Our next stop was troubled little Bolivia. We started out in breathtaking La Paz — breathtaking mainly due to the altitude and the heavy pollution from traffic. 😉 It took only a day before we were ready for our first adventure in the amazing, contrasting nature of Bolivia. First stop: The Amazon. Very high on our travel mate Tine’s bucket list, so she convinced us all to go there. 🙂
By now we are running truly short of time considering how many things we would still like to see before we go home early December. Therefore, we decided to fly to the jungle saving us a full day’s bus ride going down the 3500 altitude metres from La Paz to the jungle. It went easy, and we arrived in the humid heat of Rurrenabaque just in time for barbecue night at our hostel.
The next morning we met with Ismail, our guide during the following week’s adventures. He was a great, happy family father born and raised in the jungle — and he just loved his job of showing his habitat to tourists (and sharing crazy stories about jungle life).
The first part of our tour was in Madidi National Park — apparently one of the places in the world with the most varied animal life. It is located two hours by boat from Rurrenabaque, so we had plenty of time to get to know Ismail, spot birds, and eat jungle bananas.
As mentioned, Ismail simply loved his job, and he was of the opinion that to enjoy the jungle you have to spend as much time as possible outside in the actual jungle, and not in a jungle lodge. Therefore, already that afternoon we packed our stuff for a night of jungle camping.
On our way to the camp we met a beautiful yellow turtle, saw red howler monkeys, and took pictures of loads of insects.
When we arrived in the camp we helped set up the beds with mosquito nets and cooking dinner. Soon we were ready for our first real night in the jungle with the heavy noise of cicadas as soundtrack. Being in the jungle is not easy though: The last girl in our group, Emma, got a moth stuck in her ear, so we had to find our various first aid equipment to get it out again. 😛
The following day was a long day of walking, trying to spot animals, get our backpacks infected with ants and bees, and finally trying to get a good picture of the macaws living in holes in the sand on a steep cliff. The jungle was tough and sweaty, but also quite cool. And we got to see lion tamarins. We ended our hike by building a raft to float back home down the river to the lodge.
We finished the day with a night walk trying to spot some of the nocturnal animals living in the jungle surrounding the lodge. There were huge numbers of spiders of all sizes, and some night monkeys as well! Ulrik loved the guide’s trick to find spiders and other animals with a flashlight — Gitte was a little more reluctant to go into the jungle in the darkness. 😜
On our third day Ismail really added some adventure to our tour, so once again we packed for a night in the wild. This time in the real wild, so we went across the river and walked through the jungle until we found a small clearing. Here we set up a camp, and Ismail and his helper prepared us a lovely dinner in the wild. In the middle of all these practicalities we suddenly heard the noise from hundreds of wild pigs coming. We stopped what we were doing and followed them through the jungle to a small waterhole where they got a great little mud shower. 😉 It was really amazing to see how a huge group of wild pigs survives in the jungle.
Again, we were treated with a night walk in the jungle. This time we mainly found a small snake and hundreds of bats, before we went to sleep in our mosquito net homes. Surprisingly, we got a great night’s sleep in the middle of the jungle, watched by the weasel living in a tree high above our camp.
The following morning we woke up to “jungle bread” prepared by Ismail and his helper, and went for a jungle walk. Here, we drank water from a tree, we swung ourself over a small river in a real liana, and we got slightly lost in the dense vegetation. Loads of jungle adventures!
We finished the jungle part of our tour with a beautiful sunset over the river, and had a photo session with a stick insect. We were absolutely loaded with experiences, but we still had two days ahead of us: Pampas, here we come!
The following morning we woke up very early to do the two hour boat trip back to Rurrenabaque, and from there transfer to another 2.5 hour car ride to get to Yacuma — a pampas reserve.
Here, most of the animals live in or around the water, and are thus very easy to spot. The last ten minutes to the lodge you need to go by boat, and on this short boat ride we were almost stressed out trying to take pictures of all the animals. 😛 It was very different from the jungle, where we had to search long hours for anything but spiders and leafcutter ants. 😉
We spent the whole afternoon sailing down the river spotting a few hundred caiman (a type of alligator), pink dolphins, capybara, squirrel monkeys, and a lot of birds. It was very relaxing after the days of walking in the jungle. 😉 It got dark on our way back, and we used the trick with the light to spot they it caimans. They are seriously scary when you can only see their big orange eyes, and there are hundreds of them!
After dinner we walked around at the lodge and found a porcupine living in the threes. There are so many crazy animals in this part of the world!
The following morning we went to see the sunrise, and after breakfast we headed out to see if we could spot some anacondas. We did not succeed. Gitte was very relieved. 😁 We only saw a lot of storks, and a black howler monkey on our way back to the lodge. Apparently, it was more of a monkey day as we found a black howler monkey back at the lodge protecting his family from a group of capuchin monkeys.
This marked the end of our stay in the pampas, and we headed back to Rurrenabaque to catch our flight back to the high altitudes of La Paz. As a very last treat for Tine we happened to spot a sloth from the car, and we took a short photo break.
No more animals, no more jungle — just all the bureaucracy of airports to get back to La Paz after some amazing jungle experiences.