A Travelogue by Nancy Pilius
Nancy is one of the auction winners of the Earth Day Network’s Amazon.com promotion. We were proud to donate a trip to the auction. Nancy and I talked plenty before she departed for her trip and we became good friends over the phone. She was so impressed with the trip that afterwards she wrote this travelogue of her adventure for us!
JUNE 12 THRU JUNE 18
Some of us arrived in Quito a few days before going to the jungle. Quito is a beautiful city with some of the nicest people on earth. You are made to feel safe and very much at home. My first few days in Quito I spent with a friend. We visited Old Town where we visited the oldest Cathedral in the Americas. The workmanship is unbelievable. It really makes you wonder how they were able to create such beautiful works of art without the technology of today.
We visited the equator museum and walked the equatorial (yellow) line. The belief is if you walk the line you will achieve inter balance. Not far from the monument is another privately owned museum. They say that they are the true equatorial line, but didn't have enough money to build a monument. It is worth going to visit. When my friend had to leave, I had a couple of days to myself to discover the city on my own.
On Saturday and Sunday the native people set up a market at the Parque el ejido. You can choose from a variety of items, from small baskets, jewelry, paintings, wall hanging, clothing and so much more. I found that everything at the market was very inexpensive.
On Monday, I hired a driver for the day so I could leave the city to hike in the Pasochoa Forest. Little did I know that he was also going to be my guide. He would not let me hike alone, and came along with me for my protection. After the hike we stopped at a small restaurant for a late lunch. The meal was excellent and the cost for two people was only $4.80 and there was enough food for four people.
Tuesday - We started our adventure into the forest. We got up early in the morning, met our guide Fabian at the airport and flew to Lago Agrio. Fabian told us it was his first tour in three months. He had been bitten by a Fer-de-lance and managed to survive. Upon arrival at Lago Agrio we proceeded to the liquor store to pick up our supplies for the trip. Two bottles of rum, one bottle of Scotch and a six pack of two liter coke completed our shopping list. (Of course the supplies were for medicinal purposes only). The ride in the back of the truck was different. It took about one and a half hours to reach the camp where the canoe was located.
Our chef Raul prepared a very nice lunch for us before we boarded the canoe for our two-hour ride to the Nativo Lodge. As you can see, we are all very happy to be on our way.
We arrived at the Nativo Lodge just in time for HAPPY HOUR!. After a short rest, we went back out on the Aguarico River to see the jungle sunset. As you can see, it really is beautiful. When we returned back to camp, we found that Raul had prepared a wonderful dinner for us, and topped it off with an Ecuadorian cocktail. Everything was going fine until the rat from hell came along. He obviously didn't like the conversation about cats and proceeded to relieve himself on me. (Since I was the only one getting wet, it was obvious that it wasn't a rain storm). It was back to the cold shower, only this time I took a shower alone. The first shower was with a large tree frog. He didn't seem to mind the soap and stayed in his own corner. As you can see, we retired early to our hut and our beds with the mosquito nets. (Thank goodness for them).
Wednesday - We got up early in the morning had a nice breakfast and started our journey to the next camp. We made a stop at our canoe driver's (Guillermo) home to pick-up fresh fruit for the adventure. The next stop was to pick-up our Guides, guide.
We spent about forty-five minutes at the Quechua village, where they are raising turtles to return back into the wild. There were approximately 900 baby turtles in the pens.
After picking up our native guide we proceeded down (I think) the Cuyabeno River to the Quechua Camp. We arrived in time for lunch. Yes you guessed it. Raul is a very good chef. (I didn't need to bring the peanut butter crackers). After lunch Guillermo and Raul set up our mats and mosquito nets on the choza, (platform) where we spent the next two nights.
After a short rest we went for a hike in the forest. We discovered tracks from tapir, deer, ocelot and other animal tracks. On this hike we also discussed some of the plants that are used by the native people for medicinal purposes. It was quite different getting stuck in the mud. (I'm so glad they gave us boots). After our hike, we all took our baths (swim) together in the Cuyabeno river. (Call it what you'd like, but hang on for dear life is more like it). The River's current is very strong. After our refreshing swim, yes you guessed it, HAPPY HOUR!
After a few cocktails, we once again boarded the canoe to look for caiman. If I remember correctly, we only saw two. It really didn't matter. We were having a good time talking. After a couple of hours, we returned back to camp for another one of Raul's creations. (I don't know how he does it). We all retired early in anticipation of the next days experience.
Thursday - We are all early risers except for our guide Fabian. He was always the last one to get up in the morning. After breakfast we boarded the canoe for more bird and mammal watching. Over the course of the trip we spotted more than 46 different birds, six different mammals (not including humans) and many other reptiles, spiders, butterflies, moths and fish.(One common Rat) The one person that got the most excited about seeing a bird was Fabian. It was as if it was his first time.
After our ride, we were dropped off to hike back to the camp through the forest. It took approximately two hours to make our way back to camp. (Now I know why Tarzan swings from vines, he doesn't want to get his feet muddy). When we returned, it was time for our daily hang on or be swept down (up) the river. After lunch, we took the catamaran out for a drift ride and Paraná fishing. It was unfortunate that we were unable to catch any. (I kept losing my bait). Fabian caught a catfish and was going to release it, but our native guide wouldn't let him. Guillermo came with the canoe to tow us back to camp. You guessed it, Just in time for HAPPY HOUR! (Starting to run low on rum we may have to drink the Scotch, ugh!). I think I'm gaining weight from all the good food. Yeah dinner was great. After dinner we had to open the Scotch, the rum is gone. Around eight o'clock we went tarantula hunting around the camp. We found seven tarantulas in different tree stumps throughout the camp. We retired early. During the night I was awakened by a very deep growling sound. The forest would get really noisy and after the growl it became very quiet. There were other sounds below the choza that night. I wasn't going to investigate for fear of bodily harm.
Friday - We all got up early this morning for a canoe ride to a special place our guide thought would be a good place to see the birds and mammals of the forest. We were gone from camp about two hours. We saw a troop of Red Howler Monkeys, Caiman, Red squirrels and a lot of birds, and this was all before breakfast. After breakfast we took the catamaran out again. (Have you noticed that I haven't mentioned rain?). We were only out a short time before the rains came. One of us paddled and another bailed.
Guillermo couldn't find us because it was raining so hard, you couldn't hear the motor of the canoe. Obviously Guillermo did find us and we did get towed back to camp. When we returned, we had lunch and then it was time to leave and make our way back to the Nativo Lodge. We returned our native guide home and proceeded up (down) the Aguarico river to the Nativo Lodge. It was a very quiet ride. I don't think any of us wanted the adventure to end. When we arrived at the lodge, the steps that we used a couple of days ago were gone. With the rain, the river had risen. We arrived in time for you guessed it.
HAPPY HOUR! We were out of rum and down to our last few drops of Scotch. Our hostess of the camp found a box of wine, which cost all of $2.00. It did taste a little funky, but wine does when it's three years out dated. Well it was our last night in the jungle. We brought a bottle of cheap rum and proceeded to get bombed. Two of us (no names mentioned) had to be escorted to our huts. The walk was very slippery. (Thank goodness for the sober ones in our group. They took good care of us).
Saturday - We had to get up very early in the morning. Not to mention the terrible hangover that some of us had, we didn't have any running water to shower. Some of us had breakfast and some did not. (It didn't matter how good a cook Raul was, some were unable to eat). We boarded the canoe to make our way back to the pick-up point where our journey only a few days ago had begun. We said our goodbye to Guillermo and thanked him for being a very good driver. The canoe ride seemed very long, but the truck ride was even longer. When we got to the airport we said our goodbyes to Raul and gave him a radio to listen to the soccer games. He was very appreciative. We said our final goodbye to Fabian at the airport in Quito where we had the opportunity to meet his wife and little girl.
It was a wonderful journey and thank you very much Brian for making it possible.