Tag Archives: Amazon

Ecuadorian Amazon

Tuesday-Friday (June 9-13)
I slept fairly well in my cube of white mosquito netting. It was nice to be able to throw off the covers without worrying about getting bitten. The chorus kept up all night long. The first night it was joined by a torrential rain and thunderstorm, which slowed to a steady rain for hours. We also had a nice breeze that night, not so for the other three.

Our days at Sani Lodge are already running together in my mind – lots of canoe rides, jungle walks, and humidity. The density of life is amazing. It rained a lot the first day; fortunately the lodge provided ponchos and “wellies”. We had sun the second day, and a mix of clouds and rain the third.

My favorite activity was riding in the paddled canoes through the lagoons and streams, especially at sunset. When it wasn’t raining, the water was so still that it provided mirror-like reflections of the sometimes prehistoric plants and trees surrounding us. It’s also when we saw the most wildlife (rarely close enough to photograph): five of the eight species of monkeys found in the area (squirrel, black tamarin, red howler, capuchin, and woolly) swinging high up in the trees, pairs of parrots squawking overhead (they mate for life), many other birds, a glimpse of a caiman, and turtles.

I also enjoyed our hikes, but breathed a sigh of relief each time we emerged from the rainforest. We saw a long skinny snake, frogs (one poisonous with blue belly), and numerous insects, many of them on our night hike – a scorpion, a tarantula and other spiders, nests of bees, wasps, termites, and fire ants. My favorite insects were the blind leaf-cutter ants marching in lines with their loads of green leaves, one ant carrying the leaf bit, a smaller one riding on board.

The plant life was dense with many species competing for sunlight. One tree has a symbiotic relationship with a fungus that stores sunlight and the “walking palm” grows roots in the direction of sunlight enabling it to move slightly each year. My favorite was the giant Saba tree with its buttress-like trunks. Our guide, Carlos, and his Suni partner, always carrying a machete, have a deep knowledge of this rainforest, frequently stopping to demonstrate or explain the uses of various plants.

The Sani Lodge is run by the indigenous people of Sani Isla, about 500 people spread across this area. They are committed to maintaining the forest as ecologically as possible and have opposed oil exploration. I hope more people visit their lodge so they aren’t temped by the oil companies. One day we visited their community center. A group of 25 women, divided into four teams, has organized various projects, including a school, agriculture, and fish farming. We got a tour and were served traditional food – a small fish and palm hearts steamed in a leaf wrapper. Some of my braver fellow tourists, Karen included, sampled the roasted larvae.

This morning we boarded canoes for the last time and returned upriver to Coca where we caught a flight back to the Quito airport. The river is much higher than we arrived, steadily eroding its banks. This time we’re staying in a hostel in Tababela, a small town only a ten minutes from the airport. Helena, a new Swedish friend from the jungle, joined us for lunch at the only place in town (arroz con pollo with beers for three only $9). Now we’re relaxing in a pleasant courtyard garden catching up on email and blogging.


































From Island to Jungle

Sunday (June 8)
Somehow what looks like a two-hour flight on paper takes all day. We left Finch Bay at 7:15 a.m. and arrived at our hotel in Quito more than nine hours later. First we took a water taxi to the pier, than a taxi pick-up truck for our tenth trip across Santa Cruz, a short ferry ride over to Baltra, a bus to the airport, a plane to the Quito airport (about four hours, counting short delays and refueling in Guayaquil), a shuttle bus to the terminal, and finally a cab ride that took over an hour. It didn’t help that our luggage didn’t make it onto the plane and we had to wait a half hour for the next plane to arrive. We’re wondering if they left the luggage truck on the tarmac and it rained after our departure, since Nancy’s suitcase and many of her clothes were wet. Fortunately, I had the book that Leanna lent me, “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams, a travelogue, the perfect reading material for this trip.

We took a short cab ride to the mall in a futile attempt to return the defective camera I bought a week ago. Karen stocked up on quinoa and we all bought more chocolate. We’re staying in a small windowless room at La Rabida. It doesn’t look like a good neighborhood to walk around in at night, so we ate at the hotel. It was quite tasty. I was so tired that I fell asleep before Nancy was done showering.

Monday (June 9)
I didn’t sleep well, primarily due to hot flashes and itchy sunburn and/or bug bites. Nancy got up before 5:00 for her flight back home to Colorado and that was the end of sleep for Karen and me. We caught an early cab to the airport, only 45 minutes at this time of day. (Did they really need to put the new airport so far from town?). We were greeted by a band, news crews, yellow balloons, and lots of electrical cords running all over the place. Rather than celebrating our departure to the jungle, everyone was excited about the Ecuadorian football (a.k.a. soccer) team departing for the World Cup.

Our flight to Coca only took a half hour. While waiting for our boat, we spotted what I hope is only the first of many monkeys, scampering across a railing. We joined eight other travelers for a two-hour ride in a motorized canoe down a liquid super highway, Rio Napo, which flows southwest to Peru and joins the Amazon River. We sped along, slowing occasionally, perhaps to avoid half sunken logs, and passed many colorful barges. The clouds were amazing, and slowly darkening.

We then walked about 15 minutes on a boardwalk through a swamp, the jungle engulfing us – numerous unseen birds and insects, the smell of damp earth, and warm sweat-inducing humidity. Next we climbed into a dugout canoe for a paddle up a small tributary to Sani Lodge, where we are staying near Yasuni National Park. Everyone fell silent in awe of our surroundings.

We were greeted with a delicious fruit drink and appetizers, assigned to cabins, and given a couple hours to relax before rejoining the group for orientation. We used the time to reorganize our bags, and now to catch up on this blog while listening to the sound of the downpour which just started.

The rain ended just in time for a late afternoon ride around the lagoon. This place is magical; I’ve never experienced anything like it. Words cannot describe. As I’m finishing this entry, I’m sitting in our screened cabin listening to the whoop whoop whoop of a frog and a chorus of other sounds. It will be an interesting night.