green field, I sign up with an operator committed to the responsible tourism charter. I choose the pampas (tropical wetland savannah) over the jungle - more critters and less bugs. The solar-powered lodge is on The Yacuma River (it means accurately, dirty water) that flows into The Amazon and I have bats circling inside my room and frogs on the steps outside. We spend a couple of days in a dugout canoe travelling up and down river looking for wildlife. The most dispiriting 3 hours was spent looking for anaconda in the searing sun (36 degrees and humid), but to no avail. I remind myself that seeing the animals is a priviledge not a right.
On the plus side we see more spectacled caiman than you can shake a stick at (and babies), some black caiman reaching 3m long, and families of capybara lounging by the riverside in the water and in mud pools. The most entertaining sight was watching the Mexican stand off between the caiman and capybara. Both watching each other by the riverside and both knowing that the adults don´t fit in a caiman´s mouth and the caiman knowing hunger. Howler and capuchin monkeys peered at us from the trees and yellow-spotted turtle followed us with their eyes as they sunned themselves on braches sticking out of the river.
Twitchers will be in paradise. We saw the great egret, cocoi heron, tiger heron, striped heron, hoatzin (stinking bird), woodrail, jacana, three types vultures, hawks, king fisher, vermillion flycatcher, and the list goes on and on. Mari, my Finnish boat-buddy (think Russian shot putter) and I fished for pirhana, against my better judgement. I caught a red pirhana (the yummiest apparantly) but made a point of throwing it back with a tummy full of best beef bait.
The highlight has to be the pink dolphins (http://www.isptr-pard.org/dolphin.html) on the last day. We travel upstream for three hours to a bend in the river that is relatively deep and wide. The dolphins can usually be found up and down the river but as it is the end of the dry season they have congragated in this pool until the rains come. They are dolphins only a mother could love, pig ugly with pink beaks and fins. They prove to be very shy but we spend an hour watching them fin languidly round the pool, coming up for air and sometimes diving down so we get to see a small breach. Joy.