Sun though trees

Pampas Trip – Amazonian Birds

During our trip to Amazon basin there were a huge amount of different birds. There were so many birds we decided they needed their own blog post. So even though you’re probably thinking we stole these from the Internet…..actually we got all these shots ourselves and are pretty pleased with ourselves about it! 

Amazon kingfisher

Amazon kingfisher

Jabiru – Huge bird (over 1m tall!) which hunts anacondas for a living. Name comes from the indigenous language and means ‘swollen neck’

Jabiru

Black Vulture – big enough to prey on newborn cattle!

Black Vulture

Roseate spoonbill – feeds in shallow fresh or costal waters. Looks much more pink in real life!

Roseate spoonbill

Red crested cardianal – saw lots if these but not easy to photo! 

Red-crested cardianal

Razor billed curassow – hiding so we couldn’t get a great picture! 

Razor-billed curassow

Rufescent tiger heron – lives on fish and likes to live solitary

Tiger Heron

American Ostrich or Greater Rhea

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Golden green woodpecker – female (obviously as she’s working hard!) 

Golden-green woodpecker

Striated Heron – ambush their prey from the bushes.

Zig Zag Heron

Black Eagle (baby one so not black yet)

Black Eagle Adult

Southern crested caracara – happy to eat carcasses or snack on live prey. This frog was lunch. 

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Serere – a prehistoric bird with no scientific links to other birds! Vegetarian and lives by the river. The assumption about why it isn’t extinct is that the locals believe the meat is bad so they don’t eat these birds. 

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Still working out what these guys are…….

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A classic stork (sure there’s a better name for him)

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The Ringed Kingfisher – tricky little chap to get to sit still for photos. They nest in a horizontal tunnel made in the river bank.

Ringed kingfisher 

Not even our guide’s bird book had this guy in…..any suggestions?

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Anhinga – also called the snake bird or water turkey. 

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We also managed to see toucans and some macaw parrots in flight, but we were not quick enough to get a good photo ­čÖé

 

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Exploring Bolivia – Rurrenabaque Amazon Pampas Trip

Just a 40 minute flight from La Paz is the small Amazonian town of Rurrenabaque. Sitting on the Beni river in the Bolivian Amazon basin; it is a world away from the cold dry climate of La Paz.

The trip started with flying over the mountains near La Paz which is always a treat, but this time it was in a propeller plane. The humid air as we got off the plane was a relief. Effectively we have had around 9 months of winter by this point, leaving in April the start of spring, which is the start of winter here in Bolivia; it was good to feel warm again!

After spending a night in a local hostel (Hostel Oriental) we were on a 3 hour car and boat trip out of Rurrenabaque to the Eco lodge in the Pampas. The drive was down a long dusty straight road which is just carved right though the forest. On the way we saw Bolivian cowboys cracking their whips at cattle…

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We also spotted a sloth climbing down a tree.

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A vulture and a Karakara snacking on a bovine carcass…

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There were also many other birds capybara and Caiman (Like aligators) lining wetlands along the road. We had not even arrived at our destination but it was clear the Amazon was really teeming with life. After about two and a half hours in the car we reached the boundary of the national park:

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The hours leading up to the park flew by as we were occupied by all the wildlife just outside. At the end of the road it was a our first boat trip down to the eco lodge:

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This is when things started to get interesting, there were so many Caiman so close to the boat, definitely did not want to fall in…P1020286

The Mashaquipe ecolodge was in a great setting, very relaxing and peaceful.

This is the hut we stayed in

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After lunch we were on our first trip out on the river to see the Animals. Right away we saw a toucan, which was a rare sight; but too quick to get a photo of.

We found out why it is called a rain forest; about 15 minutes in to our trip our guide said “Big rain coming”, he was not lying.

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Still we managed to see some water soaked animals and plenty of Caiman who did not mind the weather.

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Thankfully this was the only bit of rain we had, it was much more fun once the sun had come out.

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One of the things of the agenda was to go Anaconda hunting, for this we headed down the river after breakfast on morning to the wetlands. Our guide Domingo brought us down the river to a spot where we could access the the wetland plains. This is a marsh area where the anaconda live, during the day close to noon, anacondas come out of the water to bask in the sun.  Armed with a stick we started to walk the marsh land looking for these snakes:

anaconda

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After 2 hours of searching we did not find anything, although it was still an experience to be just wondering around looking for them.

Another creature which was not hard to find at all were the piranha. At the time we visited it was dry season meaning the water level has dropped to an annual low, also meaning that the river life is more packed .Looking at the still brown river, it’s easy to thing there is nothing lurking underneath; but after throwing a fishing line with a bit of meat of the end you realise just how wrong that is. Within seconds of throwing in the fishing line there is a bite:

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We managed to pull different types of piranha including the the deadly read one (above) as well as cat fish and a few sticks. I was replacing the bait so many times because it was just being decimated by the life in the river. Here’s a video of some meat being dangled in about 1 – 3 inches of river water:

There was so much life not just in the river but also in the trees, we managed to see a group of squirrel monkeys:

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Also three howlers monkeys:

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Every 10 – 20 meters there was a new Animal:

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Guinea pig deluxe

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Conspiring beasts…

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Sup’

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Better teeth than gran

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Amazing flashes of colour

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Pile on

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Coming back at night was a real experience, this is when the Caimen are most active hunting. The eyes of the caiman can be seen when shining a torch, these reflective eyes help to amplify the low light to make them brilliant nocturnal hunters. So many eyes, definitely, don’t fall in…

Croc Eyes

One of the highlights of the trip was to swim with river dolphins.

It was impossible to see where they were under the brown water even with googles on it was like trying to see though a thick fog.

We managed to get a few meters from them in the water.

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Just around the corner from where we were swimming we spotted a Black Caiman, the largest type! Our guide said that the dolphins would keep the Caimen away as they hit them with their noses. Still it felt pretty sketchy swimming in the same water with these guys lurking literally round the corner.

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Excitement aside it was also a very lazy and relaxing time just cruising down the river.

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night_boat

After three days in the Pampas it was time to head back to Rurrenabaque where we went on a quick hike to a Mirador:

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Stairs ran out

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View was worth it

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Really enjoyed the trip out to the Pampas, felt like I could stay a week there.

The company we went with Mashaquipe was brilliant and were very strict to keep in line with green policies. Whenever they spotted any rubbish lying around they would pick it up. Our guide Domingo grew up in the rain forest and learned about it from his father who was a Medicine Man, often going in to the rain forest for weeks at a time to collect medicinal plants. His real life knowledge really made the trip much more enjoyable

 

 

 

 

 

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Moon Valley – Mallasa

So I pass the ‘Valle de Luna’ pretty much every day when I go to the horses. I look over the fence at the crazy rock structures from the bouncy bus and think ‘I should probably visit there sometime’. Then a wonderful gringo opportunity arose and we had a lovely morning playing with the ponies, followed by a super lunch and set off 6 ‘gringos’ to explore the moon valley. (Technically 3 actual gringos, one German and us 2 Brits but in for a penny in for a pound even in current economical crisis!).


The science bit – “It comprises an area where erosion has worn away the majority of a mountain, composed primarily of clay rather than rock, leaving tall spires and deep canyons. Because the mineral content of the mountains varies greatly between individual mountains, the sides of the mountains are different colors, creating striking optical illusions.A majority of them are a clear beige or light brown color, but some are almost red, with sections of dark violet.” Direct from Wiki of course but informative none the less. 


It took us no more than 1 hour to wander round the windy paths, over the rickety bridges and through the sink hole tracks via a couple of ‘miradors’ for photos. That time included looking for viscachas (to no avail this time but here’s a picture stolen from someone else so you can see how cute they are and why we wanted to see them!)


Then we had the pleasure of a local  Bolivian man in full Bolivian dress standing on one of the rock structures playing a Bolivia flute very beautifully into the breeze. Surreal but fabulous….until he did an impression of a condor for us (very important bird in Bolivian culture) and we thought he might fall off the rock. 


Then we flagged a local family down in lieu of a bus and they got us safely back to plaza avoroa where we celebrated the day with an ice cream! 

Token selfie-

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Uruguay is best Guay

After out visit to Colonia we headed to the capital Uruguay Montevideo. Our last experience in Argentina of moving from the country side to the capital was not great (Buenos Aries). However; this time we were surprised!

When we arrived at the central bus station in Buenos Aries one of the first things we saw was a group of men kicking a dog. When we arrived in Montevideo we saw a group of men collecting money for dogs home for disabled dogs. As first impressions go this was a better one.

Overall the feeling in the capital was much more safe and secure than Buenos Aries and it was easy to relax here. I found the attitude of the people to be very relaxed and friendly especially if you made the effort to speak Spanish.

As we were given the wrong address by our hotel we spent a while wondering around looking for the place. As we looked clearly lost we were approached by locals and asked if we wanted any help! Not something that happens a lot in a capital. A helpful local pointed out that the addresses did not exist as the road numbers did not go that low. Then another local called the hotel and found the real address.

Along the harbor side in Montevideo are mostly residential blocks, the view out to the sea is amazing. In each place we visited I tried to go for a run, this was easily my favorite place for a morning jog, the flat road and great views make it easy to have fun while running. They even had kilometers marked out along the road, there were so many people out running. It is a very sporty city,  with outdoor gyms every other block. The sunrise that morning from our apartment:

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We decided to not jump on the tourist bus here and instead walk as much as possible. Here are a few of the sights we saw:

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Fountain on lock-down:

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She loves a horse

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Palcio Salvo, intended to be a hotel but now private residences and offices:

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The original city gate:

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Angry bird spotted in the wild:

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We only had a few days in the city and wish we had more time, certainly a country I would like to explore more of. One of my favorites of the trip so far. Uruguay, what a Guay.