From Sucre we flew in a very small plane to the very small airport at Rurrenabaque. We appeared to be landing in the middle of the jungle.
Rurrenabaque is a small town on the River Beni, a tributary of the Amazon, although we never saw that huge river. The Amazon rainforest here in Bolivia remains relatively intact and pristine and is home to a growing “eco – tourism” industry based on Rurrenabaque with opportunities to visit a number of National Parks and Reserves.
We started off with 2 nights in the Pampas or “tropical savanna”. After a four hour drive on impossible roads we arrived at the Yacuma River and transferred to the boat that would be our transport for the next 3 days. The Pampas de Yacuma Reservation has been created by the local municipality to give protection to it’s exceptional wildlife.
We stayed in a cabaña at a lodge run by Mashaquipe Eco Tours where excellent meals were prepared by our Chef, Darwin. From there we set out 2 or 3 times a day by boat to explore the river and enjoy the wildlife with our knowledgeable guide, Eber. From the riverbank it seemed we were in dense jungle but after a short distance the typical pampas grasslands appeared. We had to wear wellies to walk there.
The amount of wildlife, birds and animals is unbelievable, every trip we saw more and more. We noted 31 different birds including herons (4 types), kingfishers (3 types), woodpeckers, vultures, macaws,storks, eagles and spoonbills plus the crazy looking Hoacin. Add to this the dolphins, 2 types of caiman, 3 kinds of monkey, families of capibara (the worlds largest rodent), frogs, toads, butterflies, turtles, an armadillo and a sloth – we couldn’t keep up.
We went on an unsuccessful hunt for anacondas, finding only one harmless snake and on a successful expedition fishing for piranha – Jan even caught a (very small) one! Darwin cooked the piranha for supper – he needn’t have bothered, they were so bony – we much preferred the catfish caught by one of the other guides.
Despite the temperature it was cool on the river and cool in the lodge at night so it was a shock to return to steamy Rurrenabaque for the weekend.
At the best of times it is a small and sleepy town but that particular weekend was the Bolivian General Election – no alcohol for sale on Saturday, lots of places closed and on Sunday, when voting took place, everything was closed – we wondered if we’d get any dinner!
Fortunately after 5pm things started to return to normal, we had some dinner and just after 9pm when the exit polls showed Evo Morales, the current president,had been re-elected with a 60% majority the town went wild with celebrations and firecrackers.