Welcome to the jungle, baby!

Good news! I am not infested with parasites, eaten by piranas, or bitten by an alligator. A baby alligator nibbled on the finger of one of the Israeli tourists; Chaim will have a zigzag scar, which is great for those fish/amphibian stories, you know where the one that got away, gets bigger and bigger with each retelling.

Overall the pampas portion, which touted itself as ecologically sound, wasn’t every eco at all. The guide was machoer than most, with the muscles to prove it. In fact I can’t even think of him without the theme song coming to mind (Macho macho man, I wanna be a macho man). The first night on the way back from watching the sunset at the Sunset Bar (known for its cold beer) we were shining our lights from our canoe out into the dark river to catch the red glow of alligator and black caiman eyes… When suddenly our boat halted. And Macho was knee-deep in the river stalking an alligator -- a niña we later found out when he turned her over and spread apart the thin slit beneath her belly to reveal: no testicles. Anyway, he explained alligators to us for a while and passed the poor lass around. This is when she snapped her jaw shut on the Israeli’s finger. Nacho, er… Macho wasn’t too worried. After all, she was just a baby alligator, and the moment too opportune to not start in with the big alligator story. The one where Nacho gets his forearm chomped by a papa alligator, and needed 100 stitches to sew up the rip. Needless to say, Nacho’s scar is bigger than Chaim’s will be.

What else? The Pampas was interesting, lots of animals: capybara (the world’s largest rat that looks like a giant guinea pig), alligators, black caiman, eagles, hawks, water birds, paradise birds (one of the world’s oldest species of bird), squirrel monkeys (yellow, cute, but people were feeding them bananas, sigh), anaconda, cobra. Oh, and I went piranah fishing (one of the piranah’s bit Nacho’s finger) and then my favorite part: swimming in brown water with pink dolphins. One of them touched my foot with its head. In the end, it was like going to the zoo. The park is even called zoologico natural.

In the jungle, everything was really so much more natural. The guide grew up in the area and knew a ton about the plants, animals, sounds, uses, and stories of the forest. I did a five day tour which took me a little deeper into the jungle than the shorter 2- or 4-day tours. We chased after wild boar -- dear god how they stunk. We fished and bird watched (toucans, parrots), we tiptoed after monkeys (squirrel monkeys and cappuccino monkeys), drank water from the uña de gato tree, made rings out of miniature coconuts, painted our faces with some red juice of a very green plant, and night hiked to look for night animals -- where we saw wild jungle deer and the one species of night monkey that I can’t remember the name of.

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