Into the forest

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December 23rd 2016
Published: December 30th 2016
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Ipiales to Leticia

The next day we moved to a more centrally located hotel built in the 16th century, for the simple reason that Quito is a difficult place to arrange trips and our original hotel was useless. Early the next morning we headed north crossing the equator and traversing a forest area rich with the endangered Spectacled bears. Mindo apparently has grown hugely in recent years but is still a reasonably small village with some great natural attractions including a couple of butterfly houses and wonderful birding, I was particularly excited about the hummingbirds which were incredinle. I had never seen one before and it was a real challenge to photograph them, one location we visited was crawling with birds but they told me that in May the area is truly spectacular for Toucans and many other species.

Next morning we checked out and headed off to the bus station we are expecting a five hours journey to the Ecuadorian border town of Tulcan, the journey through the Northern Andes was spectacular and punctual and we were happy to arrive at the border around 1pm. It then took us seven hours to cross into Columbia and travel the 5 kilometres to the Ipiales bus station.

This huge delay resulted in us having to alter our plans, we decided to travel a few hours to Pasto and then book a flight to Bogata, we arrived in this rough looking town around midnight and the place was dodgy looking. Our original choice of accommodation was not acceptable so we wandered the streets aimlessly until we found a very good (and expensive) business hotel. During the night I received an email from the airlines cancelling our flights, when I called them to ask why they refused to tell me. We then booked a couple of bus tickets to Bogota, the bus was comfortable and arrived several hours before we expected, but it was a seriously frighteningly trip. The driver was a crazy man I lost count of the dangerous over takings and the episodes of road rage he engaged in once the machine gun toting police escorts had left the bus. One incident in the wee hours of the morning came within inches of killing us all.

Finally we arrived in Colombia's capital, we have only one day here so we checked into our hostel then headed out to the cities number one attraction the world's leading gold museum. It was pretty awesome I have seen good ones in Egypt and other places but Colombia rates highly. We then wandered around a little before having a nice dinner and chilling out, the next morning we flew to Leticia in the Colombian Amazon.

It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Amazon jungle and Ruth has found a rustic backpacker place on the outskirts of town for us to stay. The flight in over the thick forests was memorable as was the humidity leaving the airport building. On arriving at Refugio Makurumba we immediately saw black tamarins in the tree tops which was a great sign, after checking in we arranged a trip into the jungle before heading into town to organise some future travel arrangements and to, purchase some provisions for the jungle.

After a rather muggy night we packed up our gear leaving most of it at the hostel and headed into town. We arrived at the travel agency where we were issued some rubber boots then followed our guide down to the river where we boarded a long motorised boat for our trip out onto the Amazon, it was a pleasant trip down river to a reserve that had some amazing giant water lillies. Next we headed back up river to the Peruvian fort of Santa Rosa for a pleasant meat filled lunch before heading further up river to our point of disembarkation with our new non-english speaking guide, sighting a large pod of Grey dolphins a long the way.

After about an hour we left the boat scaling a steep river bank and entered the rainforest, immediately the humidity increased, within metres of passing under the canopy we were sweating profusely and slipping and sliding in thick mud. These conditions gradually worsened and getting caught in a heavy deluge did nothing to cool us down, after 2.5 hours we staggered into "camp" totally exhausted. Camp consisted of a wooden platform near Piranha Lake, I climbed up the steps and started stripping off my wet clothes wringing probably half a litre of sweat out of my t-shirt alone. After a change of clothes and a drink of the foul tasting water I had carried in on my back we felt much better and were soon resting in our hammocks.

With darkness we went down to the lakeside boarded a dugout canoe and went hunting caiman amongst the reeds unfortunately the guide failed to catch one, but we enjoyed the sounds of the night creatures, sighting bats and fireflies as well. On the way back he speared a fish which turned out to be our breakfast the next morning. Dinner consisted of a large piece of steak, principles or not we had no choice but to eat it or starve.

The heavens opened up a short time later and it rained all night, in the morning we went fishing on the lake and successfully caught a dozen or so piranha which were too small to eat so we let them go and ended up sharing one scrawny fish for breakfast. Soon it was time to go so we pulled on our still soaked clothes from the day before had the guide cut us some walking sticks and we set off into the humid, insect filled jungle.

The first 90 minutes or so we retraced our path from the day before which was reasonably "easy" but when we branched off onto the new trail heading to a lodge things got extremely tough. In fact the trail became so bad that it would take us a further 2.5 hours to walk about 3 kilometres, I lost count of the number of times I sunk up to my knees in the mud and my pack was getting heavier and heavier as we went along. We had had so little food, our water was running out and I was totally exhausted. I was soon suffering from stomach cramps and was feeling faint and the guide had to help us pull ourselves out of the mud time and time again. After about another hour I handed the pack to Ruth but after a short time she was also exhausted and I had not recovered enough to take it back. It seemed that the jungle was going to swallow us up.

Eventually the skinny guide Percy who didn't drink any water took all our stuff and continued on with out blinking. Finally we broke free of the forest only to walk another half hour past most of the village before finally arriving at our accommodation, I hopped in the shower fully clothed to wash the filth and sweat out of my clothes. The accomodation was rustic to say

the least we had no light in our room and they had no cold drinks or refrigeration which was disappointing but we ate well. I had cramping in muscles I didn't know I had for days after the rain set in a short time later pouring down for nearly 17 hours.

Next morning we were up with the sun, Ruth has been getting eaten alive for days which has given me respite from the mosquitos, we travelled back to Leticia where after a buffet breakfast at a local hotel we joined a larger group in a speed boat for the journey up river to Puerto Narimo stopping at some crappy manufactured tourist sights along the way. At one village we saw a variety of forest wildlife that we would never have seen otherwise but we didn't agree with these people trapping wildlife to show to tourists.

Next stop was monkey island where they rub bananas in your hair to get the spider monkeys to climb on your head, again not something that we considered acceptable. Finally after a crummy cultural dance at another riverside community we finally arrived in the interesting river port of Narimo unfortunately we only had a half hour there which was disappointing as the town was much nicer than Leticia. On the return journey to Leticia we saw both grey and pink dolphins.

The next morning we left our accomodation and travelled to the airport to get an exit stamp before continuing to the Brazilian federal police office in the adjacent Brazilian town of Tabbatinga to get an entry stamp before continuing on to the airport. Only one flight leaves each day so after a long wait we attempted to board our flight only to discover that the online agent had cancelled our booking and we had no choice but to purchase tickets at the last minute, luckily seats were available on the flight to Manaus.

Additional photos below
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Museo de Oro Bogota

Amazon river
Lilly padsLilly pads
Lilly pads

Colombian Amazon


1st January 2017

Amazing hummingbirds
Travel is full of those crazy driver stories. Well once you live through them they are funny. You are having some great adventures.
2nd January 2017

Yes but the trip is coming to an end just over a week to go now

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