Monday, January 19, 2009

A riverboat trip in Bolivia's pampas

We hopped on a plane from the heights of La Paz to the lowlands around Rurrenabaque in the Amazon, from where we were to take a riverboat tour into the pampas (plains).
Once on the river, one of the first things we saw was this sunbathing caiman (a type of crocadile). It was the first of many we saw over our two day adventure. Later on while in the same river, our guide told us it was safe to swim and so we did. Though we don't have a photo of them, the pink river dolphin supposedly kept the crocs away from the section where we decided to take a dip.
The paradise bird is one of the 40 or 50 different species that we saw along the river.
We can assure you that the turtle population is alive and well. We saw hundreds of these reptiles sunbathing along the banks.
Our guide gave Virginia a banana to feed these little squirrle monkies.
Later in the day, we took sometime to have a cold beer and relax at this river bar. In the background you can see skulls of different animals found on the pampas. Later that evening at the bar, a few of the guides from the different companies got together and ripped up some pampas tunes with a guitar hanging on the wall. A couple of the guides used the skulls and striking instruments to keep the beat.
A possum stopped by for a visit to the dining room of our camp.
Once night time hit, these frogs were all over the camp taking advantage of all the creepy crawlies.
This pig of a rodant weighs about 150 pounds or more and is called a capibara.
Our guide took us pirhanna fishing in the same river we were swimming in 10 minutes earlier. Apparrently the two metres of water where we took a dip was too deep for their liking, but the two feet where our guide caught this vicious meat eater was just right for them.
Yeah, we ate 'em for lunch.
In schools of a thousand or more, these teeth can devour an entire cow in about five minutes. It took about a minute to eat just one of them; it's hard to pick around their little bones.
Our 15-horse-power motor cut out on us on our way back to town, and Stephe had to paddle to keep us on course as we went down river. Under normal circumstances, we were about 3 hours up river from town, far away from pretty much everything, even the grass-roofed river saloon we stopped in at the day before. Eventually our guide was able to get the spark plugs working, and we were putting down river once again.

Salar de Uyuni and around

Stephe crouches on the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Desert of Uyuni).
Virginia holds a salt block. These blocks are used to make fences, houses, dining tables and chairs - basically everything you might need.
This clock is made of salt.
V crouches infront of a giant cactus.
Stephe points out how the rock is covered in fossilized coral, indicating that this salt desert near to 4000 metres above sea level was once covered in ocean waters.
V leans against a giant cactus to give you a sense of just how giant it is.
V lies on the desert floor, which you can see is virtually pure salt.
The ocean waters helped contour these rocks.
Vicuña are perhaps the largest wild animals around Salar de Uyuni.
Large rocks like these are only found in a few locations around the Salar de Uyuni.
V and Stephe stand infront of a rock formed before the ocean waters subsided.
Our guide takes a brake.
V climbs a rock with our fellow traveller Terry, from Australia.
Many thousands of Flamingos make the lagoons in this area their home.
Our guide is about to repair a flat tire. Before the trip was over, our truck broke down twice and had three flat tires, usually there was nothing but sand or salt for as far as the eye could see.

Potosi and Cerro Rico

Virginia stands next to the machinery, run by donkey power, that produced some thousands of coins each day inside the Bolivian National Mint in the city of Potosi. The mint is not operational today, but was used during the height of the silver rush over 100 years ago. Potosi is supposedly the highest city in the world, sitting at just above 4000 metres above sea level.
V stands next to a devil shrine, sometimes called Tio (Uncle), which stands at the entrance to the Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) mine. The silver miners worship the Devil to keep themselves safe while underground. Coca leaves, cigarrettes and money are typical offerings made to appease him.
Stephe helps fill a bucket with ore, which is then pulled up a shaft towards the workers outside.
V holds a homemade dynamite. Notice that it is lit.
V no longer holds the dynamite.