The blue boat rocked gently. We had been sitting in it for at least half an hour continually baiting our long strings with hooks on the end. We attached tiny bits of uncooked meat to the hooks. A frisson of eager anticipation cut through the silent air broken only by passing boats or alligators splashing into the river after having had their fill basking in the sun.
“I have gotten you to the best spot,” our guide had winked conspiratorially at us earlier “to fish for piranhas!!!” We were on the Rio (river) Yacuma in the Amazonian jungle near Rurrenabaque in Bolivia.
Most of us being amateurs at best, at fishing threw the line near…we threw it far…we got our lines tangled and in general had a great time enjoying the novelty of angling. Eventually we settled down to a rhythm. But even after forty minutes, we had had no luck. We didn’t even feel a slight tug at the end of the line but the bait kept magically disappearing.
“Some best spot,” one participant grumbled even as the orange sun leaked spreading lighter shades of pink in the sky as twilight fell.
“Okay people, it is time to wrap up. No luck today,” the guide called.
All our faces simultaneously fell. We were not yet ready to give up.
“15 more minutes,” the pretty girl with flowing long pitch black tresses with rich chocolate skin seated next to me called.
“Okay 10, “our guide magnanimously negotiated.
Even as the conversation went on, I felt a slight tug. Excited I quickly pulled on the string, the twine pulled back but was no match for my exhilaration. With one final pull I had hauled into the boat a medium sized fish with matching red patches on the sides of its gills.
The girl next to me shrieked. Clearly an animal rights activist, she grew agitated, “ That is blood on sides of its neck. What did you do?” she cried agonized
Not knowing what to do, I dropped the hapless creature on the floor in between us. Outside of its element, it flopped around desperately.
It only made the girl even more frenzied. “Release it…come on release it,” she cried.
The hysteria was contagious. Picking up the line, I was about to reach through its mouth to release the hook when a collective “NO!!!” went up that stopped me short.
I had completely neglected to observe the piranha’s razor sharp teeth.
The guide and the other travelers managed to calm the girl down and to salvage the fish.
That evening, as we sat at the table for a large feast laid out by the lodge’s plump cook, the fish featured as the entre. Most of us couldn’t help smiling as we sated our growling stomachs watching the young girl dig in to the piranha with as much relish as the rest of us.
Tips for organizing trips to and from Rurranabaque-
If you want to experience adventures in the wild in the Amazon on the cheap, Rurrenabaque in Bolivia is your best bet. In fact you can do it for a fraction of the price you would pay in any other country straddling the Amazon basin. Another tip would be to book your trip in Rurrenabaque instead of in La Paz. La Paz is teeming with touts and without prior knowledge of prices you are bound to get ripped off. Almost all agents in the Bolivia’s capital advertise trips at almost double the price of what you would find if you went directly to agents from your jumping off point. This is certainly true of trips running from Rurrenabaque. It is a teeny little town and it is easier to shop around for the best deal. There is very little variation in the general quality of trips. If you are short on time do the three day pampas trip instead of the jungle tour. Our fishing adventure was on the pampas tour. Trips cost around 145 USD but usually prices are fairly negotiable.
While Rurrenabaque is accessible by road, this part of Bolivia is especially prone to road closures and sometimes it takes upwards of 24 hours to get there or back. The road though passes the famous treacherous death road. Fairly cheap one hour flights from La Paz to Rurrenabaque is the more convenient option. More on the pampas trip in the next post where we go into hunting for anacondas in the wild, swimming with alligators and more.
Feature image-Alligator in the pampas, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. Image courtesy – Jenny Leonard /Shutterstock.com.