Friday, November 16, 2007

Pampas Tour Day 3- The Final Harrasment

The shrill of a digital watch alarm urged us out of bed and into the pre-dawn darkness to go and hunt down some howler monkeys. As we stumbled into the canoe we could hear their hoarse bellows barreling down the river like warcries from some psychotic troop of warriors suffering from laryngitis. If you were trapped in the jungle and had never heard of howler monkeys and their calls, it really would be a worrying sound. Freddo motored toward them, and we soon arrived at the colony, where a group of the burnt orange monkeys were cavorting through the greenery of the treetops. Daz, an Englishman on the tour, made the nearly disastrous mistake of watching the animals from directly below their designated toilet spot (the monkeys don’t go to the toilet just anywhere), narrowly avoiding the need for an early morning wash in the river.

The orange thing is a monkey

After breakfast back at mosquito central, Freddo decided that the sun was shining strongly enough to dry the pampas out sufficiently enough for us to go and pester an anaconda. Ill-fitting gumboots squeezed onto our feet, we trudged off through some shoulder high grasses and then into the pampas proper, which was basically an enormous expanse of spindly grasses and water plants existing in about a foot of dark, smelly, watery mud. After about an hour of marching uncomfortably through this muck, Freddo called a halt and then pounced on a surprised juvenile anaconda that had been napping quietly in the sun. The two-metre five-year-old was subjected to being passed around the group, looking mighty annoyed to be put in this position. Mission accomplished!

Not quite the anaconda Ice-T had to deal with, but an anaconda nonetheless

Double Strangle

Apparently we were very lucky to be able to badger an anaconda like this, most groups that go through the frankly unpleasant trudge, never to find an animal as cooperative (consenting or otherwise) as the one we encountered. We walked around for another couple of hours, which was more than enough in the children’s boots we’d been supplied. Angie suffered a nasty bug attack, when two ants crawled into her gumboot, inflicting pain far beyond what we thought possible for such tiny little creatures. Or at least Angie acted like they did.

By the time we got back to camp, my feet had permanently altered their shape and the resulting pain had pretty much crippled me. Personally, getting those boots off was the highlight of the entire trip. After lunch, we climbed aboard the canoe for the last time and set off downriver towards our jeep pickup point. As is typical in Bolivia, the day’s bus to Rurrenabaque was delayed, which meant our jeep was delayed, which meant we were treated to another hour or so of battling mosquitoes to finish off the trip.

Angie and Freddo

The next morning we got a flight out of Rurre, this time on a 35 seat plane- a hulking mammoth compared to our ride into the jungle. We were flying with TAM- which stands for Transporte Aereo Militar- the commercial wing of the Bolivian Airforce. It was a bit if a novelty to be flying on a Military plane, but it was decked out like any other commercial aircraft, except for the numerous utilitarian hooks and loops attached to every surface inside the cabin- painted white to blend in but obvious signs that this bird had seen other kinds of service before hauling gringos to the jungle and back. It felt marginally more airworthy than our Amazonas flight, and we landed safely in La Paz an hour later, gasping at the cold and thin air, and quite glad to not have any miniature plane rides planned in the near future.

Cheers to TAM for not crashing

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