We just returned from Cuyabeno Reserve in the Lago Agrio area in northeast Ecuador after 19 hours via motorized canoe and three different buses…one of which was host to a small dog and a parrot at one point in our journey…in addition to all of the town´s school children and us!We arrived in Quito at 4am this morning, checked into a hostel and crashed for a couple of hours.Now here we are catching up on all of our errands - email, bank, and most importantly, laundry!With no running water besides the murky river, and very limited clean drinking water, our clothes were definitely able to walk themselves to the laundry facility this morning!
The last six days have been unbelieveable.We stayed with a local indigenous family while we were there.Although we felt a bit intrusive entering their home, at least the company we were with seemed to be respectful of the family´s wishes in that they maintained the natural environment and it is preventing them from having to allow the oil companies to come onto their land.Many other tour companys in the area have taken over entire areas by building huge posh tourist compounds.
The place where we stayed was minimalist with just a group of raised platforms with palm-thatched roofs.Like I mentioned before there was no running water, the shower was a bone dry empty oil drum that collects rain water (it is their dry season), and had no electricity.Our luxury was that we did get to sleep on a thin mattress with a mosquito net.This was key because the skeets were in full effect!We were coated in bug spray and fully clothed the entire time, despite the highs in the 90s and low 100s!
As Aaron will tell…we will never be going to a zoo again after what we have seen firsthand.Every morning we woke up to capibaras, some other large rodents, and tapirs chasing each other in the bush behind our platform (although we never got to see them!) and howler monkeys singing up a storm…not to mention the hundreds of species of birds singing there as well.
Each day we took at least one three to four hour hike into the primary rainforest, as well as a ride in a motorized canoe.We saw toucans, macaws, urupendulas, caciques, golden monkeys, the smallest monkeys in the world (the name escapes me), lizards, lots of spiders (Aaron´s personal favorite), bats, huge grasshoppers, pirañas, frogs, walking sticks, and the real highlight….an enormous anaconda, which Aaron climbed into the tree with to get a closer look!On all our hikes we were accompanied by our English speaking indigenous guide, Sebastián- a real kick in the pants, and a local indigenous woman, Aurora - who was very knowledgeable in all of the medicinal uses of plants and animals.
Sebastián, our guide, was comic relief the entire trip.Somehow magically, he managed to work in an anaconda into every story he told, which then, even more miraculously, transformed into an ¨anacoda¨ of another kind…boy, did he enjoy a good story!
The reality check of the trip was when I awoke on the third morning to our pack turned into a termite mud hut…that was a real treat.I certainly had a few choice words to share when I saw that…I have to hand it to them, they are some pretty crafty guys…who knew that all of the vent holes of my back support would make such a sweet nesting ground…
Fears faced this week in no particular order: eating lemon flavored ants, falling in a hole during a night hike, swimming in the same murky river where we had just seen the anaconda slither in to, walking to the bathroom hut in the dark after being told that vipers are attracted to light, waking up to the sound of something large lurking in the bushes, seeing two glowing green eyes staring at me between the folds of my bandana, having a giant cicada smack into your face and then onto your dinner plate, seeing swarms of bats flying overhead while careening down the river full speed with no visibilility, watching Aaron climb into the tree with the sleeping anaconda.
We will be here hanging out with Maya and Rob in the relative safety Quito for another day or so, hoping to catch a futbol match today.Then it is back on the bus for another nine or ten hour ride to Cuenca heading south for our final week in Ecuador.