Sands of Gold
Trip Start May 01, 2010
90Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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For the last hour of the canoe journey we were in the reserve itself and the river was surrounded by dense primary rainforest. Julio was obviously a very skilled boatman as the river is supposedly only navigable by a few people and he expertly manoevred us through the rapids and over the shallow bits. We stayed at the Tigrillos lodge, a short distance upriver from the Playa de Oro community. We were the only guests at the lodge and were looked after by Julio, Isaiah and Mercedes the cook, who produced delicious meals of fish caught by Isaiah, rice and locally grown vegetables, and juices made from local fruits like naranjilla and maracuaba. The lodge itself is set back from the river and surrounded by jungle. It is rustic and simple with no electricity but perfectly comfortable. We even had bats roosting on the ceiling which would return in the early morning and wake us with their squeaks!
It rained non-stop for the whole of our first day, so we spent the time swinging in hammocks on the verandah, reading, doing some Spanish and drinking Clos, our new found friend (very cheap and tasty Chilean red wine which comes in 1.5 litre cartons!)
On the third day, we went further up into the reserve by motorized canoe. The Rio Santiago is a beautiful fast-flowing river, with steep jungle clad sides and waterfalls tumbling into it. We stopped off at a few sandy spots where Julio and Isiah panned for gold. The sand here is literally awash with tiny specks of gold! Isaiah also caught us three fish for that night's dinner.
We were sad when we said our goodbyes on the morning of the fourth day. Like Santa Lucia, we have been drawn in by the beauty of this place and will always leave a little bit of ourselves here. Julio and Isaiah took us back downstream to Selve Alegra where we discovered the bus had broken down. Fortunately, Julio managed to negotiate us a lift in the back of a pick-up which took us to San Lorenzo, a town near the Columbian border with a raw and edgy feel where the majority of the buildings were only half-finished or falling down, we couldn't tell which. We didn't linger for long and caught the next bus south to Ibarra. The journey took about four hours with no toilet stops and the bus was crammed full for pretty much the whole way. At Ibarra, we hopped on another bus for the short ride to Otavalo, an Andean market town, where toilets, a comfy bed and Clos awaited us!