Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Mighty Amazon

Very very small plane
Going to the Amazon was something we really wanted to do and Ellen did some research and found that is was cheaper and far less touristy to do it from Bolivia.
We booked with Chatalan, this is a company which is highly reputable and not one of the cheapies. 
We got up at 3am to get out 6.20am flight from La Paz to Rurrenabaque which was in a really small plane. Angel was unfortunately terrified, it was the smallest plane he has ever been on and it was a very bumpy ride with several drops! 
The flight was only 30 minutes and we were met at the Airport (read: shack) by the manager of the Chatalan Rurrenabaque office. 10 minutes later we were in the office and getting a debrief on our trip.
We met our personal guide Nilo, there was one other group of Mexicans who had their own guide. Nilo  would take us up the river to the Chatalan site and take us out for walks and canoe trips to see the jungle. 
The journey to Chatalan
The Chatalan site is 5 hours up the river from Rurrenabaque, we stopped for a snack after about 2 hours and the arrive
d at Chatalan for lunch. The river was magnificent, we saw loads of birds (mostly vultures) along the way and. Some spectacular scenery.
Our cabin was simple, we opted for a twin room as it was about US$100 cheaper, and it had its own bathroom and electricity from 6pm - 10pm. Each bed had a mosquito net. There were no blinds or curtains or glass windows, just fly screen. No one could see in as each cabin is within a secluded section of the site. The room was perfect for sleeping, in fact Ellen has had her best nights sleep of the whole trip here! The rooms are so dark as with the lights off there is no light source, no city, no cars, just jungle. Pitch black.
Birds on the lake
Our first day Nilo took us out in a canoe (another bonus of your own guide - he did all the rowing) around the lodges lake, it's quite large, it took us about an hour and a half to get around it, slowly, we saw loads more birds and some monkeys, our first Toucan in the wild, and a couple of fish jumping out of the water. It's just so peaceful (especially away from the drunk Mexicans) 
We ate our beautifully prepared dinner and went off to bed, as it's dark there is not a lot to do, it's early  mornings and early bedtimes in the jungle. That night it started raining at about 1am, now this is proper Sydney rain, not London drizzle. It poured down in buckets for about 15 hours and when it finally stilled at about 4pm the next day we could venture out and see the carnage; the pathways to the cabins were ankle-deep in water, the lake had risen so high the canoe pier could not be seen, and when we did venture out for a walking trip we took a canoe to the other side of the lake and walked up a path as we knew that would be clearer, but there were still streams of water pouring down the hill. We walked up to a viewing platform they had made and stood watching the birds, mostly macaws, enjoying the respite from the rain. 
Howler Monkeys
The following day we woke to the sound of howler monkeys, which sounded Very eerie, Angel thought it was the plumbing!  Today we decided to do one of the paths which were along the flatter areas, hoping the water had subsided. It had, a bit. After slipping and sliding through mud and rocks we arrived at the first river crossing, though the bridge had been washed away, so Nilo walked us a bit further downstream where he found a tree which had fallen yesterday over the river, and we balanced ourselves and walked over it. Along this walk we encountered several more bridges whcih had washed away, unfortunately not every river gave us a fallen tree and Nilo had to make us bridges out of whatever he could find, it certainly was an adventure. We saw loads of wild pigs, more macaws, howler monkeys, frogs, a Toucan, and even a woodpecker, which looked exactly like Woody!
Most bridges had washed away.
Dinner was a local dish of trout with rice and vegetables followed by the Chatalan team band playing for us and we all danced, after we had tried 'puma milk' ( a milky alcohol dink) and chewed coco leaves.  Later that night Nilo and Angel went out in the canoe on the lake, it was pitch black, with only the reflections of the stars on the lake and our torches as light we went looking for caimans. Unfortunately we only saw one with its eyes reflecting red with the torchlight, but the most magnificent thing to see were the stars. Just breathtaking. 
Our final day we woke to the sound of a Toucan, we've learnt their call and easily spotted one, then two in the trees high above our cabin. We had breakfast and began the 3.5 hour boat journey back to Rurrenabaque (it's faster on the way back as you have the river flow with you), had lunch in the town and arrived at the airport to find, to Angel's relief, that there was a much larger plane for the journey back!

Beautiful scenery
Angels's note on the jungle and your clothes:
Unfortunately it rained a bit on the boat on the way to the lodge and although the guides wrap your bags in tarpaulins, my bag got a bit wet, which is fine, but in the jungle nothing dries. Nothing. It's so humid and you are sweating that the clothes you have on get damp, when you take them off they don't dry unless you put them in direct sunlight. Needless to say we had wet clothes, shoes and towels. Lesson learnt. 

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