Friday, 7 May 2010

From the Jungle to BA

We had an absolutely amazing time in the Amazon Basin, the pampas tour was incredible and we saw so many different animals and birds - there are about a million photos to prove it! The journey there however was a different story.

We set off on the Tuesday morning in our Jeep that we'd hired, driven by Armando who was the boss of the tour company! Three hours out of La Paz, we hit a roadblock, a glorious Bolivian tradition where the small winding mountain roads are covered with trees, rocks and people stopping all the traffic from passing. Apparently they had been promised a "machine" (digger/strimmer/wheelbarrow?) by the government and they hadn't got it so why not bring the country to a standstill!? Anyway, we retreated to a hotel nearby to wait it out, hoping that Evo would dig deep and sort it out so we could get on the road again. 8pm arrived and Armie told us there'd been no progress and now there were 200 lorries backed up on the side of the mountain! We spent the night to see if it was different in the morning, and the same rice and steak meal for lunch, dinner and then breakfast!

Come the morning, there'd been no change, but Armie had found us a route! Brilliant. The bad news was it was a 10 hour detour to get to just beyond the roadblock. We set off along what appeared to be an even more questionable "road" through clouds and over rivers and up the sides of some of the biggest mountains we've seen so far. A lot of other people were taking this route the other way, which involved reversing round some very scary corners to get out of their way.

After 10 long hours, we were back on track for another 6 towards Rurrenabaque. This was the bumpiest road we'd ever been on, and we were progressing nicely before coming across another roadblock. Disaster had struck! Thankfully, this roadblock wasn't as militant as the other one, and we were able to pay our way through - a pricey £2.

From then on it was plain, bumpy sailing, until 2.30 am at which point the drug squad stopped us, searched our bags (badly) and asked for our passports, all the while shining torches in our faces. No dog, which was wierd, and we weren't smuggling kilos of fine Bolivian prodcue so on we went, finally arriving in Rurrenabaque at 3.30 am. We were up 4 hours later to head out on the tour.

We headed for 3 hours to Santa Rosa, grumpily managing to make the Aussie chap who'd joined our group feel most unwelcome! We saw Toucans, eagles and cows being herded by a team of Bolivian cowboys. Arriving in Santa Rosa, we made our way onto our longboat to take us to the eco-lodge. Within minutes we had seen alligators, caymen and turtles! We then spotted kingfishers, herons, birds of paradise and a family of capybara, or rat-pigs as they were known for the duration of the trip! The long journey in the jeep had already been forgotten, and when we saw the monkeys life couldn't get better!

The ecolodge itself was basic, and there was bat poo on Sara's pillow, but we ignored that and spent some time getting aquainted with the camps resident cayman. We could sit at the foot of the steps and it would be merely metres away, and feed the resident monkeys who hung about at the back of the camp - a favourite part of the trip for me!

Next day we were off into the pampas to see if we could find an Anaconda. We did, well, an Aussie lady did after about 20 minutes, so we were quite happy and lucky it turned out, the roup the next day spent 3 fruitless hours searching in the blistering heat. We quickly got out of the pampas which was a grassy muddy stink bog, and headed back to camp, Sara's one foot soaked thanks to a leaky welly, not that it stopped her spotting everything there was to be seen - the tiniest frog on a leaf didn't escape her eagle eyes! On the way back to the boat parrots flew overhead - everyone was happy.

That afternoon we (I) went swimming with the pink dolphins. It was more a swim near the dolphins, and as the water was muddy you couldn't really see them. It wasn't a highlight of the tour, although the proximity to the alligators was more of a talking point - they were not very far away at all!

That night we went out with our torches looking for the alligators - their eyes shine back. It wasn't that interesting, but the stars above were incredible, and this was coupled with the presence of thousands of fireflies twinkling in the trees. It was a magical moment! Then, Armando (who'd turned up earlier) invited us to a workers party he was throwing up the river, so off we went to spend a few hours with a load of Bolivian people! The two Dnaish girls shone, Sofie reading people's palms (Gypsy granny) and Sandra loving the cows they had there a bit too much, jumping in the pen with them every so often. Sara was tempted in to stroke a cow, before making a hasty exit through the fence when the crazy viking ran into the middle of them!

Next day we spent the morning piranha fishing and feeling a bit worse for wear. Sara caught a red piranha, the agressive ones (I'd swam in that water!), although it just grabbed onto the meat and didn't let go rather than getting hooked! It fell on the floor of the boat to the sound of girly squeals! All I managed to catch were catfish and what appeared to be the smallest fish ever caught by any man. Our guide had a good laugh at my expense.

Then it was back to Santa Rosa for the journey back to Rurrenebaque where Armando (who was driving us again) popped a tire on the jeep - the curse of the Team England/Denmark again! We arrived back to find out that the roadblocks were still going on, and we would have to fly back to La Paz. We stumped up the cash, and had a farewell dinner with our new Aussie chum (the initial hostility had all been forgotten!).

Next day, we headed to the airline office to get the bus to the airport, only to find it had already left. They told us not to worry, they'd get us a taxi. 6 motorbikes turned up, and bags on backs, we hopped on and whizzed to the airport. It was a field. There was a man with a pistol firing it to scare the animals off the "runway" (flattest bit of the field). Our plane arrived - a 19 seater twin propellered beast.

40 minutes later we were back in La Paz, wondering why we hadn't flown both ways!

Tuesday came and we said goodbye to our chums - we were off to Buenos Aires, on what turned out to be a 55 hour journey. We took the bus and then the train through Bolivia to the border - the train passing through the salt flats at night (we'd sat on the tracks 2 weeks previously!) and thereby being freezing! At the border at 7am, we crossed over into Argentina, not even bothering with an exit stamp from Bolivia, and headed to the bus station. From there we got a 5hour bus to Jujuy, where we changed to a 2 hour bus to Salta. At Salta we were gutted to find out none of the super comfy Cama Superieur buses were leaving until the day after, so we hopped on a Semi Cama to BA - a 22 hour ride. I was shouted at for pooing in the chemical toilet - after 18 hours you've got to do what you've got to do! We arrived in BA about 4pm ish, and got a taxi to the hostel where we hoped we'd meet with Em, Dom and their friends! Success! We even got in the same dorm as them! Last night we headed out for our first taste of Argentinian steak which was brilliant, and now we're off to plan our travels over the next week or two - the question is how far South to go, and whether we want some more glacier action or not!

1 comment:

  1. Another epic tale!! This truly is high adventure - I'm loving the crocodiles (or alligators - what IS the difference?)for some reason they look rather cute for some reason rather than dangerous -they all have smiley faces! Can't say the same for the piranhas - can't believe you went for a swim with that lot Louis! Flight looked spectacular too!

    Fairly epic things happening here too - though of a slightly more British nature - my own contribution being to stay up all night watching the election - haven't done that for years - still recovering!