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Serere Reserve Day 2

Written on: Monday December 24th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Serere Private Reserve, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia 

Author: Julie 

Hola! 

We woke up this morning to the sound of the rainforest surrounding us. We had slept well in our large bed but I woke up quite a few times to the brightness of the moon shining in and the sound of animals outside our cabin. The heat of the day hadn?t started yet and it was nice and cool. We walked over to the lodge to find out that there was one pig less roaming the woods. Eric had drowned one earlier in the morning for our Christmas supper the next day.  

We quickly had our breakfast of fruit salads, eggs and porridge and prepared to head out on a four hour hike into the rainforest. I was a little apprehensive since the idea of that long of time in the middle of the forest with mosquitoes everywhere was making me a little edgy. Dressed head to toe in clothes, sprayed down with mosquito repellent we headed out on a well-marked trail that quickly reduced to a single track. Along the way, we met a group of about 200 Spider and Capuchin monkeys. They lived together in a relationship that was advantageous to both. The Spider monkeys were quick and able to reach many of the fruit branches the much larger Capuchin couldn?t reach, while the big ones could much easier see enemy as they approached from the air or land. They were extremely playful; jumping from tree to tree, eating fruit, chasing or grooming each other. There were mothers with little ones holding on to their bellies as they crawled on top of the treetop. Next we saw large termite mounds on small, narrow trees. We had seen termite tracks on the large wooden support beams in the lodge. Every rain season, they become a problem at the lodge as they escape from the flooding. A simple spray gets ride of them for the season, but they come back each year. I had seen the same tracks in the A-Frame support beams in our cabin. We kept walking seeing lots of strangely shaped trees, strangling vines, and mushrooms. We stopped at a place that was a giant ant hill. These hills were made by Cutter Ants who would march to a tree, cut all the leaves into small and manageable pieces, and then bring them back to the hill. Surprisingly, they don?t eat the leaves but use them as a composting agent along with their saliva to grow mushrooms in their hill. That was their main source of food. Walk, walk, walk, sweat, sweat, sweat, mosquito, mosquito, mosquito later, Eric signalled to us to stop. Crossing our path was a Golden Cobra. It isn?t your typical cobra with a hood and poisonous spit as a defence mechanism. It was a pseudo-cobra who used the marking and body of a real cobra to scare away its natural enemies. Crossing our path often was soldier ants and red ants. Stepping in their pant was a really bad idea and stopping in it was even worse. They would swarm and go right over us while biting along the way, so we were careful where we stepped at all times. Not everything was dangerous though; there were amazingly fluorescent blue butterflies everywhere. We tried to take photographs but they were shy and wouldn?t stop still for us. Far away we could hear the high-pitched whistle of a Tapir, but we weren?t able to attract it to us. Some cheap travel agencies in Rurre guarantee animal sightings by catching and trapping animals, Madidi Travel does not guarantee anything so every time we saw something new we felt incredibly fortunate for that moment in time.  

Our walk came to an end and we made it out with only about 200 hundred mosquito bites between all of us. We had a wonderful lunch of potatoes, an Andean specialty of choclo which is large kernel corn with melted cheese, and gigantic green beans. The meal was absolutely delicious! In the afternoon, we headed back out in the canoe for a fishing trip on the lake. Eric brought a large chunk of raw pork as fish as we were going to be fishing for Piranhas! We headed out to an area of grass across the lake and drop our fishing lines. Within moments I had bites and could see through the cloudy water my bait being attacked left and right. I almost hooked one but lost my bait. We spent 3 hours fishing with Kevin adding the tradition of drinking a few can of beers. Once the first can was empty, he carved it up and made it into a floating bobber thinking that might give him a better chance in catching one of those sharp-toothed fish. We could see the can bobbing up and down but there was never a big enough bite for him to hook one. During that time, Maxine hooked one of the little buggers. It was pulled into the boat making deep grunting noises. Kevin and I were taken aback at the noise it was making. A quick knife to the back of the head killed it quickly and our lines were back in the water again. Next to catch a fish was Mark, another piranha. Kevin and I were having continuous bites but we couldn?t hook the quick moving silvery fish. Next fish caught was by Maxine, but it wasn?t a piranha. It looked a lot like a pickerel. Finally, after two hours of watching my pieces of bait disappear, I finally caught a piranha in about one foot of water. I proudly took a photo of my catch and passed it over to Eric to add to the rest of the catch. By this time Kevin had abandoned his can bobber and finally caught a piranha. Wanting to give it a quick death as he reeled it in, he cut off most of its head. It certainly was efficient if not a bit messy. During our swim I could see rain clouds approaching but they looked like they would pass us by, but then they switched directions and headed directly for us. The wind picked up and small waves started to form on the lake. We decided to head in but 10 minutes before our arrival at the lodge, the clouds opened up and dumped hammering rains on us. Just before leaving our cabin that afternoon, I went to put our rain ponchos in the bag but Kevin looked outside and said there were no clouds so I left them behind. As you can imagine, we were soaked through from head to toe. I had puddles in my rubber boats. Luckily, Maxine had brought her poncho and was able to keep our bag and most importantly our cameras covered and safe. We were a bit cold by the time we made it shore so we headed back to our cabin for a slightly warmer shower and a change of clothes. On the way back, I was in front of Kevin on the trail and heard what sounded like a large group of bees, like in cartoons when the bear pokes his head in a beehive but I couldn?t see anything. I yelled over to Kevin to know if he heard the same thing and he yelled back that he did and to not stop walking. The sound grew louder and louder till it passed over our heads and continue on. We never saw the swarm and are glad for it. When we arrived at the lodge, we asked Eric about it and he said it was most probably a swarm of killer bees following the queen. So cool! 

When we brought our catch to the kitchen, the cooks laughed for a while at the sight of the decapitated fish. At supper time, a nice meal of a soup, beef and vegetables were served along with our freshly caught fish. They were fried and delicious but not much meat on them. It was Christmas Eve and as we sat around talking after our delicious meal, Rosa Maria brought out a bottle of Bolivian Porto. I was so excited as I love Port and it had been since we had left home that I had some. This was the last place I expected to enjoy a bit of a glass. We stayed up late, waiting for midnight to come so we could ring in Christmas together. We spent a few hours talking about the various Christmas traditions we all enjoyed in our respective countries. It made me homesick for my family but I knew that experiencing Christmas in far away country, in the middle of their hot, humid rain season, staying at a beautiful cabin in the middle of a pristine rainforest is something few people ever get to do. As we walked back to our cabin, I looked up at the stars and wished my faraway loved ones a very merry Christmas.