After spending 3 days in Pampas we headed back to Rurrenbaque for one night and then straight out to the jungle. We didn't have to worry about any roads this time around, the boat left directly from Rurre for a 3 hour upstream journey.
On our way we stopped by a local community and saw how they made all sorts of items from sugar cane. Our guides explained that the community grows, harvests, and processes all of their own sugar cane. They make sugar, juice, and a variety of sweets. First we tried a number of different products, each sweeter than the next. My favorite was sugar cane mixed with peanut butter which formed a sort of bar that you can eat.
After sampling the products they produce we got a chance to make our own sugar cane juice. The group worked to put the sugar cane through a giant press (normally operated by horses, not humans) which squeezed all of the juice out. This was funneled through cloth into a bucket. Once the group had finished we got to sample the juice. We found it too sweet on its own and added lime to the juice. This yielded a beverage tasting almost exactly like lemonade.
After this stop we headed the remainder of the way up stream to our lodge. The rooms there were much nicer than we were expecting, Jordan and I had a private room all to ourselves. After settling in, we ate an excellent lunch and headed our for about 3 hours of wandering the jungle. Our guide Eber was excellent (and thanks to our Spanish lessons we understood almost everything he said) we chased monkeys, found a pack of wild (smelly) pigs, many different birds, and a bunch of crazy plants.
We headed back to the lodge for dinner and then headed out on a short night hike. We got to see tarantulas, other huge spiders, and a tree frog. Afterwards we settled into bed under our mosquito net and slept like babies.
In the morning we headed out for another hike, this time deeper into the jungle. We saw more monkeys, tons of caterpillars, and strangling vines that kill the trees they grow on before turning into trees themselves. We headed back to the lodge and prepared for the real adventure. We were given a mosquito net and two sleeping bags, as we'd be sleeping in the jungle, not the lodge for the evening. We hiked around 3 hours to our campsite, seeing a number of toucans along the way.
When we arrived, we saw the "structure" in which we were to sleep for the night. It was a blue tarp, spread over poles to create a roof and a blue tarp on the ground for the floor. On this we placed mats and our sleeping bags. Over the bags we draped the mosquito net. The only thing between us and the big bad jungle for the night was a flimsy piece of netting. The cook (who followed us on the hike wearing only flip flops for shoes) made a fantastic dinner and we tucked in for the night. We fell asleep to the sound of crickets filling the jungle.
At around 3:00AM I awoke and had to use the bathroom. As I crawled from beneath our net Jordan asked where I was going, she was excited to have an escort for the 40 or so feet to the restroom. While using the facilities we had to be careful to avoid the long line of leaf cutter ants working just at the foot of the box perched over a hole in the ground that we called a toilet.
After safely returning to our beds we slept the remainder of the evening. In the morning we had a wonderful breakfast and started out on our hike for the day. We climbed a small mountain (more like a big hill) and found ourselves on a cliff overlooking a vast tract of Amazonian Jungle. The via was spectacular, especially with the morning fog rolling off over the jungle. Then we saw the macaws. Brilliantly colored and soaring over the jungle in pairs of twos, there were hundreds. It seems they live and lay eggs in the cliff face that we were standing on. It was really the highlight of the trip thus far.
After spending a while looking at the macaws we descended the hill, picked up our gear from camp, and headed out to a river. There a boat had come from the lodge with a bunch of wood and rope. We constructed a raft from the supplies, threw our gear in the boat, changed into swimming attire, and pushed off downstream towards the lodge. The raft ride was leisurely and pleasurable, we were able to jump off into the river to cool off and just sort of lounge in the sun.
It took about an hour and a half (during rainy season it takes only about 30 minutes) and we arrived back at the lodge. We gathered our things, had lunch, and then headed back to Rurre.
We were really unsure which trip to choose before we left. Pampas had the promise of more animals and better viewing. The jungle... well is the Amazon jungle that we all picture in our heads. So, we didn't choose between them and went with the 3 day tours for each. This was a bit expensive, but really this is a rare opportunity and it seemed worth it.
After experiencing both for 3 days I'd say this (and I think Jordan agrees), I wouldn't do Pampas for 3 days again. We had a great time and saw some really interesting things that we didn't (and wouldn't) see in the jungle. However, a 2 day trip would be enough, you see everything you'd like to see in that time. For Jungle, I'd recommend at least 3 days and perhaps 4 would be good if you didn't do 3 in Pampas prior. Absolutely do the sleep in the jungle option, it was truly incredible.
A number of companies offer combo tours, including Mashaquipe. Most do 2 days jungle 3 days Pampas. This is stupid, as I just finished saying, more time jungle is preferred, with less pampas. Mashaquipe offers a 3 day jungle/2 day pampas combo tour, I also don't recommend this. on your 4th day in jungle you get up really early for the boat ride back to Rurre to catch the car to Pampas at 9am. This really gives you 1 day in pampas and really tires you out. We were with 2 people in Pampas doing this tour and they were exhausted. You should go with two separate tours, 2 days pampas first then 3 days jungle.
We really recommend Mashaquipe, they were a great company. Their facilities for Jungle are much nicer than Pampas, thus my recommendation to do pampas first, or you'll be disappointed.