Thursday 1st November
Exciting day, we head to the jungle :o) we had a flight out of quito on an airline called VIP :o) which had its very own terminal!!!! Was a tiny place but we had free coffee´s and posh sarnies. Tom overdosed on the vanilla cappucino´s while we chatted to a dear old couple called Jean and John (from England) who were to be our trip buddies and new nan and grandpa!!!! We were given little bulsa wood animal brooches to wear when we arrived so the guide would recognise us, and cookies in banana leaves. The plane was a tiny private propeller plane and annoyingly was delayed by about 3 hours... But it didnt feel like it as we chatted with Jean and John for hours, we were pleased we were on this trip with them.. We arrived in Coca after a 30 min flight, and went from like 14 degrees to 30 degrees in that short space of time!!! It was soooo humid. The guide picked us up in a jeep and tom got on the back whilst me and jean and john opted for inside seating!!! It was only a 10 min ride through Coca (a fairly big but poor town) but i needed to use the internet to email my friend Inga (who we were meeting the day we got back from the jungle) so the guide took tom and i into town to an internet cafe.. On the walk back Tom saw crates of baby chickens being piled into trucks!!! We boarded our river boat which would take 2 1/2 hours to travel 60 miles down the River Napo to our lodge (La Selva) in the jungle. It was baking hot but we had a cover over the boat, just as well because the driver was a nutter and had a habit of driving the speed boat into trees on the edge of the river and spraying us with branches and ants!!!! The river was very low so there were sand banks and very low areas all over the river, so we had guides at the front of the boat directing the driver around the obstacles... to the passengers and guides disbelief and frustration he kept ignoring them and we crashed into just about everything and grounded on sand banks too many times!!!! We finally arrived at the river dock for our lodge as the sun was setting, which meant we had a 900m walk through the jungle in the dark, and then a 15min canoe ride across the lake to our lodge in the pitch black!! it was actually very beautiful arriving like this... On arrival we were greeted by the fat controller with passion fruit vodka cocktails and fresh fruit and taken to our lodge rooms. The wooden lodges were basic but lovely, with a four poster bed and mosi net to protect you from the... well, everything that wanders into your room through all the gaps!!!!! Tom headed straight for the shower whilst i unpacked.. and screamed as i saw the hugest spider ever under the bed!!!! i screamed so loud the spider fled under the shelving where we kept our bags, so i screamed even more!!! I dragged tom out the shower (closing my eyes cos i didnt wanna see his bits!!!) to deal with the spider, so tom being tom fled the room to find the nearest lodge worker to move the spider instead!!!!!!! A guy came in with a pastic bag and calmly caught the spider, then started checking the rest of the room suspiciously.. turns out that spider lives in big families and if there is one there is normally a whole family nearby :o( After calming down we heard the dinner horn blowing so headed to the dinning room... OMG, the food here was amazing, 4 course meals, what else, and so beautifully prepared.. all fresh products and freshly squeezed local fruit juices..no chance of loosing weight here!!!! We didnt have time to do an evening trek as we arrived so late, so we met our guide (Daniela) and sat down with Jean and John for a bevvie and a briefing on all we´d get up to on the next few days in the jungle!!! The lights went out at 10pm (and the water so you cant flush the loo!) so we headed off to bed early as it was to be an early start
Friday 2nd November
We were woken up at 5am by the lodge staff and the breakfast horn sounded at 5:30am for a hearty breakfast before we headed off at 6am for the bird tower. It was a short trek through the jungle to a huge tree, over 110ft high, which had a large wooden tower and stair case up to the canopy. On the way through the jungle we saw lots of toads (little ones) and a poisonous dart frog, which was really cute! Enrique, our native guide, picked it up with no fear and explained it is only poisonous if you have a cut on your skin and the poison from the frogs skin gets into your blood! the locals use the frogs to rub over home made darts to shoot animals!!! Anyway, at the tower we climbed up and waited for Jean and John to catch up. It was a really hot morning so a lot of the wildlife was hiding from the sun (very sensible) so it made them hard to spot. But Enrique had an amazing eye and we managed to see two different varieties of monkeys, tucans, vultures, mockingbirds and many other small birds, oh and a giant rhino beatle!!!! I didnt think bird watching would be much fun but it actually was, and we had binoculars and a telescope to help us!!! Enrique was a bird fanatic and mimics bird calls to draw them close, very cool! After 3 hours we decided to head back down, and at the bottom of the tree we saw a bat clinging to the trunk, sleeping, and the shedded skin of a weird looking beatle!!!! We then took 1 1/2 hours trek through the jungle, in the sweltering heat. On our trek we saw osolot tracks (small cat), hundreds of huge butterflies, armodillo hole, termite mound and a snake that escaped Enriques grasp as quick as it could!!!! We also saw a tree which created red sap called dragons blood which was used for cuts and grazes, bites and acne, so we tried it out, and it was good!!!!! We headed back to the lodge and had free time before our 4 course lunch! tom and i decided to head out into the lakes on our own in the inflatable kayaks. The lake has piranhas, electric eels, caimans, small mouth fish, turtles, black caiman (can be 18ft long) and the infamous and very rare 2 metre long fish (biggest fish in the world)!!!! On our kayak trip we saw turtles, herons and stinking turkys, mockingbirds and their nests, some other birds we didnt recognise and flipping small mouth fish!!! In the afternoon whilst the others and I had siesta Tom decided to go out on the kayaks again on his own (i had had too much sun for the day!). Our afternoon trip was another canoe ride in the lake, with jean and john and daniela and Enrique. We saw pretty much the same things, but daneila helped us identify a lot more of the birds including a rare heron and rare tucan. We also had our first encounter with the big 2m fish, which bit a big chunk out of enriques paddle!!!!!!! After a relaxing ride around the lake we went back for another 4 course dinner. For our night time excersion we headed into the lake again in the canoe with our torches to search for caimans.. They have really bright shinin eyes in the dark and you can see their eyes appearing above the water around the edge of the lakes, but as soon as you get close they disappear as they are very shy creatures... so we didnt get to see much apart from sparkling eyes!!!! The stars were amazing in the jungle, as they were in bolivia, so clear to see and so many of them. We also saw distant lightning from a far off storm, and bright flashes which look like lightning but actually come from the oil fields taking over the jungle!!!! We had an early night as again the lights and toilets go off at 10pm!!!!!
Saturday 3rd November
We were woken today at 6am and at 7am headed off on our next adventure. Jean didnt join us on this morning trip as she was feeling unwell from her malaria tablets. So off tom, John and I trekked through the jungle again, towards another lake with anacondas and more electric eels!! In the jungle we saw Titti and Spider monkeys in the trees above, playing and fighting and falling out of the trees. It was soooo cool to watch, especially through the binoculars as you could see their antics and facial expressions really well. When we arrived at the lake the water levels were so low the canoe was stuck in the gunky mud!!! Enrique to the rescue (he is only 20 years old by the way), he was knee deep in swamp mud and trying to haul a massive heavy canoe into the water. We offered to help but he was obviously used to doing this, so we stood by and watched him sweating as he finally got the canoe in the water (it was made from a tree trunk so very heavy).. Personally i think the guard girls could have done a better job, after all it couldnt weigh much more than our floors could it!!! Anyway we headed out along a stream heading off from the lake which lead to the River Napo. Again the water was so low you could see all the tree roots hanging over the bank edges, which would normally be submerged in water. We saw woodpeckers, a rare vulture, pigmy kingfisher, a some bird with a really pointed long beak!!!! we heard some rare monkeys calling from a distance too but didnt see them. On the way back to the lodge, through the jungle, enrqique taught us how to make roofs from palm leaves, and how to swing on the jungle vines like tarzan :o) We were all surprised when John (who was 80 years old) joined in and swung from the vines. Tom had to go one better though and climbed the vines with enrique, was quite cool i have to say!!!!! We went back to the room and relaxed on our hammock until lunch. After lunch tom and i decided to head back into the lake on the inflatable kayak again. We didnt see much more than we saw the previous day, but half way round the lake, far away from the safety of the lodge and where no one could see us, we shat ourselves as we heard a massive thud at the back of the kayak and felt it rise up.... Tom thought the kayak had burst, i was s***ting myself too much to think, but as we both turned round to the back of the kayak we saw it, the giant 2m fish flipping back into the water.. We had been attacked by the giant fish, tryin to flip up our kayak!!! Tom wanted to go back to see it again, i didnt fancy being attacked again by a fish that was bigger than me, so i won and made tom paddle away to safety as fast as he could!!!! In the afternoon we went to the butterfly farm and saw lots of crysalises and butterflies. But on the way, as we passed our lodge, John spotted in the tree behind very close to us, a group of monkeys eatin berries from the tree.. It was so cool as they were so close to us and they stayed around for about 30 mins as we stood there fascinated watchin them swing around from their tales and picking fruit etc. We had the binoculars and you could literally see them eating and throwing away unripe fruit.. very very very cool.. Then it was time to head to the lake for our much anticipated afternoon of Piranha fishin. Enrique gave us a small piece of wood with fishing line wrapped around it, and a hook on the end, and a bag of raw beef!!!! We sat on the pier of the lake and dangled our lines in the water as enrique guided us. He being a pro caught about 3 in the space of 5 mins, us on the other hand were not as lucky!!! The piranha nibble rather than bite so you have to yank the line up really quick when they nibble and hope it hooks their mouth... The first to get a fish of course was Tom, and he pulled out a smallish piranha. Jean was next and some time after John, followed by Tom catching a big one (but it got away as he pulled it up on to the pier) and then another by Tom... 3 bloody fish he caught and i didnt manage 1, i was NOT impressed :o( After we had dinner and then got ready for our night trip, Bug hunting by night in the gardens of the lodge!!!!! Well i really wasnt expecting to see what we saw.. The first thing we saw was really cute, and toms favourite animal of the trip, a bright green tiny tree frog, clinging to a small branch on a new tree. We then saw 2 tarantulas (god knows how you spell that!!) which enrique poked out of their holes, it was VERY SCARY.. It started to rain after that so we saw a few more creepy bugs then headed back to our lodge where we were treated (toms word, i wouldnt say it was a treat as i am scared of them!!!) to a huge tropical storm which went on for hours!! we sat on our hammock in the safety of our veranda and watched as it lit the entire sky up constantly. It was an amazing site and so different to storms we are used to seeing.
Sunday 4th November
Our last day of full treks :o( we were having a lot of fun in the jungle and being with jean and john. This morning i wanted to go to the clay licks with another group to see the parrots and macaws, but the rain from the previous night would keep them away :o( so we went with jean and john to visit a local family in the jungle. We headed across the lake and through the jungle for an hour. On the way we saw more Titti monkeys (which tom obviously remembers their name very well, as he finds it very amusing!!!!), and tom spotted a giant snail which was awesome, even our guide took pictures of it! We also saw (Tom spotted again) a pair of racoon type animals which were actually pets from a local family, so they came up close and let us stroke them!!! Enrique showed us lots of cool trees and fruits and we ate wild avocado, branches from palm tree which was like leeks and some unusual fruits... When we got to the family the kids were playing in the river Napo which looked very dirty!!! We headed into the house and met the wife and her young baby which was 7 months old, and her daughter who was 2 years old. She had 9 kids in total, an average family size!!! We chatted (via Daniela who translated) and asked her loads of questions, whilst i played with the daughter and the baby boy!!!! She made us some local food, palm hearts and plantain (lucky as the next group who visited her after got fried worms!!!!), tried local home made alcohol from palm trees, and then we went out so enrique could show us the hand made traps they use around the garden perimeter to protect from the animals and catch food. After we sat in the garden and had a go at blowin blow darts into a papaya fruit hanging from a rope... We all managed to hit the fruit so we would make great hunters!!!!! As we left tom noticed that we both had a rash down our arms (not my first rash i hasten to add!!!), which had come up whilst we were in the house!!!! God only knows what she put in the food!!!!! We headed back to the lodge by boat and land, in time for lunch... In the afternoon we decided to have a siesta this time, as it was raining, before watching the staff and enrique play volleyball. As it was raining Tom and I and Jean decided we would brave it and take a dip in the lake, with the piranha and electric eels, caimans and the infamous 2 meter fish who now was in my bad books!!! Not being a good swimmer i mainly clung to the pier whilst jean (a swimming instructor) and Tom swam around with the fish!!!! We then tried our hand at piranha fishing again (in the same spot we swam) as lisa was determined to catch one.. It was peeing down with rain so we fished in our swim wear!!! To my delight i caught 3 piranhas (and 4 that got away as i kept bashing them on the side of the pier when i got excited!!!), and tom caught about the same!!! Enrique caught toms big one that got away the day before, and we decided to keep it and have the chef cook it with our dinner!!!!!!!! That night as we tucked into our 4 course meal, the big piranha fish was presented to us, fried and headless with lots of garnish!!!!!!!! We didnt eat much of the poor fish, as it was very boney, but at least we can say we tried it!!! That evening we went on another night bug hunt and this time we saw a lot more. I spotted a wolf spider which daniela informed us was poisonous (trust me!!!). We saw a scorpian spider which was a scary big f**ker, and about 3 or 4 more tarantulas, as well as other creepy bugs, oh and some rat like animals!!!! We headed off to bed happy and content that we had a great adventure in the jungle
Monday 5th November
Today we left the jungle lodge, after an amazing unforgettable experience. It was another early start, well 7am, and we had our last hearty breakfast of pancakes before heading across the lake for the last time in the canoe... We were all praying the boat journey back would not be as bad as the journey there. But tom had spied that the driver was the same driver... ohhhh noooooo!!! we had told daniela about this nutty driver and as she and enrique were heading back to coca with us she promised she´d make sure he behaved this time... See, needs a womens touch, the journey went by without any events and we got to coca a little ahead of time.. I think it helped that the previous days rain fall had helped the water levels in the river to rise!!! Anyway with 30 mins to spare we went to a diner with Daniela, Jean and John and had a final bevvie together before boarding the plane back to quito. Wasnt a VIP plane this time though, tut tut, do they not know who we are!!! Just as we were taking off we happened to look over the shoulder of the lady in front of us who was reading the local paper, and in our fluent spanish we managed to understand that a plane had crashed (again) at Sao Paulo..... great thing to read as you take off, especially with tom sitting next to you!!!!!!! We got back safely to quito and after our farewells to jean and john we headed back to our home (Eugenia hotel) for a one night stay. We headed to the mall again and fed ourselves with Taco Bell (a slight come down from the jungle food!) and did some more shopping for tom!! We were meeting my friend Inga that night and all staying at the Eugenia for 1 night before heading off to her apartment the next day which she was renting for her stay... She´d sent me a message asking if i´d meet her at the airport at 10pm, so we headed off to the airport (much to toms disgust, who wanted to stay at the hotel and sleep!!!!) to meet her, but was a few minutes late (and her flight landed early). We waited an hour and Tom kept moaning that he wanted to go to sleep and we must have missed her, but finally after just over an hour she came through!!! We went back to the hotel and nattered as girls do til 1.30am in the morning, much to toms frustration!!! finally we went to bed