The journey to La Paz was one of the funnier bus journeys we have had. It started off looking like Kerry, so for a while we forgot where we were! After a couple of hours we had to get off the bus to cross the Lake. From there we got onto small speedboats to cross while our bus got put onto a barge!! You can see from the pictures how advanced these barges are, despite the fact that this is the main route once you have entered Bolivia!!! We were lucky that the weather was nice as getting back on the bus wet wouldn't be fun! Plus if the water was any rougher we are not sure the bus would make it over!!!...beats the usual bridge though!
From there it was pretty much the usual journey of trying not to look at the crazy manoeuvres the bus driver is pulling off!!We arrived into the traffic jammed capital of Bolivia, La Paz here we checked into the infamous Wild Rover Hostel. (It's owned by some fellas from Tipp)
On arrival we found out that the following night was their 5th anniversary party, and preparations for the 'small' celebration were well under way!!! Our priority was to try and sort out our trip to the Amazon.
We had heard all sorts of stories along the way of flights being cancelled, delayed (by 10-12hours), the newly build tarmac runway being washed away, the backup grass runway being flooded etc., so we weren't too optimistic that it would happen for us as we are now in rainy season!!! We checked around to try to find the best deal for flights and a pampas tour (where you are less in the jungle proper but you tend to see more animals!!!) We decided not to leave the next morning, but to think about the choices and go on Sunday morning, which coincidently meant that we would be around to help the Wild Rover celebrate...funny how that one worked out!!!:)
So we booked to head on Sun morning, at 8.20am, hoping that all would work out and we would make it out to Rurrenabaque at our first attempt!!!There was just the matter of the party to be done with first....a 'couple' of drinks, a bit of a BBQ and a lot of chat later and we had done ourselves proud helping celebrate the birthday!!! Off to bed reasonably early, considering we were going to go to the Amazon the next day!
We woke up a little less bright than usual, but we didn't let this stop us getting to the airport on time and amazingly our flight was only 10mins late taking off (which is something Ryanair could aspire to!!) A quick 35mins in a 19 seater "tin can" and we were landing in the jungle. The flight actually wasn't too bad, but we have been on buses with more space!!! You can't even stand up on the plane!
We were met at the airport by a blast of heat and humidity, which was a shock to the system after being at altitude for the past month. Our tour group, Indigenas, met us at the airport and loaded all 6 of us in the group into a classic Landover for the journey to the river. What followed was 3 hours of bone rattling!!!There was not one bit of paved road; it was almost like we had signed up for dune buggying again except the car was not exactly built for it this time!!!!
We arrived in Santa Rosa for a quick lunch before reaching the Rio Yacuma, where our Amazon adventure would properly begin. Our entertaining, 'semi professional' guide Victor, as he joked himself, then started the tour up the river. From the very start we had wildlife all around us. We saw Paradise birds, herons, cormorants, vultures and various other small multicoloured birds. Any log or branch popping out of the river had a turtle sunbathing on it.
After about 45mins on the river we heard a big splash behind us and it was our first glimpse of the Amazonian pink dolphin. Not long after we were in a pool surrounded by them and we were told to head away in and join them for a swim and a play if we wanted to....and not to worry about the caimans, piranhas etc that the dolphins were King of the River and they would protect us!!!! The water in the Yacuma is brown so you cannot see what is around you, under you etc....which is freaky!!! You couldn't tell what was near!!!!
After this we continued our journey up the river where we were constantly spotting loads of wildlife, including caimans lurking by the edge of the river keeping an eye on the capybaras, in case one of them came too close to the water and they got to have an easy dinner!!!
Further along we came across a troop of spider monkeys, who are very curious creatures, who came right down to the waterside, alongside the boat. We were lucky enough to see some babies too.
After about 4 hours on the river, we pulled up to our lodge on the river bank. It's all on stilts as the river rises by at least 4 meters during the peak of the wet season. We had time to drop our bags into our room, before heading to the sunset bar!!!! (It's like it was made with us in mind, with the bar keeping Shane happy and Phil all set for the sunset!!!) The first nights sunset wasn't that great, but it was nice to have a drink, chat to our tour mates and watch the guides and other groups, have a gringo vs guide football match.
The following morning we were woken early to the sound of the howler monkeys just behind the lodge. Shane went for an early morning look around, and was lucky enough to spot a toucan (but wasn't fast enough to get a picture!!!), then he saw 2 caiman swimming slowly past our lodge...not at all unnerving when we were told we can swim in front of the lodge.
It was anaconda spotting morning, which involved taking a walk into the wet lands. Unfortunately Phil had been up all night sick, and therefore was going to have to give this a miss, in the hope of being better for everything else. So Shane set off in the his wellies, walking through grass as high as his head, Then into marsh, with water as high as the leaking wellies, all in the sweltering heat and humidity for 3 hours with no sign of an anaconda, unfortunately. We were told that one had been spotted the day before, but it was not meant to be!!! All that was seen was some other birds, so overall Phil missed nothing!!!
So lunch and siesta time followed the morning activity. Then in the afternoon Shane could hardly hide his excitement as we were off piranha fishing!!! Everyone on the boat got at least one, with Shane picking up the knack for it and getting a grand total of 6, catching 3 different kinds!!! (They were HUGE, see pictures!!!) Then it was off for the next sunset, which luckily turned out to be a good one!!!
Another highlight happened after that night's dinner, when we went out caiman searching with our flashlights!! All you see first is the reflection of the eyes, and then the guide brings us closer so you can see the head above the water. After a while of spotting these we glided down the river with the engine off. It was amazing, the stars were above us, the fireflies were flashing all around us and all you could hear were the sounds of the jungle, and the pink dolphins playing by the boat. One of the top experiences of the trip so far.
The following morning was the last chance to swim with the pink dolphins, so we set off up the river and found another pool. Again they were playful, our guide put a water bottle into the river which they picked up and played with. We had a good hour, watching them play. We then set off to get back to the lodge for our early lunch, when the motor decided it had had enough!!! So Shane and Chris were given pallet boards as paddles, and along with the guide set about getting us home!!! Although this wasn't planned it actually was a really nice part of the trip (for Phil anyway!), as we were able to listen to the sounds of the river, and we were followed by pink dolphins the majority of the way!! They must have thought that this was a novelty worth seeing...oh and of course Shane was in fine voice, giving us all some renditions of 'Row Row Row your boat....',
Victor managed to fix the boat while we were having lunch so we set off back down the river to where our adventure began. We then had the "delightful" jeep journey back, before a night in Rurrenabaque and then our flight into La Paz.
We had one more night in the Wild Rover, before heading to Cochabamba