Into the jungle

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Andean Adventure

Into the jungle
October 5, 1997

Yacuma River flows slow and brown with mud
I couldn't believe I was getting in to swim in piranha- and crocodile-infested waters in the Bolivian Amazon. As I sank knee-deep into mud to enter the murky waters of the Yacuma River, I told myself.

Yes, dolphins. This amazing animal who got cut off from the once-connecting Pacific Ocean is now the Amazon River dolphin, which is pink and lavender with a metallic shine as it bareback surfaces the brown, muddy water. The swimming lagoon was their turf for the day, and they circled the swimmers and kept off the crocodiles, literally playing with us and happily jumping with life.

What a three-day adventure it was. Dropping at least 10,000 feet from La Paz and leaving our bikes and climbing gear behind. All you need is bug spray and a sun hat. We couldn't believe we were in the jungle. Huge banana leaves, macaws flying around. The bugs were definitely looking like they were the size of my foot and they were from a different planet. The air was so humid we took two to three showers a day. Incredible.

Exotic birds start singing
at 5 a.m. each morning
At night a group of good adventurers — four Kiwis, two Germans, one Brit, and three Americans — went out for a night walk as we all huddled behind our guide who was making distressed baby crocodile noises to attract the whole lot. He shined his flashlight around the same lagoon we had been swimming in. Now the dolphins had gone to feed and the crocs took over, red eyes everywhere, responding to Billy, our guide, by grunting and swimming closer. We all stepped back, amazed. We felt as if we shouldn't be here.

Awaking at 5 a.m. we all climbed clumsily out of our mosquito nets and into our dugout canoe. Silently we drifted with the awakening day on the Amazon. The dolphins swam by to say good morning. The birds came to sing, the monkeys howled, the crocodiles getting ready to rest after a long night. The changing from day to night was so mind-blowing we all seemed in awe. This trip for us was something we never thought of doing, especially in Bolivia. The Bolivian rain forest is so pure and untouched we couldn't have asked for a more special time that we weren't expecting. Our group was all made up of good people from around the world that love to seek the unknown and were happy to share it.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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