Pink River Dolphins and Piranhas: The Pampas

After the wet days in the Amazon Jungle and the continuous downpours in Rurrenabaque, our journey to the Pampas was never going to be easy.

IMG_4259

Like in many rural areas in South America, the roads around the small northern town of Rurrenabaque are unpaved. What should have been a mere three hour journey along the dirt track turned out to be closer to six. In all honesty we were surprised we made it to the Pampas at all. But we weren’t the only ones stupid enough to attempt the journey…

IMG_1031

In three people carriers without 4WD, the journey was more chaotic than our trip across the salt flats! Each car took its turn to get stuck…ours was so deep in the mud, the doors were jammed shut and we had to escape though the windows…

IMG_20140629_123906

The farm animals and those on horseback trotted by, whilst we dug out the cars with pick axes and a ball of twine as a towrope. I say we…most of us tourists could barely stand up straight in the mud…thank goodness for the experience of our drivers…

IMG_1061

Instead we tourists made ourselves useful by playing with this little sloth by the roadside. He really didn’t seem to care as we stood below him snapping away and instead focussed his efforts on his afternoon nap. Way to live up to the stereotype, Mr Sloth.

IMG_1006 IMG_1004

So was the journey worth all the trouble? Without a doubt! As we eventually disembarked the beaten cars, ourselves coated in mud, we were greeted by the second wildlife encounter of many. Our lodges were a little way up the river and as we waited for our boat to transport us, the playful pink river dolphins made their first appearance.

IMG_1183

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to swim with them, we dumped our bags at the lodge and grabbed our trunks and bikinis and were in the water within minutes…

10537120_10154291556040034_4697894898629037606_n

Despite trying to entice them near to us with all the tricks we’d learnt from watching “Flipper” as children, these dolphins were very much disinterested in us. Instead they were fixated with the plastic water bottle toy our guide had made for them…

IMG_1134

IMG_1114

Although our pictures do not show this well, they really are pink in colour! As we watched from the boat we could really see the various shades – as the dolphin gets older, the pink intensifies.

IMG_1109

As dolphins have been one of my favourite animals since childhood this really was a fantastic experience for me. Swimming with dolphins was certainly on my bucket list. Swimming with alligators and piranhas, however was not. As we travelled back up stream to the lodge our guide took this opportunity to point out the various caimans and alligators along the riverbank and also announced the river was infested with piranhas. Best we knew after our swim I guess…

IMG_1021

After a good rest and some wonderful food back at the lodge, on Day 4 we donned our wellies (or rubber boots to some of you) and set off in search of anacondas.

IMG_1080

Long story short we failed to find any but we spent a good few hours traipsing through mud, grass and ponds deep enough to almost render the wellies pointless…

IMG_1089IMG_1642

IMG_4377

Somehow looking back walking in long grass looking for one of the largest snakes in the world seems like a bad idea, but at the time the intrepid explorer in all of us took over…and the ponds didn’t disappoint with other wildlife.

IMG_1693

IMG_1673

IMG_1666

IMG_4381Slightly disappointed not to have found an anaconda but relieved to have made it out of the bog un-constricted we set off once again up the river to see what other wildlife we could find. And wow…we could now understand why the Pampas is famed for the endless wildlife on show.

IMG_1398

IMG_1266

IMG_1579

IMG_1810

IMG_1837

IMG_2019

IMG_1786

IMG_2071

We literally sat back and floated along, not knowing where to look first…

IMG_4395

IMG_4365

After seeing the capibaras, caimans, alligators, endless birds, turtles and monkeys jumping tree to tree we finished off the day with a spot of piranha fishing. In a few hours our group had caught 24, enough for a decent dinner.

IMG_4406

Then we watched the sunset before returning to eat our catch.

IMG_4423

IMG_4409

The final day finished on a high. We set off in search of squirrel monkeys and before we knew it they were in the boat with us. I’m not sure who found who more fascinating…

IMG_1170

IMG_1159

IMG_1129

Some admired their reflection in my lens…

IMG_1195

Whilst others were clearly in a stand off with the monkey looking back…

IMG_1186 And this one got a bit grumpy when Sam wouldn’t share his banana…seriously…

IMG_2235

When it was time to leave they looked at us blankly as we attempted to encourage them off the boat, but as we pulled away from the bank they elegantly jumped back into the safety of their tree. And with that the wildlife adventure was over.

IMG_2221

Sad to leave all the animals behind, that afternoon we made our way back to Rurrenabaque. Thankfully the mud had dried out so the return trip was less eventful than the previous…yet we still managed to bump into this anteater along the way….

IMG_2250

This was right before we ran out of petrol and had to flag down a passing car to beg for a loan. Who said travelling is easy…

Once back in the little town we relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon and the next day made our way back to the airport…if you can call it that…

IMG_4500

Although our fears of finding a tiny propeller plane waiting on the runway had been quashed on our outbound flight this time we weren’t so lucky!

IMG_4507

With just 20 seats and two captains that we could wave at from our seats at the back, the journey started off fine. That is until they announced our plane would be diverted, as there was an “incident involving a plane” at La Paz. As a result we experienced what we can only be described as a hair-raising near vertical landing into Cochabamba. Give me a muddy track and a people carrier any day.

10537149_10154291601125034_2545457405745680220_n

 

2 thoughts on “Pink River Dolphins and Piranhas: The Pampas”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s