From La Paz there are two ways to get to Rurre, by plane or by bus. The short flight takes just 45 minutes while the bus ride takes a gruelling 18 hours off of your life. Going we choose airplane. The one way flight costs 372 Bolivianos (US $54.60) each. Traveling eight months in South America and this is our first flight. On board the forty-seater we get coffee and chocolate. It feels like real luxury, even if Mika has to change seats because hers does not have a seat belt.
|Happy to have safely landed|
On our return to La Paz we choose the bus. For 70 Bolivianos (US $10). This is purely an economic decision lest we forget our monthly backpacking budget. I do not need to go into all the gruesome details, but lets just say the roads are horrendous, seats are uncomfortable, it is long and miserable.
|The toucan on this bus to La Paz is a reminder that we'd rather be flying|
Welcome to Rurrenabaque
|View from our Rurre hotel|
|Two wheels are preferred in Rurre|
|Not Tourists: locals dvd shopping|
|Found our weakness: At a French-owned pastry shop for a quiche and chocolate croissant breakfast.|
For such a small town hotels and tourist-geared eateries abound while the number of travel agencies is off the charts. This is due to the proximity of the jungle which is reached by boat from the River Beni and to the pampas which is reached by a bumpy, two hour jeep ride.
If there is anything I hate about traveling it is having to choose a travel agency in exactly this type of situation. We know that we want to do a 3day/2night pampas tour, but who to choose? The fact is that here they all offer the same tour. Also, the majority are just not completely honest. They all say "eco" but some tourists return from tours saying that the guides handled or even fed wild animals. You buy with one agency promising this or that and they then sell you to another agency to form larger groups. On top of it all the prices are exactly the same except for the few who charge more.
Tour prices in this area have skyrocketed recently due to a government mandate. A 3 day/2 night trip now costs 900 B (US $130) minimum per person where just a few months ago the price was as low as 480 B (US $69) per person. The price does not include 150 Boliviano park entrance fee. What we are told as to why there is price control is that in the past companies would offer dirt cheap tours and then cut costs every which way, including hiring any shady character to be a guide. There were many reports of drunkenness, theft and even a tourist was raped. With the price increase the guides are now supposedly licensed, better educated about conservation and receiving better wages all of which are a good thing.
|This warning sign is all over town about the risks of discounted tours|
|Our river lodgings|
The River Wild
I would like to first start out this section with a disclaimer: I stink at wildlife photography. I do not have a long enough zoom lens to get good close-up shots of the animals, so many of the following photos have been cropped (cropping is usually a no-no) so you can have a finer glimpse of the critters, but quality has suffered somewhat.
|Our launching point|
On our first cruise we see a whole host of critters - mammals, birds and reptiles - along on the river bank and in the trees. It feels like a river safari. So come on and take a ride with me down the cafe latte colored waters of the mighty Yacuna river.
|Crocs Rule: There are so many crocodiles and caiman|
|A pregnant capybara - the world's largest rodent|
|A capybara family|
|A hoatzin, but I call them swamp chickens|
|As the boat approaches this bird is chased down river only to be again chased down river only to again...|
|Sticks poking out of the water are the turtles turf|
|A capuchin monkey. There is also a gang of them living by our cabana|
|Another big bird|
|Did I mention there are a lot of caimans and crocs?|
|On the river with the last drops of daylight|
|The Eyes: The lighted spots in the photo are crocs and caiman|
|Can you spot the four howler monkeys in the tree?|
What Lies Beneath
|Our fishin' hole|
|My big catch|
|I am sure there must be an anaconda here somewhere|