It was a late start to the day, only because I had sleepily snoozed my 4:00am alarm. While the others in the group headed off on a sunrise excursion, I was completely passed out and glued to my bed. If I’m being completely honest, it’s because I hadn’t slept much the night before. I was listening to the sounds outside of my screen (notice I say screen), because this hotel has no windows, only screens. The sounds in the night kept me up like a child on Christmas Eve, but there were no presents, just spiders and creepy crawlies that I couldn’t pronounce the names of, perhaps all hiding under my bed. I didn’t have the guts to check. Though I claim to not be a city girl, I also don’t consider myself an outdoorsy person. More of a “enjoys cocktails on outdoor patios, with optional shade.”
I made my way to the dining hall that morning, which I can say more simply as an open aired building with a table, as long as a tree that sat us all together for our meals. Hot cocoa, some kind of fried dough, soup, leftover rice, beans and fruit was served. I checked through my bag one more time, knowing we were leaving at 9 and we’d back to the property around 8pm. Bug spray, check. Camera with full battery, check. Hat, check. Water, check. Rain jacket, check. Although my bag was prepared, I was feeling quite anxious. It’s not every day that you might be introduced to an anaconda.
We hopped on the wooden boat to pass to the other side of the river that flowed along the side of the property we were staying at. Then there sat the horses and a tractor with a trailer attached to the back of it. I opted to go in the back of the for the trailer, since my Irish skin wasn’t completely agreeing with the heat and direct sun. It was exciting at first, I was grabbing the binoculars, looking at each bird that passed, my head went left to right and right to left, searching for any sign of wildlife in the tall grass or trees. My anxiety was gone and now I was just giddy to be back in the nature and hopeful to lay eyes on a new type of animal. Would we see the giant ant eater today, maybe the local anaconda?
What we did see plenty of that day, were cows and capybara, which I now like to call care bears. Honestly I’m sure my guide was so over me by the end of the trip, continuously asking how to pronounce things. He finally had to write it down for some of us. Annnd it’s spelled just the way it sounds.
The capybara is a mammal native to South America. It is the largest living rodent in the world. Also called chigüire or chigüiro.
Though I adore my camera, what you really need for a trip like this is a fantastic lens. Something you can zoom in with, otherwise you’ll end up just giving up like I did! We saw so much different wildlife, but my camera just didn’t cut it. Luckily my brain is still sharp, so I’ll cherish all of my mental images for a while longer!
As the tractor took us farther and farther away into the grasslands, I began to think…what if the tractor broke down out here?! Spoiler alert- it didn’t and we made it back safe that night.
After about an hour the tractor stopped and we hopped off to go and look for cayman and crocodiles. While all of us were sinking into the mud everywhere, losing our shoes left and right, the guides headed off to an area to search for an anaconda. Think about it for a second, how would you search for this giant snake? What kind of gear would you wear for this event? I’m thinking medieval armor and possibly a sword. Well these men head out there in some old jeans, a t-shirt and get this- WITHOUT shoes! Brave much? They poke around in the mud, literally poke at it with a long wooden stick, until the ground moves and jackpot! Unfortunately I didn’t head off in that direction to help them out, I figured everyone was better off with me about 100 yards away. Meanwhile I was sitting on the ground, chatting it up with a ground owl.
This sweet boy was actually down inside of a hole in the ground when we first wandered up. All you could see were two, brilliant, yellow eyes in the shadow, staring out at us. I was worried we were scaring him, but after a few seconds he surprised us all by scurrying up the hole and out into the sunshine. Now staring up at all of us, wondering what the heck we were doing. He gave us quite the show, hardly moving an inch as we slowly scooted on the ground closer and closer to him. The owl looked from person to person, we sat there whispering to each other and then to him. “Who’s a good boy?!”
After no such luck of finding the anaconda, we left our new friend behind and carried on in search of more wildlife. In the distance we saw the Andes, what a sight!! The rain clouds that seemed to be hovering near us all morning, finally let lose as we sat down for lunch at someones home. We ate as the rain came pouring down around the open aired patios and slowly we left the table and found a hammock to pass the time in. We enjoyed siesta time until the rain stopped and it was time to load back into the tractor and this time we were on our way to find the rare and very special ant eater.
We passed a small croc and he waited in the tall grass, standing there watching us pass him by. We saw a family of capybara, which did not care one bit about the tractor coming toward them. Then it happened very quickly, but all of the sudden one of our guides and the driver of the tractor named Don Julio, shouted to all of us in the back and he was pointing out to the left and there it was, the ant eater was slinking between the grass! He disappeared into some bushes and I wondered if that was the only glimpse that we would perhaps get to see of him. I held my breath as the tractor kicked into gear and we were on our way to attempt to get closer to him. It took us about another 5 minutes and we were actually able to see him again and he was much much closer to the tractor this time. You could see his strange, but beautiful, long, bushy tail, and his thin nose pushing through the grass. I cursed under my breath realizing how absolutely useless my photos looked, so I gave up and just watched him.
This was the perfect ending to a very long day. We headed back toward our hotel, mostly in the dark. I started to have flashbacks of my night drives in South Africa and I half expected to see large eyes staring back at me in the night. Though all we saw were owls, small crocs and eventually we were handed a cold beer and we all cheered to another fabulous day of exploring the grasslands!