Hola from Ecuador!
We have been here almost a week already and are starting to settle in to a new language and way of life. Using Quito as a base, we have visited (and survived!) the Amazon Rainforest.
We spent 3 nights at La Selva Lodge, quite close to the Napo River, a tributary to the Amazon. We had a great journey to get there - a motorised canoe ride down the Rio Napo, a walk through rainforest and finally, a paddle canoe across the lake that La Selva is situated on - what a setting! It´s a beautiful lake, with exotic looking birds flying around and jungle sounds in abundance.
But hang on, you say - what does a complete arachnophobe and person who is generally scared of their own shadow, let alone all creepy crawlies, think they are doing in the Amazon Rainforest? I was soon to ask myself that exact same question....
We had snacks and cocktails awaiting us on our arrival, a lovely wooden cabin for our stay and even hot water in our en suite. So far so good! Our first afternoon was spent being paddled around the lake in a canoe; meeting the local Squirrel monkeys and seeing all the birds who live in the area. We had a fantastic evening meal - the food here is really good - and all the staff really friendly.
The next day we explored the local rainforest on foot and started the day with - a TARANTULA - aaarrrghhh! But it was Ok, we carried on, with a Canadian couple doing the same trip as us (I don´t think they saw me shaking) and saw lots of birds, as well as some extremely unpleasant Bullet ants - they´re 4cm long, aggressive and their bite can paralyse you as well as being very painful. The joys of the rainforest. I was calmed down by another great canoe ride across a different lake. We were paddled down a small creek, with trees forming a canopy overhead and nature the only sound. The nasties were forgotten (until we saw another tarantula on the way home). Another tasty meal and an early night; it has to be, given the usual waking time is 5 or 6am for breakfast.
Our next day started with a tarantula at the breakfast table! Fortunately not ours, but still an unpleasant way to start the day. We then went to see a few clay licks. These are where parrots feast on clay to help digest their otherwise pretty toxic diet. In the case of the ones we visited, the clay licks were walls, either by the river or in the forest, and a clay lick cave, where parrots drink the water, which has similar minerals to aid digestion. We saw literally hundreds of brightly coloured birds and the experience was a real highlight for us both.
In the afternoon, we had the chance to visit the on site Butterfly farm and the Observation Tower, which rises above the rainforest tree canopy so you can see all around. Unfortunately the latter was being rebuilt and we hadn´t been forewarned so were a bit annoyed that we couldn´t climb all the way to the top. It had been one of the reasons we chose La Selva, so it was all a little sneaky. Still good to visit though, just didn´t see much. Rob went for a night ride in a canoe (I passed due to my weak disposition!) and saw a small croc from afar.
And the next day we were heading back to Quito. The 3 days passed really quickly, and by the last night I was even managing some sleep! Our cabin actually had relatively few bugs in - only a few cockroaches, and we were sealed into our beds with mosquito nets so had little to fear. The nightime noises are quite something to hear, with frogs, bugs and birds singing for most of the night. And with no light at night, the imagination does start working overtime, or mine did anyway.
Still, I´m really glad we did this. We both enjoyed it, and it was much better than I thought it was going to be. We survived with few insect bites and coped reasonably well with the intense heat and humidity. Definitely an adventure. Bring on the next one!