Swimming with Piranas in the Amazon jungle

Trip Start Mar 10, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ecuador  , Orellana,
Monday, May 23, 2011

We had a bit of a nightmare getting to Ecuador. Our aim was to get to Quito, the capital, as it was the most recommended place (by the Lonely Planet) to book a jungle tour, even though Quito its 'self was not in the jungle but in the Andes. Unfortunately we missed our bus from Trujillo, Peru because we got the times wrong. We thought it left at 3pm but instead it left at 3am.  Whatīs worse, it was the only bus going to Quito that week. Instead we had to get a bus later on that night to Guayaquil in Ecuador where we could then catch a 10 hour bus to Quito. When we got to Guayaquil we amazed by how big the bus terminal was. It was about the size of Stansted airport with three floors and hundreds of buses going to all corners of the country. It was then that we thought, why not catch a bus directly to one of the towns on the edge of the jungle and then hopefully weīll be able to organize a jungle tour there. This would make up for lost time. After scouring through the Lonely Planet, we decided to go to Coca an oil town on the edge of the Rio Napo.

We got to Coca early in the morning, checked into a hostel and had a little walk around. The town was very lively but there were no other tourists apart from us, and, worst of all, not a sign of any tour agencies. We walked and walked until eventually we saw a place called the Jungle lodge. Given it was the only English sign we had seen in the whole town, we decided to go inside and see if anyone could put us in the right direction for organizing a jungle tour. The place didnīt look like a tour agency, more like someoneīs house. We were greeted by an old man called Julio, he couldnīt speak much English but we managed to understand that he did have a boat and lodge in the jungle in which we could stay and best of all, his son spoke perfect English. We agreed on a 5 day expedition, all food, accommodation and transport included, all for $220 each which seemed reasonable.

We set off the next day at 9 am in his long motor boat, down the Rio Napo, one of the Amazonīs tributaries. We were the only people on the tour apart from Julioīs wife, who came along to keep him company. The river was really wide, with small communities that lived along the banks. We kept seeing massive boats full of tourists drive past us all with their life jackets on and cameras out. We were so glad we didnīt book the tour in Quito or we would have probably ended up on one of those! After 6 hours of sailing down the river we ended up in a small village called Paņacocha, where we picked some supplies including 2 crates of beer and Julioīs son, Emanuel. Emanuel was to be our tour guide for the duration of the trip, he spoke a bit of English but not as well as his father originally made out. He was a nice guy but didnīt really speak unless you asked him a specific question, which was a bit of a letdown seeing as he was meant to be guiding us around the jungle. None the less, he took us to some amazing places and we got to see some interesting wildlife.

We got to our destination later on in that afternoon; it was on a smaller river that branched off the Rio Napo, about an hour from Paņacocha. This river was a lot nicer to sail along as it was slower and thinner, giving us more opportunity to see our surroundings. We stayed in a nice big jungle lodge. There were several lodges on the land but we were the only people there, which was nice. In the evening we had local food cooked by Julio's wife. The food was nice but a lot of the time we didnīt know what we were eating and didnīt want to know either. One of the meals consisted of fried larvae (see the photos); we didnīt want to offend them so we tucked in. They were slimy but didnīt taste at all bad, a bit like pesto. Every meal included fried bananas on the side, by the end of the trip I didnīt want to see another banana again!
On the second day we went for a jungle walk. We didnīt get to see much as every time we walked towards an animal it would get scared and run away. All we saw was a squirrel, some sort of monkey from a distance, various birds and a few insects and frogs. In the afternoon we took a paddle canoe down the river and there we got to see a lot more. Travelling down the river was so peaceful and quiet as we didnīt have the noise from the engine as on the other boat. This was perfect as the animals couldnīt hear us coming. We got to see loads of monkeys jump about on the trees and heard the strangest noises coming from the various colourful birds.

On the second day we spent the whole day piranha fishing. We used smaller fish as bait.  It was very tricky. I only managed to catch a small one and gave up after a while. Jamie caught a massive one. He had to be very careful as he pulled it up onto the boat as they can bite your toes off! In the evening they fried them, one of the best fish Iīve ever tasted, though everything tastes nice when fried. After dinner we went for a night jungle tour where we saw loads of spiders including a tarantulaīs in its nest.
The next day a local fisherman passed by our lodge and reported a sighting of an anaconda caught in a fishing net further up stream. We immediately got in the paddle boat and went to rescue it. It was quite a young one, about 2 meters long (they can grow up to 20 meters). We took it into the boat and back to the lodge. In the meantime back at the lodge Julio had found a baby caiman. It looked a bit like a crocodile and we held it by the neck (see photos) so that it wouldnīt bite us. Once the anaconda was free from the net we got to hold that too. It wrapped itself round our arms and every now and then it would try and wrap its self round our neck so we had to be very careful. Then we let them free into the water. In the afternoon we went in search for fresh water dolphins but we had no luck so we returned to the lodge.

On the penultimate day we went hunting for larvae. The larvae lived inside dyeing palm trees, feeding on the insides of the tree. We had to chop the tree down and then cut it up to get to the larvae. After chopping down four trees we had enough larvae for lunch, Ed even tried one raw! The weather was so hot and humid that when we got back, we jumped straight into the river. In the afternoon we went to visit one of the family’s friend, who was a shaman. He showed us his lotions and potions and got us to join in a ritual. We felt obliged and drunk a cap of ayahuasca, a fermented root that the locals take to see the future. I felt a bit light headed and sick but unfortunately didnīt get to see the future and neither did the others.

The last day was the trip back to Coca. We had had the most amazing and relaxing time in the jungle and Iīd recommend it to anyone, but try and book a tour with a local family like we did as I believe it makes a massive difference, giving you a more unique experience. For anyone wishing to go with Julio, his email address is hoatzin-lodge@hotmail.com

Next stop Tena, for white water rafting. Make sure you all check out the photos!


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xxxxxxx on

You've finally 'surfaced'...! Great to hear from you. X

simon on

Alright Dave. Loving the jungle blog, the best one yet. It looks absolutely amazing, I'm getting more and more jealous. That freaky croc looks like one crazy muthafuka. Is that some kind of Super Rat in one of the photos?

david-collie on

Cheers mate! yes some sort of rat, not sure of the name though. That crock was getting readdy to bite off my hand!
See u in Ibiza! x

Skevi and Andrew on

Hi Dave,
Looks like you are having an amazing time.
When do you come back to reality???
It's going to be hard to adjust back to this life when you get back.
Have a great time and see you when you get back.

david-collie on

Hi, I'm back at the end of September, I'll be calling you up for a visit no doubt! I guess I have to come back to reality at some point! Hope you two are well! See you in a few months

jessie on

Hi Dave. the pic looks amazing!! I love this place..

alex on

hello how r u doing mate i am very glad that you had the opportunity of visiting panacocha
i also went to the same place with Julio Jarrin i reallly had a nice time they treat us very well like family i didnt have a problem with the language cause i also speak spanish
your pics bring me very nice memories of my trip to Panacocha
i hope you enjoyed your trip to the ecuadorian rainforest thumbs up!!!!!

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