To the jungle

Trip Start Mar 31, 2008
Trip End Jul 04, 2008

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Like all good adventures, getting ourselves to the Amazon jungle from Quito was a good mission in itself. We caught an overnight bus leaving at 11.30pm and were glad we booked early as it was full. We made the mistake of putting lots of warm clothes on for the trip in case we got cold, but ended up stripping off as it was too hot on the bus. We managed to get some sleep, but werenīt exactly rested when we arrived at 6.30am in Lago Agria. We soon spotted the other passengers doing the same thing and we must have looked funny to the locals wandering around the town trying to find our meeting point. But we found it eventually and after a couple of hours we were off to collect more passengers (the rich ones who flew in) at the airport. Then it was a 3.5 hour bus ride to the river following the road kindly made by the oil company. It was a bit disconcerting that the access road to one of the most remote areas on the planet was sponsored by the oil industry. In fact the first half of the road at least was the best we had traveled on in our trip so far.

At the river we met our guide and entered the Cuyabeno wildlife reserve, heading downstream in a wooden canoe that seated 8 with an outboard motor. We were soon stopping to check out our first wildlife - there was a huge array of birds and animals along the river banks: white fronted cappuccino monkeys, bat falcons, macaws, a huge heron, woodpeckers, kingfishers and swallows. By the time we reached our lodge Nev must have taken about a hundred photos.

Our lodge consisted of a main dining and hanging out area and a number of thatched cabanas that were comfortable and clean. We were glad for the sun to go down to cool things off (we helped things along with a swim in the river). After dinner, we went for our first night walk around the camp and saw some tarantula spiders, poisonous frogs, and a poisonous snake (just a small one though).

The next day we were up early and headed across the nearby lake for a walk.  This involved getting up to our gumboots in mud and was very entertaining. We crossed the equator, saw some cool plants and more birds including a night hawk in the trees. Later that day we headed back to the lake to go for a swim, see a manitur surfacing and found a cayman in the shallows after the sun set. By the end of the day our list of amazing animals was growing, including a sloth, some toucans, some very cool river dolphins, a scorpion, a salamander, some huge cockroaches, and a baby python.

The next day it decided to rain, but this didnīt put us off our piranha fishing expedition. Serena was a legend and caught the first of the day, and we ended up catching and releasing 5 by the time we were done. They were bigger than we expected but still not much of a meal. So instead we headed to a local indigenous Indian village and went for a walk through their farming plantation of bananas, plantain and coca trees before helping prepare lunch. This consisted of pulling up some yucca roots and helping prepare them into a coconut like paste before we watched one of the local women expertly squeeze all the juice out of them and make a coconut bread pancake. Very yummy with our toppings we brought with us. In fact we almost had no room left for our actual lunch that we also brought with us, but it didnīt go to waste as the local chicos finished it off for us. We finished the day cruising back to the lake for another great sunset swim.

It rained again the next morning but we headed out in our canoe to do some paddling up stream. It was great to not have the motor running and hear the wildlife as well as see it. This is how we got to see some more dolphins as we heard them as they surfaced. We also creapt up on some bats sleeping under a branch, and went down some of the smaller channels to see some spider colonies, woodpeckers and toucans. We finished the day by going off the beaten track to see if we could find the macaws that we had heard across the river. After 20mins of wading through the swamp and almost giving up, we saw some come in to land in some nearby trees. We eventually got close enough to see them and get some photos. Well worth the effort.

Our day gave us one last view of the river as we headed back to the bridge. We were lucky to see some more monkeys - three different types - as well as some more macaws and toucans, but the hight light was an anteater sunning itself on a branch - very cool as I didnīt realise they climbed trees. The weather was good for traveling and and a few hours later we were back in Lago Agria and on the bus back to Quito - in daylight for the start at least this time.

We had a really good trip made possible by our excellent guide and the friendly people we stayed with. We certainly got off the beaten track and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. One of the highlights of our time in South America.
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