My Ecuadorian Amazon adventure

Trip Start Jul 30, 2007
Trip End Sep 17, 2007

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, August 11, 2007

Approaching the Ecuadorian Amazon, I shed the layers of civilization with each transitional form of transportation...The hectic Quito taxi ride, the silver bird route that traversed the ecozone extremes, from the Andes to the sultry lowland rainforest in a mere 30 minutes. Next, the mind jogging bumpy gravel two hour drive, navigating the same road utilized by the infamous oil industry's pipeline.

Now, we bid adieu to the last remnants of civilization, the local Ecuadorians gathered above the river dock. Our motorized canoe boat was loaded with people, belongings and supplies. We were lathered in mosquito repellent, a distinct aroma of citrus filling the humid air. Around the river's bend, through a kaleidoscope of green and brown colored shades, the heart of the Amazon awaited.

Our serpentine portage through the murky jungle river went deeper and deeper into the rainforest. It would not be long before the journey became very interesting.
Surprising us from higher ground somewhere in the thick tree foilage, Amazonian women, easily fifty feet tall, let loose with an arsenal of spears in our immediate direction. Whizzing past our heads, we managed to outmaneuver their unprovoked attack. Around the next bend, the river narrowed. Enormous tree vines hung down to the river's edge. Clinging to the vines were dozens of slithering anacondas, dangling precariously close to our heads as we past. The Dutch children on board were nearly wisked away by the largest of the anacondas, a mere 6 meters in length. Our swift response with our supplied machetes prevented the children's abduction.

Further down river the air filled with the sounds of a hundred bees or so we initially thought. The buzzing noises were in fact poisonous darts aimed at us by unfriendly natives hidden in the forest. Fortunately their cursed darts missed their intended marks.

A brief respite from harm's way was abruptly interrupted by a boiling frenzy of activity in the waters ahead. The source of the frenzy was a thousand piranha hungrily looking for an afternoon snack. We pulled our hands and toes out of the water, steering through their frenzied madness. They continued to chase us down river, as did an armada of fast moving hungry caimans.

Yet, we prevailed, and after two hours of such Amazon encounters, we finally reached our destination, Cuyabeno Lodge, which rested along the Laguna Grande. Now our adventure would really begin...

That's one version of what happens when you travel in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Now, here's another....

The boat journey was actually a very calming, peaceful experience. There were certainly creatures in those tall trees that we encountered. There were four different species of monkeys as well as a distant blue and yellow maccaw, and a tucan flirting about the top branches. The pervasive jungle fisherman, the kingfisher, guided us up river. Only one small caiman came into view on a sunny river bank and he gave us little notice.

To the surprise of us, the blacken waters of Laguna Grande were save for swimming and we swam every day. Magical experiences happen in that lake as well. A glorious, dramatic sunset cast pink, gold, aguamarine and cienna blue colors off the developing thunderheads above and teh placid surface water below. The rare pink fresh water dolphins were also present for the show. Very quietly we watched a mama dolphin and her two babies surface and resurface in the still river waters. After sunset, we ventured into the now darkened rainforest. night is when the inhabitants of the Amazon really comes to life, big and small. We were only equipped with our senses and a flashlight. The stillness was incredible. Point the flashlight...tarantula on a tree...point it again, a large hairy spider or a small light green frog under a leaf. Were those big eyes that glittered off my beam.
The short return journey to the lodge was also dramatic. That developing thunderhead earlier now let loose with its stinging patter of raindrops, illuminated by our boat's searchlight and the distant flashes of lightning.

That same lake the next day was the perfect vantage point for a spiritual silent view of the immense twinkling universe above. So clear was the sky and so free of civilization's lights that every star in the universe shined that night. So close were they that if you stood on the bow of the boat, you could just touch them.

Earlier that afternoon, we fished for piranha with fresh chunks of meat as bait in the the river's murky waters.
The Amazon's jungle silences and sounds are spellbinding. The humidity, especially deeper inland away from the cooling effect of the open waters can be styfling yet no worst than my days living in Florida.
A ways further downriver we visited a small Amazon indigenous Siona community. No more loin cloths and nose pierced bones. Far deeper still in the Ecuadorian Amazon you may still find members of the Huaorani tribe in more traditional appearance.
The jaguar and the anaconda are certainly in the jungle, just more illusive than the stories we're told let you believe.
The staff and indigenous guides wer all wonderful at the Cuyabeno ecolodge. Open air thatched roof, wooden huts with mosquito nets for lodging. Only nighttime visitors were the Three Cucarachas aka cockroaches. The neighboring monkeys kept their distance.
The five days in the Amazon just flowed, peacefully, naturally, like the waters and the inhabitants themselves. Difficult to return to the alleged civilized world.
Ouch! Was that a small dart that hit my neck!

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