In Quito I decided to go on to a jungle-tour. After a comparing round in “Gringolandia” (Where all the tour companies and hostels are situated in Quito) I ended up booking a 5days/4nights trip to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, with the closest town being Lago Agrio.
The following day I went, but I had a plan to go to the Papallacta thermal springs first (it was on the route to Lago Agrio). After several cold showers what could temp more than a soak in some thermal springs! And yes it was good, I managed to spend 3.5 hours in the hot water, admiring the views (nice– the Papallacta thermal springs was set in a green “valley” 200 meters above the main road, so you could see the mist and fog crawling across the mountains) and enjoying ordinary Ecuadorian life. As usual I was the only gringo at the place.
Going back to the main road (2.7km) there was a problem, no taxis! And I remembered dogs on the way up (then with a taxi-truck). So NO CHANCE that I was going to walk down. What to do? I hitchhiked with a police car! My first time in a police-car was better than for most others!
And then I was about to catch the bus. Of course there was no seats free, that´s more common than the opposite. So I sat next to the bus-drivers and the ticket-boy. Great experience, I got to descend down to the jungle (from 3500m) with panoramic views. I got three new amigos with the bus-crew, and my Spanish was more fluently than ever (although not yet fluently).
Then after another 7 hours from Lago Agrio we (my other tour companions, the guides, the crew and I) were in the jungle! There was a nice lodge (really); with a lizard, a bathroom frog, a snake at the dining room, a tarantula in the banana tree and caimans at the dock. But this was the jungle, so I was prepared with steel-nerves! And in fact not as dramatic as a described, the most annoying thing however was all the mosquitoes and invisible mosquitoes. I had a mosquito-net and plenty of repellent (3 different) but I count over 100 bites. And so far no Malaria (To calm those who is reading this, I´m still taking Malarone, an antimalaria-drug).
(Ilse in the boat towards the lodge)
Most interesting were the two 4-hour morning walks, not that many animals, but enormous trees and a REAL jungle feeling!
Night walks – it was then we spotted most of the insects, and it was nice to walk through a jungle, completely dark and abundant with animal sounds everywhere, while we used our flashlights trying to get a glimpse of something. Most likely more animals were watching us.
(Our two guides with some ants)
We did a canoe-trip in murky lagoons and meander-cut rivers. This was exiting, under and over fallen trees, at the canoe trip we spotted a lot of monkeys, but luckily (?) no anacondas (I´m sure they must have been in these waters).
The Canopy tower provided excellent views of the life in the tree-tops (Monkeys and birds, a surprise?).
(The four of us in the group, and our guide on top of the canopy tower)
While caiman searching and piraña-fishing (norwegian: piraja) gave a thrilling close encounter (not painfully close) with scary animals.
It´s difficult to describe the 5 days in details, we experienced soo much, it really was the jungle we visited– far from everything, with amazing stars at night, humidity (no jungleday without raining) and sounds you didn´t know existed. And what I´ve learned that it was really difficult to take photos of animals, so difficult I didn´t bother bringing my camera on half of the trips (also because of rain and darkness). But with help from our guide I made a list:
· Riverdolphins (pink, grey)
· Wolly monkeys
· Howler monkeys
· Black monkeys (Saki)
· Tamarin (monkeys)
· Squirrel monkeys
· Smelly Turkeys
· Killer ants
· Tarantula (10cm)
· Caterpillars (many different)
· Millipeeds (aka 1000-legs)
· Bats (river, vampire and normal)
· Butterflies (big, blue, small – many different)
· Casikes (yellow birds)
· Walking sticks
· Anni (a blue birds)
· Oropendola (birds)
· Fireflies (many different)
· Grasshoppers (many different)
(I hate snakes!)
In addition we went to a local community (I don´t remember the name, but they were indigenous, although not “very” indigenous). We made a special bread together with the kids. But it wasn´t with wheat, but with the roots of a three we cut. I think it was Yucc, but Wikipedia cannot confirm. In the house there was also a house-monkey! With personality, much like the monkeys in pirate movies. The monkey in this house jumped around, played in the hammock and got angry towards us when we refused him our food.
To sum up: the jungle was a great experience! And it was also a great place to celebrate my 22nd birthday. Last year was in -25´C in Ekaterinburg, Russia. This year the completely opposite! I wonder how my 23rd birthday is going to be...
(Some of the pictures in this blog comes from Ilse, for example the picture of the snake - I kept a 3 metre safety distance)