Sunday, April 12, 2009

Off to the Pampas

Luckily, the pampas trip was not of the "up and off at crack of dawn" variety, so we had time to get breakfast before we go. This was particularly useful as Jen is actually more attached to her breakfast than I am to mine, so they would have had two very ratty individuals in the jeep had we not been able to feed. We ended up just across the road from where we had eaten the previous day, in a plac called Narguila which turned out to be Israeli Central for Rurre. The food was still good, though.

When we turned up at the office, though, it was to find that we had been merged with another couple of groups - the people who were supposed to be on ours had not made it due to problems with flights from La Paz (déja vu anyone?), and so the two of us from Inca Land were in with people from Indígena and Shayna in a combined group. Thus, all our mucking about and agonising about which company to go with was utterly useless, as we ended up back with a guide from the company (Shayna) we had looked at first, although travelling in a vehicle from Indígena. This latter turned out to be very useful, as the road was in a shocking state but Hugo, our slightly mad driver, ploughed our Nissan Patrol through pretty much anything, also stopping a couple of times to fix another vehicle that was having troubles.

Having watched trucks, pickups and the odd land cruiser getting bogged or otherwise messed up along the way, we weren't all that upset to arrive late at the embarcation point for the boats, on the principle that at least we'd got there. At this juncture, the loss of Jen's hat prior to boarding the bus from Yolosita became slightly more urgent, as the sun was beating down and the boats had a grand total of zero cover. So I succumbed to my occasional chivalrous instincts and lent her my much-abused bush hat, deciding that my bandana would have to suffice for the trip.

And the boat trips, it has to be said, were the best bit of the pampas tour overall - the weather was generally fine, the breeze from our passage kept things comfortable and we saw plenty of wildlife. Jabiru storks gliding majestically over the waters, caiman hiding from the day's heat under bushes, eagles perched on the highest trunks, cormorants diving for fish, ninga-ningas looking frankly ridiculous with their faux-punk feather arrangements on their heads, flapping from bus to bush, and monkeys charging through the greenery to look at our boat and jump on the bow when we got in close and fiddle with the flag-staff from which fluttered the obligatory Bolivian flag. Really, a great way to spend an afternoon.

The only slight downside was that, because we had started so late and seen so much, we didn't make it to the ecolodge in time for sunset, and instead observed it from the river. Not necessarily a bad thing, though slightly less convenient for my attempts to get my usual dozens of photos of the sun's disappearance. Once we finally did make it to the lodge, it was after dark and the mosquitoes were rising in force. Roberto, our guide, pointed out the dorm that the group would be staying in and then pointed me and Jen to a separate "room". "But we're not..." we started, before deciding that actually having out own little enclosure (it's hard to call something of which half the "walls" are mosquito nets a room) would be a good thing in terms of being able to spread out and keep our stuff more secure. Obviously the lady at Inca Land tours had decided we made a nice couple as well. Though in fact, the setup was a twin with mossie nets over each bunk, so quite how much use it would have been to an actual couple is debatable, especially as the aforementioned nets had all the sound-blocking properties of a piece of paper!

It was soon time for dinner, which we took in the dining "room" with the other group who'd arrived the previous night, which turned out to include Terry and Fran, the Irish couple I had met in Coroico. Small world, and all that. After feeding time, Jen and I put paid to another of our "babies" whilst chatting with Roberto about the next day on the trip, and then everyone retired for an early night.