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The Relief of the Jungle

As much as I love traveling, I mostly despise the transit part of any itinerary, especially as it relates to air-travel. So, of course, my wife and I found ourselves dealing not only with one delay, but two, which possibly marks the last time that either of us will fly on AIRLINE NAME REDACTED.

Needless to say, the original annoyance became downright stressful once we realized that even with our full buffer day in Quito we were looking at the possibility of missing our flight to the Amazon. As a 6:50 pm departure became 11 pm, and then 12 am departure, this only looked more and more likely, so our hopes were not high as we boarded the flight for the third time, praying that we would not be asked to de-board again like the previous two times.

Thankfully, as soon as we landed in Quito, it was apparent that we were in expert care. We were quickly given all necessary boarding docs and then whisked through security (much easier for domestic flights in Ecuador) with an hour to spare. As I nursed a much-needed coffee, our sleepiness gradually became excitement as we realized that within another hour or two we would actually be in the Amazon. Before we knew it, we were on the plane and taking off right on schedule (which was a first for this trip).

Not such a small plane after all. Just landed in Coca.
Not such a small plane after all. Just landed in Coca. (Jeff Rottschafer)

Upon arriving in Coca, the relatively cool and dry weather was replaced by an ever-present humidity that had all the subtlety of a being encased by a wet blanket. But, we weren’t here to cool off, so after changing out of our jeans and light jackets we felt a little bit more appropriately clothed for the climate. Once down to fewer layers, we started to slather on the bug spray, but our guide was quick to point out that there were much fewer mosquitoes than the word “Amazon” tends to conjure (in my mind veritable swarms), and we especially did not need to worry about it while on the motorized canoe. He was soon proven to be absolutely correct.

I think for many, the idea of a “motorized canoe” may conjure up the image of a boat lazily paddling forward as you check out the sights, but this was anything but the case. After we had secured our life jackets (and I opened my beer), the vessel took off with all the force of a speedboat. As we propelled forward, the wind blew our hair around, the river splashed us with a constant mist and the driver quickly zipped the boat around submerged trees, sandbanks, and other hazards that probably would not be too fun to hit.

On the motorized canoe, just after landing in the Amazon.
On the motorized canoe, just after landing in the Amazon. (Jeff Rottschafer)

Needless to say, this was not a time to scope out the natural scenery and wildlife, but rather just our transportation to get to more remote regions of the Amazon. We were treating the Napo River as our highway, which is exactly what it is to folks who live by the river. They make their livelihoods from it. You pass (and are passed by) enclosed speedboats, luxury cruise liners, oil tankers, villages and the locals who live there.

But this all changed after landing at the dock for La Selva EcoLodge. After docking and taking a short walk through the jungle, we arrived at another smaller canoe, this time sans motor. Almost instantly the hum and “bustle” of the Napo River was replaced by a feeling of being deeply immersed in nature, in a way that even a Montanan can feel in awe about. As we slowly were paddled down the blackwater stream, a hush fell over our group as the previous sounds of the motor were replaced by those of the jungle. We felt like we had been transported back in time surrounded by the sounds of seemingly prehistoric birds and bugs, as the trees shook and swayed around us. This was definitely the jungle now, and it made itself pretty clear that we were in its world now.

Feeling surrounded by the jungle as we paddle to La Selva.
Feeling surrounded by the jungle as we paddle to La Selva. (Jeff Rottschafer)

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