Posts Tagged Pampas

You want to leave when?

Posted on June 12, 2011 by No Comments

Before we headed into the jungle, we were told that we needed to be flexible on returning. This is accurate advice.  The morning we were schedule to fly back to La Paz, it was raining.  Things shut down when it’s raining here.

The tiny Rurre airport has a grass taxi strip, so the rain and mud did not bode well for our departure. Once the rain finally let up, we headed to the airline office in town and waited around with the other 18 passengers who where hoping to get back to La Paz. Ahead of us was yet another planeload of people throwing a fit about their flight also being cancelled. People were actually freaking out.

It’s the jungle, people. Relax.

Long story short, the staff tried all sorts of stupid tricks to try to pacify everyone – including driving us to the airport for no good reason. This was a complete charade to clear to the office so they could deal with the next round of cancelled flights. We wouldn’t have minded a week delay if they just would have been honest with us (actually, not true, since we were running out of money. There are no ATMS in the jungle.)

Two days later, we made it back to La Paz. The highlight of the short flight is splitting two 6000 meter peaks right before landing in the city.

It didn’t take us long to be reminded that La Paz sucks. Some people think it’s a fine place. We could search for some silver lining, but we’re not going to bother.  If you ask someone about La Paz, they will probably tell you about how they got ripped off or robbed (Angela fended off a purse-snatcher). It’s just not a great destination.  There are lot’s of other places in the world to see. Moving on…

I was happy to find a shortcut out of town that’s not on any of our maps. It completely bypasses downtown from Mallesa and put us on the main highway south.

We continued to struggle getting gas – being charged double (again) for foreign plates and refusing to fill up our jerry can.  These both seem to be legitimate regulations that are only occasionally enforced. This is the Bolivian government’s attempt to eliminate the gasoline black market – it’s a problem.

We drove south all day as random pieces of the bus broke off. Nothing major, but it was one of those days. Eventually, we found a hot springs (warm springs?) north of Oruro where we took a quick dip. We debated camping there, but decided to make the short trip to Oruro for a hot shower and warm bed.

Sometimes you need a day to adjust back to bus-living.

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Filed Under: Bolivia

Hey Hey, we’re the…

Posted on June 10, 2011 by 4 Comments

A funny thing they do here is make a little juice pouch out of grapefruit. They peel the outside skin off, leaving a thin layer of pulp. Then, punch a hole in the top. It’s a spill-proof juice bag: just squeeze and suck the juice out the top. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Bode eat a grapefruit, but he’s been going through these juice pouches as fast as they can peel them. Good thing there’s a huge tree out back.

Anyway, there are monkeys all over the place here. Howler monkeys lazily lounge up high, but the Capuchins are down at river-level.

We came upon a group of about 20 or so and pulled in for a closer look. These little guys are pretty cute and don’t seem to be too threatened by people. They’re curious little monkeys.

One was a little too curious and hopped on the boat. As soon as he spotted Bode’s grapefruit pouch, he went right for it. We did our best to fend him off (mostly by pushing the button on the camera) but he was just too quick. Grapefruit down.

Of course, you’re not supposed to feed the animals and we had no intention of giving up the fruit. We tried to get it back, but once he was off the boat, he had his own battle with 19 other monkeys.

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Filed Under: Bolivia

Pink Dolphins

Posted on June 9, 2011 by 3 Comments

“Curious and will approach swimmers, but will not attack.” – El Guia

Glad these are not the other kind of vicious attack dolphins.


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Filed Under: Bolivia

River Chickens

Posted on June 8, 2011 by 5 Comments

This was Bode’s favorite bird. He says if he is reincarnated, he wants to come back as a Hoatzin.

Let’s review why it’s good to be a Hoatzin.  From the Guia de Fauna Selvestre, Selve & Pampas (emphasis mine)…

It is the only member of it’s own family. In the order of cuckoos.

Head almost bare, with frizzy red crest, large bright blue area around his red eyes.

It has a digestive system unique amongst birds. Hoatzins use bacterial fermentation in the front part of the gut to break down the vegetable material they consume, like cattle and other ruminants.

They heavy payload of leaves and bacteria severely limits any long term flight possibilities.

That’s the reason why the Hoatzin itself exudes a disagreeable smell, perhaps for this reason it has few predators and is extremely abundant.

It is also the only species of bird that has chicks with claws on their wings.

This is a noisy species, with a variety of hoarse calls, one of which has been described as like a heavy smoker’s wheezing.


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Filed Under: Bolivia

Swamp Things

Posted on June 7, 2011 by 3 Comments

When we first arrived at this lodge, Bode announced that he was going to ‘work’ here. He immediately ran into the kitchen like he owned the place an announced his intentions. It was a big hit.

Pretty smart move, actually. Making friends with the kitchen staff has benefits. Any time he wanted something, he got it.

Anyway, more animal watching today. The variety of animal life here is pretty astounding – especially the birds. I’m no “birder” – just the idea lulls me the sleep – but I can start to see how this can be interesting.  Giant falcons roosting in treetops. Massive storks guarding their huge nests (for the record, there were none carrying newborn children or eating pickles). Toucans flying overhead. All sorts of birds diving in the water. Lot’s of activity. If you don’t want to look up, you can look down and watch pink dolphins. Yes, pink dolphins.

At some point during the day, we tried to see just how dirty Bode could get. It wasn’t really our choice, but we’re in a swamp for Pete’s sake. A kid can get pretty dirty… that doesn’t make us bad parents. When his 4-year-old buddy loaned him his machete and we took photos instead of taking it away immediately… that makes us bad parents. Ah, boys and their machetes.

Later, we went out to check out the swamp at night. Spotting caiman eyes with flashlights was pretty cool. Mostly, it was just an excuse to watch the sunset in the swamp.

And, it wasn’t long before Bode really did seem to be working here. “You’re going to drive the boat today, kid?” Claro.



Filed Under: Bolivia

The Goofiest Rodent

Posted on June 6, 2011 by 4 Comments

It’s also the biggest. The capybara is a peculiar beast.

“If threatened, it’s usual response is to flee into the water, where it dives staying submerged for several minutes.” – Guia de Fauna Selvestre, Selva & Pampas

We clearly weren’t very threatening.


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Filed Under: Bolivia


Posted on June 5, 2011 by 5 Comments

Pirana fishing. Okay, sure.

Hand line is the only way to go – and small chunks of diced beef work like a champ.  Here, the pirana are easy to spot. They go after swarms of bugs on the water’s surface – always shallow water – and create quite a boil when the frenzy gets going.

Drop your line into the water and you’ll start getting bites within seconds. They don’t seem to be a  very bright fish – not discriminating in the least.  Pull the line in and be careful of those razor-sharp chompers when you try to recover the hook.

Fun stuff – and great kid fishing. Easy to catch and seemingly dangerous.

After we caught ten or so, we headed back and gave some to the ladies in la cocina. Fish soup or fried pirana were the choices. We opted for frito, since the last time we had fish soup, los peces were apparently just dropped in the blender.

Not bad tasting – no real identifiable flavor. The problem is that there’s just no meat – maybe one fork’s worth.

If you were hungry, you would probably be better off eating the bait.


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Filed Under: Bolivia

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