This was a week of sitting. First, three days in the Pampas – marshes in the Amazon Basin – where we sat on a tiny motorized rowboat for hours on end. Then three days of sitting in Salar de Uyuni, but that’s the next post.
To get to Rurrenbaque, the main village in the Bolivian Amazon, we took a 45 minute plane ride over mountains and rivers, landing in the tiny one room airport among lush jungle. We stepped off the plane and… it was warm! We stripped off the coats and fleeces we were wearing in La Paz and headed to start our 3 hour car ride to the Pampas.
Our driver was apparently going through a breakup, as far as we could tell by his mix, which included such hits as “Mi Corazon Seguira” (My Heart Will Go On), “Pudo Ser Amor” (It Must Have Been Love), and “Yo Siempre Te Amare.” On repeat. For three hours. There and back.
We stopped for lunch in Santa Rosa, a village just outside the national park, and our guide disappeared to buy our park tickets. This was the first sign of things to come – we finished lunch, then lazed about in hammocks for a while as we awaited his return.
Upon entering the park, we found a few other groups awaiting their arrival of their rowboats. Our guide, Gary, arrived and began loading all of our baggage as well as food and gas for the week, all onto the tiny rowboat. Gary, it turns out, does not speak much English – but he knew a ton of Hebrew! Animals, food, directions, how not to get eaten by an alligator – all in Hebrew.
We embarked on our three hour boat ride down the river, stopping to see all of the wildlife that lives there – alligators, capybaras, turtles, even bigger alligators called Caymans, and some gorgeous birds.
Our lodge felt like being back in camp, sans electricity, plus mosquito nets. In the evening we rode down the river for “happy hour” (magically scheduled for our arrival as well as the arrival of all the other groups) and sunset. Riding back in the dark, we shined flashlights at the shore, and tiny dots of red shined back – hundreds of alligator eyes.
Back at the camp, we met the chef of Fluvial Tours lodge, who was a queen and a hero. She understood kashrut, had a separate kosher pot, set aside food for us to cook at every meal, had us turn on our own fire, kept separate spices and special packaged pastas, and for the next 2.5 days we ate pancakes, spaghetti with pasta sauce, rice salad, and lots of fresh fruit and veg.
The second day in the Pampas we rode upriver for anaconda hunting (?!) which amounted to traipsing through mud and reeds, trying to keep our footing and not at all looking for anacondas. We didn’t find one, and I can’t say we were particularly displeased with the result.
In the afternoon, we were back in the boat for piranha fishing! I caught a piranha and a catfish; the piranhas were dinner, though we weren’t sure if we could partake and so opted out. (Are those really fins?? Yes, it turns out they are.)
Our last day included the activity we had been anticipating and dreading – swimming with pink dolphins in the river. At some point we realized that there was no special section for swimming… the same river we had been driving up and down – catching piranhas and spying on alligators – is where we would be swimming. And so we said our prayers and jumped into the cool water, eyeing the wildlife all the while.