Thursday 27th November – Los Llanos

We woke up early and had breakfast.  It transpired that what the Slovakian guy had told me about beer actually being water was true as that´s what all the Slovaks were having for breakfast.  Actually not all of them were, some of them were having rum!

After breakfast we were shown our horses.  The ride started off slowly but my horse was lovely.  After some pleading and managing to convince them that I wasn´t about to wobble off they let me canter, gallop and do my own thing.  On one part of the ride we were in open savannah and I galloped around chasing cows and herding cattle with one of the guides.  It was absolutely great fun and made me feel like a real cowgirl.  The only downside to the ride was that I got eaten alive despite having several gallons of insect repellent on.  I also managed to rip my jeans when I got off and got comedy bruises on my calves from the stirrup leathers pinching me.  It was fantastic though and I was sad when I had to get off and leave my lovely, if slightly sweaty horse.  After I got off I looked at its mane which I thought just had dead skin in.  On closer inspection what I thought was a lack of ´Head and Shoulders´ was actually hundreds of dead ticks, accompanied by a lot of their live friends.  As he´d been such a star I went and got me insect repellent, some strong, horrible Anis we hadn´t drunk the previous night and set to work de-ticking my trusty steed.  It was pretty minging actually and some of the ticks were way bigger than I had ever seen.  All the time I was telling myself that he would probably go and scratch on exactly the same tree, or whatever, as soon as he was put back in the paddock, but I felt like I was making some small difference.  I´ve just realised that I´ve focused on tick removal rather than what was one of the best rides of my life….hmmm!


Back at camp we had lunch and waited for it to cool down a bit prior to our jeep safari in the afternoon.  As we were chilling out at camp, Junior (one of the guides) called for us to come to see an annaconda.  We were running through grass half wondering if the small local child who had reported it had a vivid imagination, when we got to a path and saw the hugest snake.  A couple of the guides caught it, we touched it, photographed it and then watched it slowly slither away.  It was amazing to see such a large snake in its natural environment.  I was also noble and sprinted to fetch Rainer who was at the camp having a shave or something, so that he could see the beast.  I told myself that counted as my exercise for the day.


In the afternoon we set out on our jeep safari.  We sat on the roof of the van which was a really cool way to travel, literally!  There were birds everywhere from finches the colour of the morning sun to huge cranes and herons.  Almost as soon as we left camp the jeep stopped and a couple of the guides sprinted across a field towards a giant anteater.  They put themselves the opposite side of it to the van and we all followed.  We were really close to it, it was sensational.  Somewhat bizarrely one of the guides was coaxing it to stay with a bottle of beer and it loved it.  Apparently the anteaters sometimes break into camps in search of beer!  After a while the anteater pottered off and so did we.  We carried on and, at the sides of the road, saw loads of caimans both in and out of the water.  There were rattlesnakes mating and, further on, herds of capybaras.  Being the largest, and possibly most stupid looking, rodent, I was keen to see the capybaras in their natural habitat.  What was really great to see was them crossing the rivers and waterways.  You saw them at one side, then they held their breath and swam under water as you watched the bubbles and ripples on the surface, before appearing the other side.


We carried on until we got to a quickly flowing river, where we got out to try to catch pirahnas.  I was slightly lame but as soon as Manuel (another guide) got involved I reeled one in.  I didn´t really appreciate the bashing it over the head with a rock bit though.  I don´t think I´d be a very good fisherman!  Some people proved better than others at the pirahna fishing with a lot of the gringos joking that they were just feeding the pirahnas who seemed particularly adept at removing bait from hooks.  It was cool to see the pirahnas close up and their teeth were really worrying.  Manuel used one of them to cut leaves and showed us its bite.  One of the guides caught a bass which was the most beautiful greeny colour and I took one of my favourite photos inside its mouth.


After feeding the pirahnas we walked down the road which proved to be not so full of wildlife apart from sandflies and mosquitos which welcomed our visit.  As it got dark we were told that this was the time to catch a caiman and, shortly afterwards, Junior did.  It wasn´t a huge caiman but, as we all stood around looking at it, it wrestled its way free and was suddenly worryingly close to our feet.  I was inside one of the vans in a split second and a lot of people commented on how fast I moved.  I wasn´t fussed as I´d prefer to look like a bit of a wuss than lose a leg!  After they had regained control of the caiman I had my photo taken next to it, albeit somewhat tentatively having seen how fast the thing could move.


Back at camp we ate the pirahna we had caught which was surprisingly good, although very boney.  I asked Junior about buying cigarettes and we went on a long drive in the dark with another guide and Rainer.  After a few stops at houses we got to a “supermarket” which was basically a house with a hole and a hand that appeared and gave you things.  It all felt a bit cloak and dagger but in a very non-threatening way.  Back at camp I had a couple of beers with Rainer, watched the Slovaks and had an early night.

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