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Pampas Day 1: Arrival, The Camp, Introduction to the River

It takes almost an hour to fly the 150 miles from La Paz to Rurrenabaque.  Alternatively, you could drive.  The road is almost twice as long, at 270 miles, but is reportedly pretty poor and slow going.  Still, it would be an adventure.  Flying is an adventure, too.  Not the adventure it used to be, of course.  When my friend Ann flew to Rurrenabaque 25 years ago, the plane hit a dog on the runway and she was stuck there for days while they got the landing gear fixed.  Haven’t heard of that happening recently.  Still, I’m not sure it is impossible.

Our party, in front of the airplane

Our party, in front of the airplane

The flight, on the 50 seat Amaszonas Bombardier CRJ-200, was smooth, and the landing dog-free.  The airport in Rurre, as some call it, is small and cute.  We passed through it pretty quickly and found our guides waiting for us with 4x4s for the drive to the camp.

Rurrenabaque Airport Terminal

Rurrenabaque Airport Terminal

It’s a 65 mile drive to the Caracoles Camp, but it takes three hours to get there, as the road is very rough.  I understand that in the rainey season, when the road fills up with water and mud, it can take much longer.  At about 12 miles you enter the Reserva Nacional Lagunas Beni y Pando, so you should keep your eyes open, as you might come across something interesting.  Our driver/guide stopped the car to show us a sloth hanging in a tree by his arms and legs.

Actually, the guide said this was a mother sloth holding it's child, but you have to have better eyes than me to see that.

Actually, the guide said this was a mother sloth holding it’s child, but you have to have better eyes than me to see that.

For about 45 miles you pass through the National Reserve, and a few miles further on you come to the small town of Santa Rosa de Yacuma.  At this point you have almost reached your destination, Caracoles Camp.

Caracoles camp sits on the bank of the Yacuma River in the Area Protegida Municipal Pampas del Yacuma, an area protected by the municipality of Santa Rosa along the banks of the River.  It’s a nice little camp, with cabins both with and without private bath, a large dining hall, and hammocks to lie in when you are resting from your adventures.

Aliciya, enjoying her siesta

Aliciya, enjoying her siesta

After a light lunch, we took off up the river for a short afternoon familiarization tour.

Most of the activity at Caracoles involves taking a boat either up or down the Yacuma River.  Traveling up and down the river, there is an incredible variety of wildlife.  Of course, some of it is constant, and we saw the ubiquitous caimanes, Hoatzins, turtles, capybaras, and Great Egrets on that first afternoon, but other animals and, especially, birds, are different on every trip.

Here are a few of the most common animals seen along the Yacuma River every day:

Capybara, the largest rodent in the world.

Capybara, the largest rodent in the world.

 

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

 

Common Caiman

Spectacled or Common Caiman

 

Yellow Spotted River Turtle

Yellow Spotted River Turtle

 

 

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