Las Pampas – a pampered jungle experience

It was the season but quite incredibly we’d found another road in Bolivia that was ‘too dangerous for a bus’. Perhaps with the most extreme anecdotes so far. And so, we were swayed enough to swap the perilous 20+ hour bus journey for the 90 minute plane ride. It was worth it alone for the bird’s eye views. This was flashpacking at its best.

Departing the high altitude, chilly capital of Bolivia and landing in the sweaty, humid, oxygen-filled depths of the jungle was surreal. I love how much juxtaposition this continent and its countries contain! Desperately removing my warm layers, we emerged from the rattling, 20-man plane, anticipation oozing from our pores and blinking profusely in the sunlight. Having arranged this part of the trip through Flecha tours, we were collected by a man who we came to know as ‘Jorgito’. From here, he bundled us into his car and deposited us with Laura, arguably one of the best dressed and most clued-up ladies of Rurrenabaque. Sat on the Beni river, this quaint town has a population of 15,000 and serves as the gateway to Bolivia’s jungle.

Ever the pro, Laura welcomed us into her agency as if it were her home. Acquainting ourselves with the other tourists, we assigned ourselves hostels, asked relevant questions and mentally prepared ourselves for the morning pickup and Las Pampas experience that was the next day.

A 2.5 hour drive, lunch, 30 mins drive later and we were at the river collection point. The boat from here to your accommodation can take anywhere between 1-3hours…depending on the rain downpour and exotic animals you spot on the way.

The Pampas experience was truly a lazy but wonderful way to discover a part of Bolivia I hadn’t planned to see. Heart-rate levels only increased upon seeing cayman and waist lines expanded at the buffet lunch and dinners. At our accommodation, the games room was worth every drop of sweat, serving as a refuge from mosquitoes and a sauna for table tennis.

At night you could hear the shrieks coming from the showers. These mosquitoes had no boundaries. I chuckled myself to sleep, safely under my mosquito net as I heard shampoo bottles crash to the floor, and the wooden shack shake as another person flew, sopping wet out of the shower. ‘Shower with the light out’ we yelled but it was too late. Mosquitoes: 10million, Humans: 0.

Our days were fairly prescribed here and we had to surrender ourselves to routine. Something some of us hadn’t experienced for over half a year. Like a well-oiled machine we were woken each day, fed and on-board the boat, ready to explore. Activities included searching for sloths, fishing piranha, sunset watching, cayman catching, admiring anaconda, swimming with pink dolphins and crashing into monkey territories so that they could come aboard and search our hair and belongings for food. It was a fascinating and beautiful time but there was an edge to it that made me far too aware that boundaries between humans and animals had been crossed a long time ago and I can only assume it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.

Piling into our boat one last time, we sunk back into our seats. Breathing deeply I soaked up the warmth and scenery, still desperately hoping to spot an elusive sloth. After a taster of the jungle, the others were off to do ‘survivor’ an elective 4-30 days actually within the jungle, surviving off the resources provided by nature alone. Recognising my preference for some of the finer things in life, I munched on the welcome home cake provided by the incredible Laura and bid them and the tropical climate goodbye before my return back to the heights of La Paz.

Seconds to make count

  • Watch Jungle with Daniel Radcliffe – it’s a gripping true story based in Bolivia with some inspired acting.
  • Mosquitoes don’t like white clothes but will still bite you through anything
  • It’s worth saving a bit more money so you can catch more flights and less buses.
  • Take a portable battery so you can charge your devices for pictures. Take games to be social.
  • Try and learn the language of those around you.
  • Don’t say anything about anyone you wouldn’t be prepared to say to their face.

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