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Looking back at 20 years of Wildlife Encounters can make one nostalgic... The #2 Virtual Encounter is from Bolivia, and it is already 13 years old.
I did a 4 days long tour to visit the "Las Pampas" from Rurrenabaque. The tour itself was amazing, saw loads of interesting species, but it was also a difficult trip for me. My only memory card got corrupted, with 500+ photos on it, and I could not take pictures. Okay, this is not entirely true, because I could take exactly ten photos, the camera had a tiny internal memory. So every day I took ten photos, and if I saw something cooler, I had to delete one, then take a new picture. Very painful process from before the time I would have money for extra memory card, or would travel with my laptop. (I learned from my mistake...) On the four days we saw plenty of exciting stuff, except one of the things I was really looking for, and was supposed to be an "easy" one t find was the three-toed sloth.
I was one of "those clients" who were mentioning sloths every twenty minutes, asking the guide where to look, and reminding him at every opportunity that I want to see one. Could say I was annoying, but I like to think I was simply persistent.
But the tour ended, and we did not find any sloths and I was quite frustrated about the pictures I lost and all the other ones I could not take. Mixed feelings would describe well how I was at the moment I got in the back of a jeep to head back to town.
While bouncing up and down in the back of the car in the heat, just looking at the dirt road behind us I started to relax. And somehow I just thought how lucky I am that I am in Bolivia, and that I saw so many cool things. And I managed to let go of my photos and also felt in peace not being a sloth. Next time.
Literally when I got to this point with my new "zen" thoughts the driver (he was also our guide on the four days boat tour) stepped on the break hard and steered the car almost to the ditch on the side of the road. When the car stopped, he looked back at me and shared his head. He did not say a word.
There was a sloth on the middle of the road, just laying flat lazily. It seems that it got tired crossing from one side to the other, heading towards some tall trees.
So at the end of the day I did manage to get a very close look at a sloth, and also managed to help it to cross the road, we could not just leave it there. So together with the guide we grabbed it by the back/neck and transported it to the tree which was on the direction it seemed to be heading at the first place.
The sequence of the photos are the following: we found it as seen on the first picture. Then for about five seconds it "stood" up and tried to look very threatening. Then it got tired and played even more flat on the road. Then we grabbed it, moved it to the tree, which he hugged very happily, that is seen on the last photo.
Not bad to have this four photos when you can only take home ten...
Sometimes we need to let go so nature/universe can give us what we really wish for.
#StayHome #virtualencounters #theuniverseheardme
Encounters and I went silent for a while. I was supposed to be in Galapagos for a week of amazing diving, then today should have been coming back from the Ecuadorian jungle... All of this got canceled and rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that I am finished with all urgent administrative work (and going a bit crazy at home in confinement) I decided to start posting some previous Encounters as often as possible to help passing time for those who are responsibly staying at home in these strange and crazy times. Even though our real-life Encounters are suspended, for now, I will try to share some virtual ones to make our confinement a bit easier to handle. Stay safe everyone!
So, the first virtual encounter:
A few years ago Steven Jimenez, Alejandro Cupi and I went to Ethiopia and did an amazing (though hard) four days hike in the Simien mountains. A real Encounters - style trip! My dream species of this trip was the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), I wanted to see this amazing bird ever since I first saw a documentary about it. I felt very lucky because almost every day of the hike we spotted one, but always in the distance. I got to see it, I even saw it flying with bodes and dropping it then eating it, all that you see in the documentaries. But all of it far. Too far for a decent photo or video. I felt happy, but of course, as usual, I was longing for the perfect encounter... Our last camp-site was an amazing one, you could see all the target-species in a single day. There were many passes of bearded vultures, they were looking for bones around the small truck stop we had around. Since there were no new bones, they never came close enough, this is when I had a crazy idea. I called our contact, Tess Dere in the city from the satellite phone (this is why you have a satellite phone, right?!) and asked him to send me some bones when sending the car for us the next day. It took me minutes to make him understand what I want. The line was clear, and he speaks good English, but he did not want to understand that I want BONES... Eventually, they did and got quite excited. I know this because the next morning he showed up himself with the car and brought along around 30 kg of raw goat or sheep bone (I did not ask what it was from honestly...).
There were so many bones in the bag that I had to ask for help to carry it to the edge of the cliff, where we evenly covered the ground with them. I do not like to feed wild animals usually, but this was in a place where the birds were coming every day looking for bones and where the locals intentionally threw all the leftover out for them to eat. So I figured to give the birds a feast and for us an awesome encounter.
All of us hid closeby, either laid on the ground or hid behind a small bush. We had to wait around half an hour. Other birds, vultures, and even eagles came by before the bearded vulture couple arrived. One of them flew in circles over us, like keeping watch, while the other eventually landed. Did not stay long on the ground, maybe a minute in total. Picked up a massive piece of bone, then took off and both of them disappeared.
It was a short encounter, but so amazing, so perfect (again I know, we helped it to happen, but I couldn't help doing it :) ). I managed to record two short videos and took a few photos. But mostly I was just looking at this amazing, beautiful creature with awe, and feeling grateful and blessed for being alive, this lucky to be able to make my dreams come true and share it with amazing people. (Also I was very grateful for having a satellite phone... :) )
Trips with Barna