Melting in the Bolivian Amazon

I am not cut out to survive the heat and humidity of the Amazon Jungle, of that I have no doubt.

We first visited the Amazon while in Ecuador several weeks ago, and upon our second visit while in Bolivia I found it to be even more steamy. Compared to the cold crispness of being in the Bolivian highlands near Uyuni, the jungle air hit me like a big, wet, hot and slightly mildewy blanket. Even the slightest of movements would cause sweat to roll down my forehead.

I was, quite literally, a hot mess. But, it was worth it!

This is our sexy jungle look! Covered up to protect from the bugs and the sun…and to sop up the sweat!

As part of our BikeHike Adventures tour of Bolivia we connected up with a local tour company in the town of Rurrenabaque (Bolivia) called Mashaquipe Ecotours. Mashaquipe is a great company that was founded by, and is focused on employing and directly benefiting, local indigenous families. They were amazing!

Our tour took us into the pristine jungle of the Madidi National Park and then to the marshlands known as the Yacuma Pampas. I’ve never been anywhere that concentrates wildlife in one place like the Amazon.

Part of our crew traveling into the jungle by motorized canoe.

Darlene and Chris discover the limitations of a roller bag suitcase when sleeping at a jungle lodge.

Jungle camping!

One of our guides helping to navigate the river in the fog.

Chris supervising the construction of the balsa wood raft the group used to float down the river from our overnight camping spot back to the jungle lodge.

There are several things I’ll remember most about this particular trip.

I’ve highlighted many of them below. A big thanks to both Chris (Glenn’s brother) and Ryan Chen (a fellow BikeHike Adventures traveler) for letting me use some of their photos.

Chris’ trick to taking great photos? A trusty tripod. Or, in this case, a trusty bipod named Darlene. (Photo by Ryan Chen)

1. Seeing macaws in the wild.

A pair of red and green macaws soaring above the jungle canopy. (Photo by Chris)

They were often in pairs, but sometimes they flew in big groups, screeching the whole way. (Photo by Chris)

They live in little holes in the cliff face, where they eat the minerals in the dirt to help them process the toxic nuts they eat. It was like a macaw high-rise condo building. (Photo by Chris)

2. Being woken up at 5:30 in the morning to the sound of howler monkeys.

The howl of these large monkeys can travel for three miles in the dense jungle. The sound is something akin to either a beer burping contest at a frat house…or the noise a coffee maker makes right when it finishes brewing.

A female howler monkey watches us pass beneath her. She had a baby tucked up in the tree with her somewhere as well. (Photo by Chris)

A male howler monkey letting it roll. It was amazing how loud he was. (Photo by Chris)

Ryan doing his best howler monkey impersonation – he can burp with the best of them!

Chris, Willow, Ryan and Darlene watching the monkeys.

3. Snuggling with a coatimundi named Temo.

The Mashaquipe lodge in the pampas was also home to Temo, a semi-wild coati (or coatimundi). He climbed into my hammock for a little snuggle…which included nibbling my ears and making little squeaking noises when I rubbed his belly. He was like a bizarre mix between a raccoon and a house cat.

Temo made a great hammock buddy! Just had to watch out for his little teeth. (Photo by Ryan Chen)

Temo made a great hammock buddy! Just had to watch out for his little teeth. (Photo by Ryan Chen)

Never a dull moment with Temo. (Photos by Chris)

Never a dull moment with Temo. (Photos by Chris)

4. Seeing pink river dolphins.

I had never heard of dolphins that live in a river – much less dolphins that are pink – before this trip. These dolphins can only be found in the Amazon River and some of its tributaries and are at risk of extinction. They vary in color (pink, grey, tan), but when they get excited they essentially blush and turn a brighter shade of pink. We were able to observe the pink backside of these Dolphins when they surfaced for air. But…because you never knew where they would pop up next, it was hard to get a good photo.

Two pink dolphins coming up for air while feeding on fish. (Photo by Chris)

5. The sound and smell of wild pigs.

It isn’t that hard to find wild pigs in the jungle, if the rumbling sound from their collective snorting doesn’t give them away…their rancid smell will! Two large groups of wild pigs crashed through the jungle near us when we were hiking. It sounded like a bulldozer was coming toward us and their smell lingered for a long time.

Chris and Darlene hiking through the jungle…on the hunt for smelly pigs.

6. Watching fireflies dancing through the jungle vegetation at night.

I’ve only ever seen fireflies once before in my life (while visiting family in Texas), so seeing them again while in the middle of a jungle was quite a treat! (No pictures for this one, you gotta use your imagination.)

7. Glenn catching a piranha.

On our last day in the pampas we went fishing for piranha. Glenn was very proud of his catch.

Debbie, Willow, Chris, Darlene, Glenn and our guide Negro, fishing for piranha.

Glenn’s big catch. (Photo by Chris)

Watch out, they bite! (Photo by Chris)

8. Being agog with the amount of wildlife along the banks of the Yacuma River.

We spent several hours over the course of two days going up and down the Yacuma River in motorized canoes. My head was on a swivel the entire time because no matter where you looked, amazing wildlife could be seen!

Chris and Darlene leading the way.

Chris took this photo of a turtle relaxing in the sun – which must be hard to do when surrounded by the fellas in the next photos…

The river was stuffed full of caiman, a member of the alligator family. (Photo by Chris)

There were two types of caiman in the river, including this black caiman – the largest predator in the Amazon River Basin. kinda scary to be in such close proximity to animals that want to eat you. “Get in my belly!” (Photo by Chris)

Amazing wildlife everywhere we looked!

Capybaras also lined the river banks (carefully avoiding the caiman). They are real life R.O.U.S. – Rodents Of Unusual Size (from the movie The Princess Bride), as they can weigh up to 150 pounds when fully grown. (Photo by Chris)

A shy capuchin monkey. (Photo by Chris)

The hoatzin birds never got boring to look at. These little fellas are also known as stinkbirds and their chicks have claws on the ends of their wings. Also of note, their little punk rocker hairdos get sad and droopy in the rain, which was hysterical to witness.

And, last but not least…leave it to Glenn to make friends with a dog while searching for monkeys in the middle of a jungle.

2 comments on “Melting in the Bolivian Amazon

  1. Your photos are all spectacular. Keep them coming. I too learned about river dolphins in the Orinoco in Venezuela, fished for piranha, swam with them too I guess, and had Capybaras swim up to our canoe. Those are lifetime experiences never to be forgotten and I have relived them through you. Thanks for the memories.

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