Published: July 9th 2012July 2nd 2012
So after the Galapagos trip I was back in Quito for five days. In that time I hiked up Cotopaxi, (4100m) and went to visit the Otavalo markets. Hiking at altitude was pretty tough but Carol and I finished it in under average time without any injury or altitude sickness. The markets were...a tad disappointing to be honest. It's true the animal market was interesting to see but most of the other things for sale I could tell were made elsewhere and just shipped up here to be sold. The only other thing of interest that happened to me was that I was sitting outside reading a book and got sunburned on my shoulders so badly that I blistered.
Jumping ahead to when I joined the rest of the group I'd be touring with. Surprisingly, there's only 8 of us, including myself, we're all solo female travelers and most of us are on trips longer than six weeks.
Moving ahead again. The first day was the earliest start at 3am. It was a bit of a drive but we made it to the port by 1pm where we were then taken on a 2 hour
motorized canoe ride into the Amazon! The weather started off beautiful and sunny and then just before we arrived at the lodge, it drenched us. Welcome to the rainforest.
Sani Lodge was the name of the place we stayed. It was actually quite a bit nicer than I was expecting. Three course meals for lunch and dinner and we were technically 'camping' but we each got our own tent that sat on top of a platform under a covered hut. Rather nicer than what I'm used to. The only issue was that the showers didn't work half the time we were there.
Animals! At Sani there were constant opportunities to see wildlife. First one was in an observation tower built 40 meters up a tree. From there we saw several species of bird (including a tucan!) and with the help of binoculars, a group of howler monkeys just hanging around. On a day hike we found frogs, geckos, termites, lots of interesting plant life, and we all got to taste lemon ants! On the night hike there was a large rodent, several types of insects and three massive spiders which I'm still trying to
repress memories of. Didn't like that hike as much, can't possibly imagine why. I did enjoy seeing the 2.5 meter blood cayman though. He was almost as large as the canoe and just floated there in the water, giving us the evil eye.
Food! One of the more memorable things we did we go piranha fishing! The goal was to catch one and cook it for dinner. You'd think it would have been easy. Unfortunately, not. Our experience was not like the ones you see in the movies/cartoons where you stick a foot in the water and pull it out to find there's only bones remaining. What we found was these fish were smart. They were super sneaky and ate the bait off the hook before we could pull them in. Our tour leader was able to catch two tiny little ones but they were too small to eat. I came close, I yanked on my line and watched as the silver flash of a fish flying out of the water in a graceful arc before landing straight back in the drink. Damn. Then, suddenly, one of the other girls exclaims she's got something. We can see
Which I thought were North American but I guess the tourists stil buy them
that it's heavy, the rod is quite bent. She pulls it out of the water and it's...! A catfish. That was the biggest fish caught in the outing and even it was too small to eat. So it was more piranha feeding than piranha fishing.
My other food-related story is when we visited a local village and learned how to make lunch. Like any good meal, it began with dessert. We made our own chocolate, shelling the roasted nuts and then repeatedly grinding the beans with sugar and condensed milk. The result was a little bitter but still tasty! Next was lunch. We were shown how to steam fish using palm leaves and then we got to kill and skewer grubs. First you had to crush their little heads and feel the delicious crunch beneath your thumb. Then you had to poke the wooden skewer through their bodies and try not to notice the juices that came out. Only one of us was brave enough to try them raw and it wasn't me. I did try both the fish and the grubs after they were cooked. The fish was pretty good, the gubs I didn't like very
And the final rainforest story is about rain. The day we visited the local community and learned to make chocolate was the day of the deluge. On a related note, that was the day we discovered the ponchos supplied to us were not quite waterproof. It was probably the greatest volume of rain I've ever seen. Thankfully it wasn't quite as bad as my last soaking in Japan because it wasn't cold and we didn't have to walk around in it. But I got equally as wet in about a quarter of the time.
After we left the rainforest we headed to a slightly higher elevation at the base of the mountains. There I saw 'One of the top five waterfalls in Ecuador' as decided by...someone. I was also tempted to try out the bridge swing in the nearby town of Rio Bamba but never ended up going because the day I wanted to go, it rained. It was about this time that I also started to become painfully aware of the volume of mosquito bites I'd received in the rainforest. Something like 40. Mostly on my legs, where I didn't have any
repellent and they bit me through my pants. I hate mosquitos.
Next place was up in the mountains. The major activity there was a day hike down a mountain and then up another. We started off at the top and got some nice shots of the a crater lake before we began our descent. The altitude wasn't a problem as long as you were going down, instead you had to really watch your footing and make sure not to twist an ankle. It was actually rather steep going and when we all reached the bottom of the valley we were all a little relieved. Of course then we had to go back up again. It was the altitude that made this part difficult. That and how the path never seemed to end. But we all survived, some were just faster than others. And I was fastest. ^___^ No, it wasn't a race but I needed something to motivate myself and that seemed to work.
There are more photos below