Our feet had barely touched the ground in Guayaramerin before we were forced to plot our next move. Although it would have been nice to hang around and take a boat trip across to Brasil, just 50 metres across the river, the unanticipated wait in Trinidad was forcing us to move a little more quickly en-route back to La Paz.
So, after a rapid breakfast that we traded for empty beer bottles (that’s another story entirely!) we grabbed the next available moto-taxi to the bus station. Our aim was to make it to Santa Rosa, approximately 12 hours by bus south-west from the border on unsealed road, the hopping point for numerous 2-3 day tours into the pampas.
Understandably, there isn’t much of a demand for buses in this part of Bolivia. Most of the services run before midday and are the only buses for the day. It turned out we had no options other than to take a one hour taxi ride to Riberalta if we were to make it there in time for the 2:30pm bus to Santa Rosa. Here’s a factoid for you: Riberalta is one of the world’s largest brazil nut production sites, and not much else. We were keen to get there and get going.
Thankfully, all went according to plan. The expected hour-long delay once we had bought our tickets to Santa Rosa even gave us a little more time to enjoy land beneath our feet, tropical sunshine and a banana milk while we said our goodbyes to Kyle, who had decided to pit himself against a 36 hour nightmare bus ride back to La Paz. Even the bus ride itself was free of anything to be unexpected (okay, except for one exploding tyre) and rewarded us with scores of beautiful jungle birds and mammals as we rumbled along red dust roads bordered with infinite swamp lands.
Santa Rosa turned out to be everything a quaint jungle town should be: great miniature street food stands, low levels of traffic and high levels of insects. Planning on joining a jungle tour the next day, we booked into a quiet, hammock-laden hostel and chatted to the owner’s surprisingly social 14-year-old son about his life in Santa Rosa. It appears Xbox’s have made it to even the furthest flung corners of the globe.
Following a recommendation from Kyle, we gave Flecha Tours our first phone call the following morning and to our delight they had two spaces available for that day. The cost we negotiated was reasonable, settling on 550Bs ($90AUD) for the 3-day, 2-night Pampas tour. As the tour actually starts from Santa Rosa but departs from Rurrenabaque (4 hours further south, hence our reason to organise the tour from Santa Rosa and avoid doubling back on ourselves) they agreed to meet us at midday.
Over the next two days, three nights, we were treated to amazing home cooked food in between non-stop activities surrounding the lodge: anaconda hunting, monkey spotting, bird watching and Piranha fishing to name but a few. We watched Giant Caymen and Alligators bathing in the sun, and several species of birds including Kingfishers, Herons and Cormorants in and around the water’s edge. Each evening we shared a couple of cold beers and played volleyball at the ‘Sunset Bar’, and, although it had a slightly Disneyland feel to it (damn tourists!) our group proved to be a great mix of people.
Theoverwhelming highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity to swim with Pink Amazon River Dolphins (too hard to photograph but you can check out a stock photo by clicking here). Aptly described by our friend Kyle as ‘the grey dolphin’s ugly cousin’, these freshwater dolphins are found throughout the Amazon river system of several South American countries. The murky brown water makes swimming with them a truly nerve-wracking experience, you don’t see them coming and they occasionally mistake you for something edible – as I found out the hard way!
Unfortunately, this post ends very much the same way as my visit to Sucre. Convinced that I had an 8-week strong Bolivian iron stomach, I must have become flippant with what I was consuming . Upon arriving in Rurrenabaque after the tour I developed a stomach infection which can only be described as legendary. The doctor saw everything I had to offer and, to be perfectly honest, I’m surprised I wasn’t deported for my stomach’s behavour that week. Having said that, we did glimpse the town by bike on one brave day, and you can see the rest of the photos from the tour and Rurrenabaque below.