Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Into the Amazon...Part One!

´Part One´ because I´m sure we may find ourselves back in the Jungle at some stage..
However our first dabble with the Amazon Basin found us in the jungle frontier town of Rurrunabaque about to embar on a 3 day trip into the Pampas of the Madidi National Park, a mixture of Savannah and wetland renowned for it´s wildlife (in fact 10% of the worlds known bird species are found in the Park)
Our guide looked like he had just left the Bolivian special forces dressed in combat fatigues, wrap around shades and crew cut. We weren´t sure whether we felt safer as a result!
A 3 hour trip up the Yumani (which feeds into the Amazon) in an outboard driven dugout canoe gave us our first taste of the fauna and by the days end we had spotted pink dolphins turtles, caiman, alligator, vultures, capybara, ibises, pelicans, toucans, howler monkeys and capuchins which we fed by hand with bananas - remember the monkey that Ross on ´Friends´ had? Well they are much cuter in the flesh and sans dopey New Yorker!
A few welcome cold beers at the ´Sunset Bar´ (more a rough hewn lodge overlooking the river than a bar) were followed by spotlighting for Alligator and Caiman eyes from the canoe on the way back.
Rounding a bend in the river we spotted what we thought were two alligator eyes but they looked far too high off the ground on the river bank and when they started moving up and down in a very feline manner we had spotted one of the very reclusive Jaguar of the park. It defies explanation to describe the energy when you see something like that and you really do feel blessed to have been able to see (from the relative safety of a boat!) one of natures most amazing creatures.
We searched for Anacondas without luck on day two but in the arvo I´m stoked to say that I leapt from a dugout canoe into a river in the Amazon to swim with Pink Dolphins! To be in the same water that Piranhas infest, that Caiman and Alligators hunt in, with the shy and timid Pink dolphins was one of the memories I will cherish forever.
Post Script.....
MOSQUITOS. I have never in my life experianced mosquitos quite so voracious as in the wetlands of the Amazon Pampas. They rise in swarms and feast on any exposed or unexposed part of your body.
DEET becomes the cologne of choice and everyone wears long, loose, light coloured shirts and trousers to dissuade the ravenous hordes...Everyone except me of course. Not being overly bothered by mozzies and not generally getting too itchy or showing bite marks I was happy to wander around in only boardies....The first, second and third days were fine...coming out of the Jungle however I suddenly developed bite marks all over the place and have been itching myself all the way from Rurre bck to La Paz and to Lake Titicaca...nect time I will make DEET my friend!

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