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La Paz and Rurrenabaque

La Pampas

After Uyuni we stayed in La Paz for a few days. We had our bag stolen on the bus (only a few books in it tho) and we felt like having a taste of home so we hunted down the Highest british-indian (it was actually called that!) curry house in the world and had a nice meal. La Paz is quite a hectic city and is a bit intimidating at first, but after wandering around the witches market and the center we ended up liking it quite a lot. It has a different atmosphere from other cities in South America, and definately feels a lot poorer and more run down, but its really interesting to watch all the indiginous locals, and wander through the markets, all the while with a cool backdrop of steep mountainous streets and snowy peaks.

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We also went to a few museums in town, including the coca leaf museum that details the plight of the coca crop- it was interesting learning all the medicinal uses that people have found in coca (going back to prehistoric times), and its importance in Bolivian culture- Bolivians have also had a lot of trouble trying to keep the tradition going since westeners discovered it could be used to make cocaine, and then tried to make it illegal.
Our favourite museum however was the musical instrument museum, which houses tons of instruments, some of which are really really old. I found it particularly interesting how careless Bolivians were a hundred years back about capturing endangered animals and then making instruments out of them: they had guitars and harps made of armadillos and turtles, and shakers made of toucans beaks. Pretty mad. What was also nice was a hands on feature, where they had a balcony full of interesting instruments which you could have a bit of a jam on.

So after La Paz we hopped on a bus for possibly one of the most sketchy journeys so far. If any of you have seen a picture of ´The Death Road´ this road was basically an extention of this. Just a narrow road on a cliff face with hair pin bends all the way along. At one point James was like ´Look at this!´and when we looked at the road it was crumbling away. After that i closed my eyes and tryed to sleep through the rest of the journey. Despite the scaryness the views were amazing all jungle covered mountains with little houses dotted in them. We saw one person going on a zip wire from one side to the other to get to his house, quite original! So at about 5 we arrived in Rurrenabaque and checked into this lovely hostel on the river with good breakfasts, lots of hammocks and there far share of animals. In every Bolivian town we´ve bumped into the same Irish couple and they were here too along with a couple we´d met briefly in Tupiza and as we all wanted to do the Pampas Tour we decided to book it together. You can do Jungle tours here but apparently you see alot of animals in the Pampas so this swayed our decision. We set off the next day to another river in the Pampas and stopped for lunch on the way. We had a dodgy meal the night before (not good in Bolivia) so i had a bit of food poisoning but it was all good! We set off on the river with our guide Mario and within 30 minutes we´d seen Pink Dolphins, Turtles, some awesome birds, an aligator and some cute little yellow monkeys! We were carrying all our food and the monkeys didn´t waste anytime locating the bananas and jumping on the boat to steal them.

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We were staying in some huts at the side of the river (mucho mucho mosquitos!!) and there was an overly friendly Caiman nearby who would smell breakfast and walk right up to the Kitchen.. he was a mean looking fellow!

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The second day we went hunting for anacondas and after about an hour walking in the hot Pampas we found one!!! He wasn´t massive (Pheww) but he was a nice size and we held him a bit... he was so strong it was like holding pure muscle.

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We were going to go on hunting for more but i was still feeling a bit ill and to everyones relief we headed back to the river. We then took the boat to a place where the dolphins hang out and most of us jumped or were pulled in the water. They weren´t really that friendly but it was really cool to see them pop up around you as you were swimming. Most of us were apprehensive to get in the water what with all the aligator, caiman and piranhas but mario said ´cuanto hay dolphin, no hay pirana´(where theres dolphins, theres no piranas). So after about 5 minutes of swimming about James scambles in to the boat because something scratched his foot and when we showed it to Mario he said ´Ahhh Piranha!´- Nice one mario! After that we went fishing for piranhas (pretty close to where we had just been swimming) but didnt catch anything- should have used James´toes as bait! On the way back to the camp, it got dark and we went looking for crocs with our torches, it was really cool- if you shine a torch at an alligator, their eyes light up bright red. The next day we had to get up really early to see the sun rise, all the while getting destroyed by mosquitoes, did some more swimming, and then headed back to rurre.

Back in La Paz now after another good tour (and another hairy bus ride, this time with rain and fog)- Pampas was just like a zoo but without any cages, and probably more tourists. Next stop Lake Titicaca.

Posted by St Martins 17:05 Archived in Bolivia Tagged cruises

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