This post is about the time we spent out in the Amazon for 4 days. In South America, there are a number of places that you can go and spend some time in the Amazon rainforest and you can start tours from pretty much every country. It is one of the more pricey activities you will do while you are in SA, but definitely well worth it.
To get out there, it is a pretty long journey. We took pretty much every mode of transport to get to our final destination, the first being our 7:30am flight out of La Paz. We headed to the airport at 5.45 am and due to bad weather our flight was delayed until 10am. The weather at the airport where we were going (Rurrenabaque) tends to change pretty quickly because of the surrounding landscape. Anyway, we eventually got away on the 45 minute flight, and all was good. The view was amazing as we landed into Rurrenabaque, it was a pretty small town surrounded by rainforest, like middle of nowhere surrounded. We were picked up by a chap in a truck, met our guide Rahul, and off we went on a 3 hour boat ride on the Beni and tuichi river.
The landscape was ace, and it was on this boat ride that we started to realise how far away we would be from the real world whilst we were staying in the rainforest. It’s obviously not Ray Mears style, but still a long way into the rainforest. Along the way Rahul started to explain the nature to us. He spoke amazing english which was a blessing, as we would have never have known all the detailed bits he was explaining if it was all in spanish. And did he know the detail! Wow. We saw bamboo trees, white cane trees, a white eagle, a couple of vultures, a snake swimming across the river, to name a few.
We turned a bend in the river and saw some steps leading up from the water to the trees. This is where we docked the boat and hoped off. Walking into the lodge/camp was like we had just turned up in a small village. It was lovely, and all handbuilt by the village that ran the lodge.
First on the agenda was lunch. This first meal showed us just how much we would be eating over the next 4 days. Think family bucket at KFC and add some extra wings on the side, that was the size of these portions. Just massive. The food was not fried chicken though of course, it was all home cooked fish and meat from the rainforest.
With lunch sorted we had a quick orientation to run through how the lodge works and what we would be getting up to over the next few days. There was only electricity at night for a few hours for lights during dinner and to charge up the camera etc. Rahul said we could pretty much choose what we wanted to do, as we would be the only 2 people there for the next 3 days! Amazing, the whole lodge to ourselves! We decided the first thing we would do was go for a walk on the wabu trek to the salt lick (a watering hole for animals), as this wasn’t too intense of a track, just a couple of hours of pretty much flat ground. We weren’t lucky enough to see any animals, but we saw a few yellow and green macaws from a distance, parakeets and two toucans – the colourful one and the bigger species , white throat toucan.
Now, it is probably best to make it clear at this point in the post that I am no ace photographer, so the photos are not stunners, but i sometimes managed to get a picture of what I was trying to….
Kumu’s number one aim while we were there was to see a Jaguar (not the XJ220 kind, the hairy one), but we would be super lucky if we did. Even still, we kept our eyes peeled and out fingers crossed. Rahul, the Amazon all knowledgeable one, makes animal noises to attract the animals and can see the colours of them so far into the distance it’s ridiculous! He also has an eagle eye for footprints in the ground, as he has tracked animals since he was a boy when growing up in his village. And what did he spot on this first walk of ours… a jaguar footprint which was probably a few hours old! This was very exciting. Our big ticket sight had not long been in the area.
One of the things that really made it feel like the rain forest straight away for me was the difference in the trees compared to England. There was lots of interesting ones such as the walking palm tree and spiky palm tree. The way they grew across, around, over, through things was insane.
The walking palms, would put down roots and then they would put down more further out and follow the water in the ground, so over time the tree actually moves across the floor, like it is walking (very slowly of course).
The vines were also crazy. They all start off as little stems that look pretty harmless, then they just keep getting bigger and bigger, wrapping around the trees, until they become the size of a tree and actually take over the tree they are wrapped around. Was great to see nature just being left to grow how it wants to, and so vividly.
With the walk done, and plenty of flora and fauna seen, we rested for a bit before it was time for dinner (We really looked forward to each meal, as walking around in the rainforest really builds up an appetite). Lucky for us, each meal was 3 courses! After stuffing ourselves with some calories, we went on a night hike looking for insects. We both aren’t really massive fans of bug flying around in our faces, and Rahual gave us some handy advice for the walk. He said, don’t wear your head torch on your head, as all manner of little bugs would fly at your face towards the light. Yeah, not up for that, hold the torch!
We saw all sorts that night, but the bugs were not the issue in the end, it was the shear darkness of the forest coupled with all the sounds. Literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face when I turned the torch off. Your imagination runs wild in that situation. Lets just say I’d have failed massively if I was apart of filming the blair witch project…
We also saw this guy living under one of the storage huts that night too!
It had been a long sticky humid day, so we had some fresh cold showers and hit the sack. Unfortunately, Kumu had a case of needing the toilet quite a lot that night, so was up and down like a yoyo. This was in between waking up (and then waking me up) because she heard footsteps outside the hut. My standard response was “its not a Jaguar”. After each trip to the toilet, she would run back into the room after panic running across the camp from the toilet to the hut because she had freaked out from the dark and noises. It was pretty funny to watch! Plus while all this was going on, a storm was knocking about, chucking down the rain, thunder and lightning every now and then.
The thunderstorm continued in the morning and our guide suggested that we wait for the rain to die down and then we can do a short hike before lunch. I was pretty tired, and after a while the guide suggested against it and instead we made handicrafts from palm nuts and seeds. We made some rings, necklace and a bracelet. There was a lot of sanding and fiddly knot tying involved!
Rahul had told us about their friendly Tapir that they had rescued as a child (not sure what you call a baby Tapir…) and later let him off in the jungle. Every now and then he comes back looking for food, and that morning we had a visit from him. This chap had a face that only a mother could love and his name was Tonio! Apparently he did have a girlfriend now though, so maybe it wasn’t just his mother that loved his face.
We also had a passing visit from a family of tamarin monkeys. Rahul did his monkey noises and superman hearing trick again, and he managed to track them down.
We did bits and pieces until lunch, after which the rain had settled, so we set of on the trail to see some giant trees. This is where things went down hill for Kumu unfortunately… Rahul had spotted more monkeys coming towards us so we had to try and be super quiet. This is when Kumu started to feel a lot of pain in her stomach. It looked really painful but she tried to battle through it. But she quickly got worse, felt like vomiting and was feeling nausea. Our guide said we had to head back as the bad Amazon wind had gotten into her body and it was only to get worse if they don’t do an offering to pachamama. So we went back to the lodge, and Kumu vomited pretty hard. When she surfaced, our guide and two other guys from the camp were outside our hut ready to perform the offering. They had cocoa leaves, cigarettes, tea and an alcohol rub. Rahul and I grabbed four equal sized cocoa leaves and offered it to mother earth before chewing on the leaves. They taste like what you are doing. Chewing a plant. Rahul and the one of the other guys then lit the cigarette up and started blowing the smoke on kumu to get rid of the bad wind. I was thinking that no one had ever done this to me when I had bad wind… I just drank a cup of warm Ribeana. Kumu crashed out for the rest of the afternoon as the pain in her stomach just got worse and worse. I think I just cruised about the place editing some photos and watching the animals down at the river for the rest of the day, as i wanted to be on hand for the patient.
So after another pitch black night in the rainforest, we were meant to take a boat up the river and do a walk before going piranha fishing, but instead it started raining again. Sad face. However, super animal man Rahul spotted (still baffles me how he did it) howler monkeys, so me and him decided to go see if we could get some good photos of them. We also took a walk through a flooded part of the rainforest from all the rain the day or so, and i managed to grab a pretty shaky video of my favourite; Leaf eater ants. I loved these guys. They would make massive lines through the rainforest and you could follow them for about 100m in all directions from the nest.
Fun fact for these ants: They travel in pairs; one big one and a little one. The big one will carry the leaf on the way back with the little one on the leaf. The one on the leaf isn’t just getting a free ride, it is cleaning the leaf for when they get back to the nest. How efficient is that!!
After we got back I also laid eyes on a fairly chunky snake wriggling about the place. A good spot at 6 foot long I think. This was probably the first big snake I had ever seen up close in real life actually, so I was pretty chuffed.
And just to prove me wrong, Tonio had decided to bring his girlfriend to the lodge! They seemed like they were on a day date, so I left them to it. Didn’t want to ruin the mood sticking a camera in their face. No, what really happened was I forgot to get my camera so couldn’t take one.
Kumu had slept through the morning and the lady came and rubbed the alcohol rub on her stomach and kept making all sorts of tea to help with the stomach pains. She also made Kumu a special lunch of white soup and rice. I didn’t make it to piranha fishing but instead went fishing with the guys for our lunch.
Fishing was great to watch. I didn’t even attempt to get on the net with the guys, as I would have been a terrible fisherman. Probably the most I would have caught was my own welly. I know my boundaries. The way they did it was quite clever, they used the current and river bends to drag the net and then they would throw stones at the water to coerce the fish towards the net. I was sat in the boat drifting along with the captain (or bloke sat with his hand on the outboard) at the back. I had reservations on his skill level, as we crashed into the bank a number of times, and Rahul kept shouting at him. We managed to catch a nice looking fish, pretty chunky as well. It looked like a carp to me, but the only fish I know are carp and goldfish, so…. We ate this beast for lunch about 45 minutes after we got back, which i think is the freshest fish i have ever eaten, and probably will be for a while now. Kumu couldn’t join me for lunch, but it seemed like they were still feeding me her portion.. A little spoiler here. By the end of the whole trip I gained nearly 10 kilos… And I wonder why, with all this food I was gobbling through.
After lunch I went out with Rahul to finish of his the big tree trail where we saw the mapago gigante. This was an enormous tree about an hours walk from our lodge. The picture doesn’t quite get the scale, but it was huge. It must have gone up a good 80 metres.
While Rahul and I were out, Kumu had perked up enough to head out of the hut and go sit by the river for a bit. When we got back she told me the interesting haf hour she had had sat there. The gardener chap, nicknamed paco (wild turkey) decided to pop over with his bag of cigarette and cocoa leaves. He then stood over Kumu and blew the smoke onto her head and all over her body. This was another one of the rituals to help with her sickness. Kumu was still pretty shattered and i was after all my trips out today, so we hit the sack after dinner, to try and make the most of our last day the next day.
Kumu was determined on going on a hike the next morning and although after breakfast her stomach was struggling, she preserved and so did her stomach! Yey! The walk was filled with all sorts; birds, plants, snakes, ants, monkeys, an a butterfly! We took it a little easy, as Kumu was a bit weak after a day or two of stomach problems, but we still managed to get ourselves up to some lookout points and make the most of our last morning there.
When we got back it was time to leave the lodge so we had a shower, had another massive lunch and got back on the boat for the 3 hour ride back to Rurrenabaque. Kumu was worried about the boat ride, as she wasn’t sure what her stomach would do for the 3 hours, but good news, it held up for the journey. Once we arrived back in town, we had a few hours before our flight so we walked around and went to this bar where they blasted the music. Not kidding, the speakers were 4 foot high and turned up to 11. There was just a few locals sat in there having some beers, it wasn’t like eyeball paul was playing or anything… Weather was good that afternoon so the flight on the prop plane was all good back to La Paz. The approach to La Paz was an odd one, as you came up on the mountains without really losing any altitude and then hardly descended down to the airport, as the city is so high.
We made sure we had a good meal and another early night that night so that Kumu had the a good chance to recovering, plus our bus was a 6:50am pick up. This time taking us on to Copacabana where we would be seeing Lake Titicaca.
So the Amazon… what a place. Our brief encounter with the place was incredible, and one we definitely won’t forget. We saw nature that we won’t ever see again, we met people with incredible knowledge of their surroundings, and took ourselves away from the real world for a few days. A place that will always remain in our South America top 10 for sure!
Until the next one.
P.s. there are more Amazon videos on the Youtube channel.