welcome to the jungle (part 1)

11/14/05

rurrenabaque is a small town that is a jumping off point for various tours. the two main kind of tours that you can take are tours to either the jungle or the pampas. initially, i really wanted to go on a jungle tour. going to the jungle sounds really exotic and adventurous, while going to the pampas sounds like… well.. like… what the heck is a pampas anyways? it turned out that the pampas are marshy grasslands. kind of like a crazy swamp but with super tall grass. the really cool thing about the pampas tour is that you get to see a ton of different wildlife. to be honest, the jungle tour sounded pretty tame and boring compared to the pampas, so in the end we decided to tour the pampas instead.

11/15/05

after spending a day in rurrenabaque, we headed out on our tour. the 7 of us and our guide drove for several hours until we got to the river where we had to transfer all of our stuff into a long canoe with a motor. after a bunch of waiting around, our adventure was finally about to begin.

we cruised down the river and the guide would point stuff out to us. this was a good thing, since i pretty much never noticed anything until the guide pointed it out. he was incredibly good at spotting things. we saw tons of turtles sitting on logs. the crazy thing about the turtles was that they would usually stand in a long row, and each turtle would have its front legs on the turtle in front of it, like a little turtle conga line. i kept trying to take a photo of this, but each time, by the time i got my camera ready, the turtles would dive into the water and be gone. what the hell?! aren’t turtles supposed to be slow? we also saw all kinds of crazy birds. lots of them were several feet tall and looked really crazy.

every once in a while, as we went along, the guide would point towards the bank and yell out “alligator”. i would look in the direction he was pointing and see nothing. only after peering at the spot for what seemed like ages, i would finally spot two eyes and a long snout sticking out over the water. these gators blended into the background almost perfectly. at one point, we took the canoe close to this tree, and the guide started making all these chirping sounds. in a few seconds, a bunch of tiny little squirrel monkeys came running up through the trees. they ran all around and jumped from branch to branch. one of them was even carrying a baby on its back.

later, we pulled up to one of the many camps along the river. as our guide talked to some of the people in the camp, an alligator swam up to the camp and then slowly crawled on shore. as the gator started lumbering closer and closer to the camp, i started wondering what was going to happen. then someone came out and dumped a huge bucket of rice mixed with table scraps in front of it. it turns out that the owners of the camp feed the gator, so it always ends up hanging out near the camp. we all got out of the canoe and watched it eat. alligators aren’t really built for eating rice, so it had to kind of turn its head sideways, and then flick the rice into the air to catch it in its jaws. as it ate, we stood there, just 4 or 5 feet away watching. it was kind of crazy to be that close to this wild alligator, with no barrier or anything whatsoever to stop it from turning around and attacking us.

eventually, we got to our camp. we would be staying in a large room with a bunch of mosquito net covered beds in it. we had some time to kill before dinner, so we decided to look around. it turned out that our camp has our very own alligator as well. we were located on a very steep bank though, so this alligator just sits in the water below and doesn’t actually come out to camp. we peered down at it for a while, and it peered up at us, looking like it was hoping for a meal.

we quickly realized that much more dangerous than the alligator, were the mosquitoes. these things were *insane*. i have never witnessed a mosquito infestation this bad. even with tons of bug spray on, they still would land on you and suck your blood. everywhere you looked there were tons of them flying all over. for the rest of the next 3 days, every person we saw was covered in bug bites everywhere. it was practically unbearable. the next worst thing was the heat. it was about 1 or 2 million degrees out there. and incredibly humid also. so, all day long we had to put on tons of sun block and tons of bug spray. our skin was a sticky goopy mess from all of that and sweat mixed in too. ahh, the perils of the wild.

*v

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