River dolphins

Trip Start Aug 07, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2009

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Flag of Ecuador  , Sucumbios,
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

...my return from Banos oh-so-conveniently coincided with another free rum and coke night at the Centro del Mundo hostal. I was half expecting to find someone from the farm there...and I did. Dave was there getting plastered. Within a few hours we´d hatched the plan to head into the jungle (put into my head by Sabrina, the Swiss girl i met in Banos).

By the next afternoon we´d hammered it down from $50 to $42.50 a day and then got another $10 off - so we were heading into the Cuyabena reserve for $210 all-in-with-transport for 4 days. Not cheap, but this kind of thing never is. The transport involved an 8 hour night bus NE from Quito to Lago Agrio (a small oil town near the Colombian border), a 2 hour ride in the back of a pick-up along dirt roads to the furthest 2-house town (the reserve entrance) from where a 2 hour ride in a motorised canoe down black water tributaries (go far enough and you´ll end up in the Amazon...) got us to the Samona (sp?) lodge.

Initially i wasn´t keen on a lodge based jungle trip but, given the heat and humidity, i was quickly converted. Our guides Miguel and Guilbert were awesome, the food was good and the accommodation decent enough - hot showers too, a problem in Quito but seemingly no problem out here in the middle of nowhere.

Days 1 and 4 were essentially canoe rides to and from ground based transportation. Whilst functional, it was also a good wildlife spotting opportunity. Upon arriving, we headed off piranha fishing (beef as bait, no skill required. I caught a small white piranha, less feisty than the red ones), swam in the lake at sunset and went out caiman spotting (basically a crocodile). All in the same lake. After splashing and oinking to attract the caiman failed, we noticed it was stealthily approaching our boat from behind. Cool :-)
Day 2 involved a trip to a local community, in addition to searching for wildlife. We met the internationally renowned local Shaman (80 years), met the village head (and ex-Shaman - 95 year old but sprightly-as and very handy with a machete). We harvested yucca with him and his wife helped us make bread with it. It was obviously touristy but pretty interesting anyway.
Day 3 was an early canoe tour to spot wildlife (it seemed they had the same idea that we did and stayed in bed!) before heading off for a 3 hour hike through the rainforest. And rain it did. Awesome. That evening we also went for a night hike - a very different and interesting experience.

By the time were were heading off, we had seen all manner of birds (inc. toucans and vultures), turtles, caimans, pink river dolphins, anacondas, sloths, tarantulas, scorpions, piranhas, many types of monkeys - pretty much everything that we could have reasonably expected to see (so no big cats, manatees or anything VIP).

Well worth it :-) Upon returning to Quito we screwed the tour company out of another $20 for a pick-up truck that didn't arrive to collect us when going home (but that we solved by pretending we actually belonged in a rival company´s truck).

Back to the farm next...
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