8th - 10th September 2008: We leave Quito early to catch our 30 minute flight to Coca, in the Amazon asin. After 45 minutes and alot of turbulence we still haven´t landed yet and are starting to wonder what on earth is going on, when the pilot makes an announcement - the weather is too bad to land so we are heading back to Quito. Collective groans from the whole plane - none of us want to spend another night in our dive of a hostel, we were definitely looking forward to getting out of the city. But, the plane turns round to Quito and once again we´re satwaiting for a plane. Luckily, after only five minutes, the weather has cleared enough for us to attempt to get to Coca again and this time, we make it! We´re greeted by torrential rain, as one would expect when heading for the rainforest I suppose! We have a 2 and a half hour ride on a motorised canoe before half an hour in a dugout before getting to our jungle lodge. I´ve heard that it is very luxurious so am thinking that the posh packed lunch we get on the boat is a very good sign! After the main boat ride we transfer to much smaller dugout canoes and begin the magical ride deep into the jungle - we emerge into a lake to see our jungle lodge on the other side looking fabulous. Arrive to be greeted by cocktails and snacks - I think I will like it here alot!
We´re up early on our first morning and we head into the jungle with our guides Luis and Chistian. Spend a couple of hours hikingand spot spider and capuchin monkeys, along with lots of very impressive trees, the names of which already escape me! Christian makes Naledi and I a woven palm leaf each, which we promptly don as head-dresses and declare ourselves princesses of the jungle. Back to the lodge for lunch and a nap in the hammock (obligatory) before taking a dugout round the lake in the afternoon. We spot lots of birds (some endearingly called Watsons) and bats before stopping for a spot of fishing. Well, the others fish while I watch and try to tell the fish to swim away. They obviously aren´t listening as before long we have a haul of some real live piranhas and catfish. The piranhas are actually very pretty, some of them have lovely red cheeks. I call one Percy and am very relieved when he´s let off his hook and returned to the waters. Unfortunately some of his friends are not so lucky and get served up for supper.
The next day we´re up even earlier for a trip to the canopy tower. We climb up and spend the morning bird spotting. See many toucans and a troop of howler monkeys, who have obviously forgotten their suty to wake me up and are sleeping in a tree. We spot some wonderfully bright birds - one with a bright blue head and neon green breast, which we call ´disco bird´ and another called chachalaca - which we adopt as our team name. After lunch we go to the nearby butterfly farm and see caterpillars, crysallises and fully grown butterflies. I chase a blue morpho trying to get a picture with it's wings open but its not having any of it. This is my favourite butterfly, one which used to flap lazily by my cabina in Costa Rica, but I have yet to get a decent photo of the amazing colour of its wings. Foiled again. Get back to the jungle lodge and watch some of the staff play volleyball, which is apparently a hugely popular sport in Ecuador. Some of Team Chachalaca decide to have a go ourselves and luckily Luis and Christian join in so we're not totally useless. They are probably appalled at our clear lack of skill but stick with us and we eventually manage to play a half decent game before collapsing in the bar for our last night.