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The Pampas of Northern Bolivia

Nice views as we head north out of La Paz. Rurrenabaque is actually not far from La Paz, but the rugged terrain makes for a least one full day of driving.

I have been on much smaller planes, but this one came with great legroom, at least for me! We also had a great view of everything in the cockpit which got a little scary on the landing approach.

The Beni River which forms much of the border between the Department of La Paz and the Department of Beni… our destination.

The town of Rurrenabaque only has around 10,000 inhabitants. The place is a bit overrun by international tourists who come to see Madidi National Park (on the left) or the Pampas (our destination on the right).

They are working to pave highway #8 south in the direction of La Paz, but the branch to the right that leads through the Pampas towards the border with Brazil is still unsealed.

Quite possible the cutest airport I have ever seen. The people sitting under the awning behind a little fence are waiting to get on our plane that just landed.

We bought our ticket from Amaszonas ("to more places" in Spanish) but their usual plane was out of commission. This Aerocon plane did just fine despite a bumpy landing.

The one and only shop at the airport was selling all kinds of nice snacks, drinks, and beer of course.

Arrival at Caracoles Eco Lodge near Santa Rosa. The ecolodge part means there is no electricity, hot water, or casino, but these hammocks were pretty sweet.

Heading out on the boat for our first look at some of the flora and fauna. Notice that the water is very low as this is the end of the dry season. There were conflicting opinions about whether this was better or worse for seeing more animals.

This is the only group of toucans that we saw all weekend. They mostly eat fruit.

This was the first of hundreds of capybara that we saw. These guys are famous as the largest rodents alive. Very docile and not so timid. They are fun to watch.

Capybara look like guinea pigs when they are younger, but they grow to weigh as much as humans. They are herbivores and usually live in family groups of 10-20.

There were Hoatzin all over the river banks. They have quite striking features and look like they could be linked to some ancient bird species. They are also known as Stinkbirds, which is partly what keeps them from being killed and eaten more, I guess.

After only a couple hours on the river, we had already seen plenty of animals on the first day. Next we would be treated to a nice sunset on our return to the ecolodge.

Oh, there were also tons of these caiman all along the riverbanks and lurking in the waters. Most were only a couple meters, but still scary enough.

Heading back toward the lodge.

Nice first day of vacation in the Bolivian Pampas.

I guess these guys just hang-out into the evening, but I don't think they would sleep there. The smaller ones are prime targets for the caiman.

Comfy lawn chairs in our boat. Not many bugs out. The sun was the main concern on this trip, but not in the evening.

Finally arriving back at the lodge.

Yes, those are stars… nice to get out of the city.

And the caiman were out the next morning. We saw over 200 of these on day two.

This guy followed us all the way up the river as if leading us to the sweet spot where the pink dolphins were hiding.

This bird looked beautiful. I thought the guide said it was a leopard bird or something, but I can't find it online now.

You can't quite see how vivid the color was.. .

And the zoom photo doesn't quite do it justice either, but a species like this almost makes you feel like going for A Big Year.

Yes, keeping out of the sun is the name of the game when you are at only 14 degrees south latitude. It wasn't super hot with the breeze in our faces, but the sun was obviously intense.

Our first glimpse of a pink dolphin. We could follow one for quite a while by tracking the waves left in the wake. Still, we hardly managed to get a good look because they weren't in the mood to jump out.

This is about the best photo that anyone got of the dolphins. We later jumped out and tried to swim with them (and the caiman) but didn't have a lot of luck.

And the other common animal along the Yucuma River was this species of turtle. There were generally sunning themselves on branches until we approached and then they were plop in the water.

Caracoles offered some great meals for us. Basically all the ingredients came in with us from Rurrenabaque, though. The market in Santa Rosa did not have mushrooms and whatnot, I guess.

This was the biggest piranha that anyone managed to catch. We were using raw beef for bait and these little guys at a lot of it before we finally nabbed one. Impressive teeth for its size, eh?

There are also a few species of monkeys but we didn't see many. The guide was pointing-out the capuchin monkey which gets its name from the same brown-hood-wearing monks for which the capuccino was named.

Back in the big town of Rurrenabaque of course our plane was delayed a few hours which gave us some time to wander around. Most of the transport here is by boat or motorbike.

I like the way Amaszonas explains (in two languages) about all the ways that their flights could be delayed on any given day. "If a passenger decides not to use his/her ticket, he/she may request a refund."

And for only 1USD, this fine bus delivered us back to the airport for the flight back to La Paz.