Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bolivia – the first week

Birdgirl in the Amazon

Well, we have started out second trip. I meant to update before we left, but had a mad rush the last couple of days and then have been too tired travelling. Between trip was very lazy and so we had a lot to fit in at the end. Just enough time for a birthday and sleep over (when not much sleep had).

We left Heathrow on Monday 7th May, which was Birdgirl’s 10thbirthday. Our attempts at finding somewhere she would eat anything were fruitless (and was causing huge stress and tension) until we spotted a Wagamama’s. We couldn’t believe our luck, particularly as we had been told when we checked in that no vegetarian food was booked for us. So we tucked in, thinking it might be our last meal for 24 hours. Chris went to check the board and oblivious to anything apart from food, I ordered ice-creams for myself and Birdgirl…Well it was a big birthday! Chris returned to find ice-creams arriving, stressed because apparently it was a 20 minute walk to the gate and he wasn’t sure if we had 45 minutes or only 30 minutes to get there. This might be the case, but I was not going to leave my three scoops of very cold ice-cream, particularly not when we still had 10 minutes to spare. A very slow 8 minutes later, we were running towards our gate (via a train – it was our first time to Terminal 5). I was relying on the 20 minute estimate being an overestimate for old people. Fortunately, it was 45 and not 30 minutes and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Not a good way to start a plane journey.

I had been dreading our transit in Miami as I remembered passport control in New York as being horrible and had heard the whole process was slow. I was pleasantly surprised to be met by no queues and a friendly passport control man, who even cracked a joke with Birdgirl! We arrived at our gate with a couple of hours to spare. Everything seemed to be going to plan until they announced that there was a transport strike in La Pazand our choice was to stay in Miami at our expense or fly on to Santa Cruz. A quick exchange of texts with Bird Bolivia and we decided to fly to Santa Cruz. At least then we were in the right country.
We arrived at 6.30am at Santa Cruz and were met by Bennett Hennessey from Bird Bolivia and his 12 year old son Adam. There were no flights to La Paz and so we fitted in some birding and stayed the night in Santa Cruz. It was lovely for Birdgirl to have some company her own age. We also managed to fit in a Japanese lunch and pizza dinner! The next morning we caught a flight to Trinidad, in the Amazon Basin, in a tiny 12 seater plane that you had to duck down to walk down the aisle. After a long 7 hour wait at Trinidad airport, we finally took our 1 hour flight to Rurrenabaque. The airstrip was cut into the Amazon and he whole flight beautiful. From here we were driven 3 hours into the foothills, to 900m, for a 3 night stay in the Amazon at Sadiri Lodge. This is a lodge built by a local indigenous people, built and run by them. We had amazing views, a lovely climate and great birds.

Chris and Birdgirl at Sadiri Lodge

Just also had a 3 night stay at Barba Azul Reserve, for which we had a one hour charter plane from Rurrenabaque and which takes 11 hours to drive from Trinidad in the dry season.  Our plane was a 5 seater tiny plane and I was a little concerned every time the pilot started talking on his mobile phone.  This was a really low flight over the Amazon to the research station, which although in the Amazon, was more open pampas grassland land and flooded rivers.  when we arrived, the plane circled twice before coming in low above the landing strip covered in cows.  I was worried we would hit a cow but we lifted up just in time.  Clearly the aim was to try to frighten the cows off the landing strip!  Then as we lifted off, we could see a gaucho on horseback galloping towards the landing strip, to clear it of cattle, just in time for our fourth and sucessful attempt to land.  As well as seeing the endemic and very rare Blue-Thoated Maacaw (called Barba Azul- blue beard in spanish) we saw a giant anteater and two yellow-banded Amedillos.  We were also plagued by mosquitoes and so were glad that we managed to get our charter plane to Trinidad yesterday, which was delayed by 8 hours due to rain.

Birdgirl enjoying a charter flight

Birdgirl riding at Barba Azul Reserve

After a night in Trinidad and birding for Beni specialities this morning, including the endemic unicoloured thrush, we are due to Fly to Ribiralta in the northern Amazon this afternoon for 2 nights. 

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