From jungle to pampas and not back again

Day 4
Early start back to Rurre; beautiful early light, smooth water, fresh breeze. Vultures gliding, giving a lift to a local lady and her two prized catfish en route. Shop for snacks before climbing into 4×4 for 3hr rough rutted road drive to Santa Rosa in the pampas – rivers, wetlands and grasslands. Literally halfway, fuel pump stops working, maybe 20mins wait in extreme heat, vultures circling, for the unperturbed guides to fix it at the 3rd try!
From 4×4 to riverboat, short Yacuma River journey to next lodge. Very very still thick air. Noisy blue&yellow macaws.
Afternoon trip upstream: cormorants, cheeky tortoises comically tipping themselves into the water, shy caiman sheepishly slipping under the water as we pass (even though they look so fierce!) – counted 100 in 8 minutes. Ubiquitous squawking stupid colourful birds! Poor deceased elderly black howler monkey drifting in the river. Numerous wading birds. Craving distinctly cooler air in the shade, and the boat’s full-throttle-breeze. Flying fish. Families of capybaras. Black howler monkey pair and baby. Eagle. Glimpses of pink river dolphins but water level too low for them to play. Swiftly back downstream to the lodge in deliciously cool clear full moonlight, reflected caiman eyes watching, bats flying, Saturn and Mercury shining bright. Lots of Spanish practice at dinner with Bairbre & Simon and the perpetually cheerful Eloy. 🙂 Sense of still swaying on the boat.

Day 5
Howler monkeys roaring. Dense chocolate cake with breakfast.
Downstream trip. Bright hot sunshine. Oppressive heat. Brain thoroughly occupied with scanning water, bank and trees for signs of life. More pink river dolphins. Cows sipping from the river. Another howler monkey. Disembark to go, stick in hand, searching muddy wetlands for…anacondas…unsuccessfully (phew!) due to presence of caiman, and it being the end of the dry season.

Eloy retrieves my camera from perilously resting on the boat edge… Early lunch, say goodbyes (and cross paths with Geraldine again!) and perch in a boat full of Germans with whom I was scheduled to leave. ’80s music medley playing in the car! Drive halfway back to Rurre: exhaust falls off…


Plane debacle
The following afternoon I checked in at the TAM office for my flight back to La Paz, sleepy because of the strong motion sickness tablet I’d taken, waiting on the pavement for the bus to the airport. The 30ish passengers were told the plane hadn’t left La Paz yet due to low temperatures; when it had we’d be getting in the bus to the airport. In the meantime I ordered tea at a cafe just across the street, keeping an eye on the bus. Finally we got to the tiny airport.

Once the plane had landed we had to race to it in the bus, because there are no lights on the runway and the sun was setting. It was busy with disembarking passengers, but we all got on and in our seats, someone making funny wisecracks about the situation. Then the crew said bad news, it’s now too dark and we have to fly tomorrow at 7.30am instead! So we had to pile off, collect our baggage directly from the plane and walk back to the ‘terminal’, fireflies all around…and thunder and lightning which made everyone actually glad to be on terra firma!

Back in Rurre for one more night, it was nice to bump into Simon and Bairbre again to find out what they’d done on their extra day in the pampas (piranha sport fishing). Then the next day, with a 4.45am start but a smooth sleepy and issue-free flight, in the La Paz hostel I found Ariane, from Cusco, sat at the computer writing an email to me so we could meet up! 🙂

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Posted in Bolivia, Parque Nacional Madidi, People, Rurrenabaque, Santa Rosa

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