After a nice dinner with our lovely Quito family, we caught the overnight bus from Quito to Lago Agrio. It was a pretty bumpy journey - at one point we woke up to find that we werenīt actually driving on a road, just a field of rubble. Arrived at Lago Agrio early and met our guide Jairo, who was an Ecuadorian version of Tarzan. It was just the two of us on a massive rickety bus which took us to El Puente in 3 hours where we had lunch before going into the Cuyabeno reserve. From there, a motorized canoe took us for 2 hours to Samona lodge. On the boat ride we saw lots of animals - lots of monkeys jumping through the trees which were often over our heads (see video), toucans, blue butterflies and pink river dolpins. The lodge was amazing - we stayed in wooden huts with palm tree roofs and everything was on stilts. There was only electricity in the kitchen so everything else was lit by candlelight at night (so ofcourse it was cold Amazon water showers for us!). It was really beautiful, right on the river and it even had a hammocking hut with 15 hammocks - heaven!
When we arrived, we joined another group of 5 with their tour guide Neiser (he was actually Rambo and the first conversation we had with him was him offering us our very own fresh latino baby!) and set off on our first expedition...anaconda and caiman hunting! Didnīt really expect to find anything as itīs quite rare to see any and more difficult when itīs been raining a lot (which it had been) but Rambo and Jairo searched high and low in trees and soon we found an anaconda. We got a few photos of it in the water and were very happy to have seen it when our guides offered to get it out of the water!! We thought they were joking but pretty soon they were poking about in the tree and suddenly brought out an enormous 3 metre long snake!! Then it got really exciting as Neiser slipped on the tree and Jairo accidently plunged the snakeīs head into Neiserīs arm (it was nothing to him but we spent the rest of the trip showing off his anaconda bite!). They somehow got the anaconda off his arm and into the boat where James (a rather dirty-minded Essex guy in our group!) and Jill both held it around their necks - it was amazing!! Jill was shaking afterwards, it was such an adrenaline rush. The snake was shedding its skin so they got covered in snake skin and goo which really stank! The anaconda was really heavy and strong -they kill their prey by crushing them to death and Jill could feel it starting to wrap around her but luckily the guides rescued her! Amazing amazing amazing experience!! When we got back to the lodge everyone was talking about it and wanted to see our action video which we have uploaded on here!
On the way back we did a bit of Caiman spotting and saw some eyes and one kind of up close! But it was hard to see due to crazy rain - shocking weather in the rainforest!
After dinner we had a few beers with Rambo , Jairo and James and listened to some of the guidesī crazy jungle stories as well as some very interesting chat up lines and a lot of really cool tricks. Best nightīs sleep of our lives underneath our mosquito nets, listening to the jungle noises and enjoying the first night in ages without music!
Had an amazing enormous breakfast of everything you could ever want for breakfast and set off for the Siona community which was another 2 hours deeper into the rainforest. Saw wolf spider on our boat, more jumping monkeys, a sloth (which was still in the same place 6 hours later when we went back!) and an amazing tree with an ants nest and a wasps nest. When we made a loud noise, the wasps made a marching noise and the ants all went up to the wasps nest to protect it, it was amazing seeing nature at work!
In the community we learnt about different fruits and got our faces tattooed with this dye that indigenous people use. We learnt a bit about the indigenous community and how they live and then helped make their traditional food called Casava.
We dug up the Yuca which they use to make it and helped with the interesting process of making it - the Yuca is turned into fresh powder and then heated to make a flat bread that they eat for every meal. We ate it with tuna and honey (not together!) then went to see the Shaman who was believed to be the doctor/healer of the community. He told us that it took him 30 years to learn to be a Shaman and he drinks this hallucinogenic drink to see whatīs wrong with a person and then he can heal them using jungle techniques and plants! He made Jillīs bracelet lucky (got a video of this!).
Hev was sadly really really sick for the afternoon (maybe as a result of the Shaman visit - but who knows!) so recovered in bed while Jill unsuccessfully fished for piranhas although the photos lie about this! The two others in our group had more success so Jill got to see the crazy piranhas chomping their way through branches and Jairo used it as a saw on a few trees!
They were not how we thought they would look, but have crazy sharp teeth, when we first arrived one of the guides had had half, well, part of his finger bitten off by one. On the way back saw a boa constrictor snake which was hidden on the bank but somehow Jairo spotted it through the dark, rain and trees!
After dinner it soon became clear that it wasnīt just the jungle animals we should have been afraid of...it was the jungle men too! While we were innocently hammocking, we were joined by Jairo and Neiser who continued with their chat up lines but it got much worse! Here are some of the lines they used on us...
Have you ever had relations with an Ecuadorian guy....do you want to?
If you were an oasis in the desert, I would rather die than drink you.
Your love gives me the power to live for ten centuries.
I canīt help it, itīs just nature. It wants me to be close to you.
Do you want to see a beautiful slimy insect? Let's go upstairs.
When I look into your eyes, I can see the deep blue ocean (Iīd like to point out that we have brown and green eyes!).
You inspire me. I feel inspired tonight. Youīre like a candle lighting up my life.
I love you.
This carried on for hours until we managed to escape and then laughed for a few more hours! Jungle men are definitely very persistent and have no shame! Brilliant.
Day Three (all the photos from here on will be added when we return from Colombia-stupid electricity)
At breakfast we were joined by a tarantula which Jill held!! Agh! It was massive! and it usually just lives in our lodge, crazy - and, as it seems with everything in the jungle, it was poisonous but we were told not to worry and seeing as our guides are practically crocodile dundee, we trust them! With our new bigger group full of Aussies and Kiwis, we headed off for a trek through the jungle.
This was amazing - Jairo told us all about the medicinal uses for many trees and we ate ants that tasted of sherbet lemon, Jill stuck her hand in an ants nest (on purpose!) and then had the ants crushed all over her hand which is meant to be a natural insect repellant (Jill should stop volunteering for things!).
We saw a few different kinds of spiders, lots of crazy insects and hiked through a swamp. On the way back we went for a swim in the same lake where we went piranha fishing and caught the anaconda and spotted the caimans! Do you think we trusted our guides too much??
We had a siesta in the hammocks and then went for some more piranha fishing.
Our group caught loads and Hev caught a bottle fish and someone else caught a cat fish. After fishing we went for another crazy anconda hunt...this time we found one that was SEVEN METRES long curled up inside a tree - our guide didnīt wrestle this one, you could tell it was enormous and would probably kill us all!
We went for a night hike through the rainforest and we saw a giant locust and more spiders and some glow in the dark leaves and much more general amazing nature and crazy poisonous ants which Jairo prodded until they all came out of the nest. Went back for another amazing dinner and some beers in the hammocks whilst we were treated to a few more jungle lines! Fell asleep for a while in the hammocks and then eventually went to bed.
After breakfast, we said goodbye to our jungle men and caught the canoe back to El Puente, but only after seeing some more cool monkeys in our camp before we left. On the canoe ride back we saw lots of stinky turkeys, a turtle, lots more monkeys and birds. Then an interesting ride back to Lago Agrio in a 4x4 with no break fluid and a road with thousands of pot holes - it was like a mogul hill!
THIS IS NOT COMPLETE, sadly the electricity in Quito (and half of Ecuador) went off when we were uploading and so this is not all of the pics. Also bear in mind that it is very difficult to take pics of moving animals, we had about 100 tree photos which MAY have an animal in them!