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Big Small Journey Off on the adventure of my lifetime: 5 glorious months of sun and snow in South America, then the UK for further fun and frolicking.

Stories from the jungle

ECUADOR | Friday, 20 June 2008 | Views [2402] | Comments [1]

It was deliciously good. All of it! Yeah there were bugs everywhere, buzzing around my ears, swimming in my soup, bouncing off my eyeballs, but some of them, when you eat it, tastes like lemon!

Sunday night, after leaving the internet cafe where I wrote my last entry, I had a scary walk through dark and dodgy old town, trying to find a place to eat. No luck because there was a soccer match on (Ecuador vs Argentina, tied until the last few seconds, then Argentina scored and won 2-1). Not many taxis around either, and when I did hail one, they wanted double the normal price. Anyhow, I got to the bus terminal, but finding there was nothing to do or eat there, walked a scary 3 blocks to a KFC.

The bus ride to Lago Agrio was uneventful, slept soundly. However, what I didn't know on my way there was that Lago Agrio (meaning Sour Lake) was very near the Ecuador-Colombia border, a definitely no-no place to go with the guerilla activities and cocaine mafia flexing their metal muscles. When I got there (am here now in fact), people look at me strangely - few gringos come here.

Another 6 or 7 hours later, after another bus and boat ride, we arrived at the cabanas. There we were first greeted by the baby woolly monkey, Pancho, the camp pet and pest (very cute at first, then proceeds to pee and poo on you). It had been raining on and off all day, but the night walk was cool. We saw caimans, spiders, a dwarf boa, little frogs and caught a catfish for bait for tomorrow.

In the morning the following day, we went on a 3 hour jungle walk. The group was consisted of 4 girls, all single travellers, from Belgium, Germany and Finland, and 3 guys, 2 from New York and 1 guy from Spain. A fairly easy-going group, although some of the girls (not me!!!) were a bit afraid of spiders. During the walk and canoe ride we saw: hairy eagles (extremely rare in these days, one of the most powerful hunters in the world), tucans, a 3-toed sloth (being extremely active for their kind, moving a whole 10cms), ruby poison-dart frog (Indians use them for poisoned darts), monkeys (black mantle tamarins and yellow-handed titis), a little bull frog, lots of hoatzons (aka stinky turkey), menelaus' morpho butterfly (beautiful electric blue), leaf cutter ants (they ferment the leaves with acid to make fungus, which they eat), and greater yellow-headed vultures.

In the afternoon we went pirhana fishing. I wasn't too keen on it at first, thinking they'll keep and cook the victims for dinner, but these people were really eco-friendly, all the fish caught were released back into the water (no kissing the pirhanas, sorry Rex). And to top it off, of the 4 caught by our group, I caught 2!!!! Yay me :) We also spotted the other type of sloth, Hoffmans 2-toed sloth, bat falcons, a ferdalance snake, cormorants, kingfishers and caciques. It was also a pretty sunset over the lake.

The most amazing event of the day was of course a display by a school of pink dolphins. 8 or 9 of them were swimming around our canoe, popping out their dorsal fins every 10-15 seconds, sometimes more frequently, showing us their pink bellies, and twice, even leapt out of the water (I filmed it!!!!!!). It was amazing, even the guide who had being guiding for 8 years was amazed and touched by the display.

Ecuador, by the way, apparently has 1640 species of birds, almost half the species in the world, and is the most diverse place on earth for bird watching.

The second day, we rode the canoe further down the river and visited an indigenous village, and a Shaman. Saw cuckoos, lots of beautiful macaws, tucans again, and 3 other species of monkeys: common squirrel, saki, and a pigmy marmoset (smallest monkeys in the world). We also sighted some Amazonian river turtles, and lemon ants (really lemony in taste), bullet ants (one of the most dangerous animals in the world, apparently the bites feel like bullet wounds), a pit viper (venomous!), marching wasps (make marching sounds with their wings when threatened), and fresh footprints of an ocelot and jaguar.

Also almost saw a paca (funny looking large mammal), giant otter, and tanager.

The Shaman was interesting, wears lots of colourful necklaces and feathers, and goes about curing uncurable diseases, including paralysis and cancer. We were introduced to one plant, which has pollen, when powdered and drunk, renders a person mindless for days; capable of withdrawing money and handing over all valuables, signing cheques etc, but no memory. We were also offered hallucinogenic drinks, but nobody wanted it.

During the night walk, we saw a wolf spider, massive tarantula (size of an outstretched hand), lots of dwarf speckled caymans, an amazon tree boa, spot-legged poison-dart frog, and a smokey jungle frog (which I found!).

Today we had an early morning bird watching boat ride, but didn't see much. I did spot a red-capped cardinal, which was exciting.

On the ride back to Lago Agrio, we spotted an anaconda, a baby one, maybe 2 meters long, about 2 years old. But seriously - rare birds, insects, 6 types of monkeys, and then an anaconda - what more can I ask for from a 4 day trip in the jungle?

Maybe one thing, good food. Which we had at first, but the quality faded when a large group arrived the next day. I will never forget the banana bread/cake thing though we had that first morning... a cross between a pancake and french toast, amazingly delicious, will have to try it at home. And the aji (chilli) sauce Nazer (our guide) made... droolicious!




Hey, that sounds crazy unfair ugly amazing!!!! Amazing!!!! So many weird species. You are one lucky woman, my friend! And by the way, I never managed to catch a piranha. Tried twice.

  dudado Jun 25, 2008 7:50 AM

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