On August 12th, we left three of our bags in storage with the hotel Torino, and went to the airport to catch a plane to Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Amazon. La Paz's airport is apparantly the highest international airport in the world - it sits above 4000 meters and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. After takeoff, we passed over a chain of these mountains, and then they were replaced by dense jungle with rivers. Beautiful. We arrived in Rurrenabaque, and checked into Hostel Santa Ana.
August 13th, we were woken up at 6 am by a racket next door. The hostel is expanding or someting, and there were people drilling into the other side of the wall of our room. Too damn noisy - so we decided to move hotels, and checked into the Hotel Rurrenabaque instead. The woman there was very nice, and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Then we walked around to some different tour operators, to find out about the available jungle and pampas tours. They all seemed to charge about the same, and in the end we just booked a pampas tour with the first people we had seen. My belly started acting up, I don't know what caused it, but I had to stay near a toilet all day.
On the 14th we were supposed to go away on the pampas tour, but I had had a really bad night, and my stomach was still hurting me so much, so Alan went to the agency and moved the tour to the next day. I was in so much pain from my belly, that I was moaning and rolling around in bed. Al went to the pharmacy and got me some remedies - anitacid, laxatives and some antibiotics. The pills helped eventually, but I was still sick as a dog all day.
August 15th, I felt a bit better - although I was not quit myself yet. We decided to go ahead with the tour. We caught a 4WD for about three hours along a dust road. The dust clouds came in through the windows and covered our hair and clothes. Then, we transferred to a long, motorized canoe, and sailed along the Rio Yacuma for another four hours. Luckily, there was lots to see along the way.
We saw lots of alligators and caimans
And we saw some capybaras, and so many different birds it was unbelievable!
We also saw a howlermonkey in a tree, and lots of pink river dolphins, and a group of squirrelmonkeys, who came down to be hand fed bananas.
We made it to the camp and got settled in. We then went to a bar down the river (more like a shed with some tepid drinks for sale), to watch the sunset. Then, after dark, we went on a canoe trip to look for more alligators. It was cool and eerie to see their eyes reflected in the lights from our torches. We also saw some fireflies, which I love. It was fun to turn all the torches out, and just listen to the sounds of the birds in the trees etc. Our guide caught a small alligator, and we got to hold it. Obviously, you really should leave the animals alone, but it was quite amazing to touch its skin and see its eyes close up. Tired, we went back to camp to get some sleep.
On the 16th, we got up around 7.30 and had some breakfast in the camp. Then we sailed down the river a bit, and went for a walk in the pampas looking for snakes. The pampas is like a marsh or wetland, which is totally flooded in the wet season. At this time of year, its a bit drier, and we could walk in it with wellies. We found a baby tarantula, and a cobra
and also a small anaconda
We went back to camp to siesta during the hottest hours of the day. We then spent the afternoon looking for pink dolphins again on the river. We found a few, and also saw lots of other wildlife again. We saw some turtles
and lots of capybaras, even some with babies
We then went back to the camp, to chill out. Alan tried to fish from the river bank, but the resident alligator named Antonio, kept chasing his bait.
August 17th, we skipped the planned sunrise walk, as it had turned overcast. We had breakfast in camp, and then went fishing for piranhas. There were lots of them, but they were so small that they could not swallow the hooks, and they just ate the meat off the hooks instead. The trick to catching them was to pull them in so quickly that they did not have time to let go of the meat. Fun. In one bend on the river, we encountered a large group of the pink river dolphins, and this time they got closer than ever before. It was very cool. Some of the guys jumped in, and a dolphin came right up and splashed water on them.
We went back to the camp and had lunch, and then returned to Rurre. It went faster this time, as we were sailing down river. We were back in town by five pm, and checked back into Hotel Rurre, then had dinner and drinks with the others from the tour group.
On the 18th, we were going to look around for a jungle tour, but this time Alan was not feeling too well, and so we just chilled out in the hotel instead.
August 19th, we talked to some agencies about doing a fishing trip into the jungle on the Rio Beni. They all wanted to much money, but in the end Flecha tours, whom we had done the pampas tour with, offered to do it fo 25 dollars a day - and they said we could stay in their jungle lodge, and go out every day on the boat to fish. We thought that sounded good, and so booked three days with them.
On the 20th, we thus headed up the river Beni to the Flecha jungle lodge. It took a few hours, but again the trip was beautiful. Not as many animals as on the pampas, although still a few birds, but the river here was fringed by dense jungle, which gave it a special feeling. We got to the jungle lodge and unloaded our stuff, and had lunch. To our dismay, we then realised that the boat had left, and we were stuck at the camp without any way to fish except right off the beach in front, where it was too shallow to catch anything. The guide said the boat would return the next day at noon - but that was not really the way we had agreed it with the agency. We fished anyway, as we had nothing else to do, but only caught one tiny catfish.
On the 21st, we got up, had breakfast, and then went down to the beach to wait for the boat to return. Fished to pass the time, but caught nothing. We were annoyed with the whole thing, and as we found out the boat would only be at the camp a few hours before returning to town with the other group in the camp, we decided to go back with them. We got back to town, and had to argue with the tour agency for two hours to get any money back off them, even though they had not lived up to the agreement. They claimed we had to pay as we had stayed in the camp - but we didn't really have a choice. In the end they refunded 50% of the money, but they were really rude about it, and the lady there told us to go back to our own country. By the time we had finished, the airline officed were closed, and so we had to wait till the next day to book a ticket out of town.
August 22nd, we tried to book a flight out for the same day, but they were all full. So we bought tickets for the flight tomorrow morning, and then just hung out in Rurre and waited to get out.
On the 23rd, we went to the airline office at 7 am, and by 9 we were on the flight. Made it to La Paz, and returned to the Hotel Torino. We went to get lunch in the Radisson - and on the way my bag got slashed again! They did not get anything, but it still pissed me off. Now we were ready to get out of here, and we decided to save the salt flats for when we get back to Bolivia, and instead start heading for Argentina...
Remember, there are more pictures from Rurrenabaque on www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5