The Amazon - Cuaybeno Reserve

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South America » Ecuador » East » Cuyabeno Reserve
June 30th 2018
Published: July 4th 2018
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Day 1

After an overnight bus from Banos in which the heating was too hot and we were pressed up against the cold windows to cool down we arrived in Lago Agrio around 5:30ish / 6ish feeling pretty bloody knackered after a typically bad nights sleep on the bus. The pick up time from the hotel was 9:30am so we had to try and stay awake and kill some time. We got chatting to a girl from Berlin who was doing the same tour as us and had coffee and breakfast. I went to buy a poncho which was more entertaining than it should have been. After being told the one hanging up outside the front of the shop was $4, when I gave him a $20 dollar note the cashier proceeded to tell me that he wanted another $4 and the price had somehow jumped to $24! I managed to put some of my newly learnt Spanish to good use and told him that my friend had just brought one from him for $4 and I wanted the same thing. I ended up with a plastic top, trousers and boots which looked pretty comedy when on and was very short in places.

After being picked up at the hotel we had to drive to the airport to pick someone else up and then it was a two hour drive to the river where we stopped to have lunch and board the canoes that would take us the further 3 hours up the river to the lodge. Lunch was simple but ok and we bumped into Logan and Sandra, who we'd walked the Quilotoa Loop with, briefly who were finishing up their trip. They said they’d enjoyed it and seen lots of wildlife which sounded promising. Nearly as soon as we set off in the boats the rain started - I guess they don’t call it the ‘rainforest’ for nothing! It felt like a long time had past before we saw anything of note as our guide pointed out 3 toucans in a tree in the distance. How she could tell they were toucans I don’t know! It felt like we would go through periods of seeing lots of things at once and then nothing at all for a while. We saw a pair of parakeets who were brightly coloured with yellow bodies, green wings and dashes of blue on them as well, more toucans with their long yellow curved beaks, a Hoitzan bird who was sat on her nest keeping her eggs warm and a massive stork / heron type bird flying off which was impressive. As well as some other smaller types of birds, butterflies, dragonflies we also saw maybe 3 or 4 different types of monkey including the red howler monkey that is apparently a rare to see.

It did get to a point though where the rain made the experience less enjoyable shall we say although I have to admit smiling a little bit when I looked across at Julia who was trying to keep herself dry under her poncho with a face that suggested that she wasn't exactly enjoying the experience. We've always watched Bear Grylls The Island, a program where members of the public are put on a remote island with no food etc. with the aim of surviving a month. She has always been adamant that she would survive and make it through but I've had my doubts and this 3 hour canoe trip in torrential rain all but pretty much confirmed what I've always thought! We finally arrived at the lodge which happened to be the last one along the river and yes you guessed it as soon as we got off the canoes the rain ceased! Our room is nice and we’ve ended up with our own room despite only paying for a shared room and initially being put in with an American guy who got moved elsewhere.

After what was a good dinner we were given some wellies and we went on a night walk around the lodge and we saw loads of different insects! Banana spiders, a tarantula, other massive spiders with huge webs, crickets, stick insects, millipedes, a praying mantis and a couple of tiny frogs. We went to bed absolutely shattered due to such a long day but listening to the different high pitched whistles, tweets etc. as we drifted off was pretty cool, relaxing and surreal way end to the day.

Day 2

We woke up this morning at 6am having slept very well and I only woke up a couple of times as Julia climbed over me to go to the toilet! It felt very surreal to be up this early on my birthday in the jungle! Our first activity of the day was to head out on the canoes for an hour or so and it was a relief that it was dry! It was a very cool and peaceful way to the start the day gliding down the river and watching the mist clear as the morning went on. Our guide Evi is really good and informative; and his eyes aren’t bad either! We saw a load of birds again including some toucans, a few monkeys, a two toed sloth hiding in the trees and a few butterflies flying alongside the canoe that were an amazing colour of blue.

When we returned to camp we got changed into long clothes and went for a walk in the jungle around the lodge. A lot of the trail was under water and it was more of a wade than walk but they had provided us with wellies, although for two German girls that didn’t make much of a difference as they ended up with just as much water in their boots! Along with seeing a whole host of insects along the way we ended up tasting some Lemon Ants that our guide said were edible and then snorting a garlicky type liquid that was scraped off of the bark of the tree that the indigenous people use for healing. I’ve found all of the stories about how the indigenous use all of the different plants and trees for different things fascinating. We were shown one tree that they use as a contraception! It makes you wonder how they made this discovery and I wonder how much trial and error went into it! Also the different stories about how nature adapts and gives itself the best chance of survival is amazing, like the insects that lay their eggs in a foamy toxic substance so their predators can’t eat the eggs. Before lunch we got to go for a swim in the river which was really refreshing and then had a couple of hours to chill before heading out for another cruise in the canoes.

We saw some more monkeys, blue and yellow macaws and we even got to see a pink dolphin swim past us a couple of times which we hadn't expected to see in the area we were in. At one point when we were checking out some birds the canoe drifted into a bush on the river bank. As I was dodging the branches the girl sat in the canoe behind me, Jasmine, let off a scream and shouted "SPIDER"! At first I didn’t think much of it until I looked closer to see a huge tarantula poking its hairy legs and head out from behind a leaf. Needless to say I was all of a sudden quite keen to get out of their sharpish and wasn’t overly impressed with the guides summation that it was only a baby!!!

When we got back we went on another night walk and we saw a tiny scorpion, the smaller they are the more poisonous they are apparently so we didn't get too close, and a type of mouse that was chowing down on a cricket before we had our own dinner. The dinner was really good and it was topped off by the kitchen staff and guides bringing out a massive birthday cake for me, which Julia had organised, and an American guy Jay who had bought a bottle of tequila and rum to help celebrate which was really nice of him. We sat up for a while drinking, chatting and playing cards before bed which was a really nice way to end a great day! The weather was amazing which helped a lot but it was a really surreal way to spend your birthday and one that I won’t forget for a while!

Day 3

This morning we were able to stay in bed till 7:30am for a lie in before breakfast. We then headed up the river to look for some animals who obviously were having their own lie in before we got to a village of indigenous people where we were going to learn how to make and try yucca bread. Yucca being a root vegetable that grows in the ground like potato. It actually looked like a sweet potato when it first came out the ground until we peeled it and revealed it to be white inside.

Once they were peeled we had to wash the mud of them and then grate the yucca using three metal trays that had been converted into three industrial sized graters! The next step was to squeeze all of the moisture out of the grated yucca using a woven long mat that was wrapped and twisted to squeeze out the moisture which was saved to make a tortilla at the end. After the moisture was squeezed out it was a case of sieving the yucca to give it a fine flour like consistency before cooking it in a large round clay pot over a fire. We didn’t add anything else to it as the remaining water in the yucca was enough to bind it together without the need for eggs or extra water. The finished article looked like a toasted breadcrumb patty. We ate the bread with lunch and used it like tortilla wraps with tuna salad, salsa, guacamole and cheese which was really tasty.

In the evening we headed back out on the canoe to the Laguna Grande which is the big lake nearby the lodge. We saw some dolphins swimming around and watched the sun go down before jumping into the lake for a swim. Apparently if you see dolphins swimming in an area it’s safe to swim because they are the kings of the water although we were warned about the ‘penis fish’. These are the fish / parasites that swim up your penis if you wee in the water leaving behind spikes making it excruciatingly painful to pull out! Evi, our guide joked that it was less painful to use a machete to chop the affected area off but I tend to think that might actually be preferable to pulling barbs out! Either way I made sure I tied a knot in it before jumping in! By the time we got back in the boat it was dark and we made our way back to the lodge. How the guys knew which way to go I don’t know and we also managed to see a night monkey, an owl and because we were sat at the front of the canoe we saw the light of the torches reflecting off the big orange eyes of a Black Caiman crocodile which was cool. It was a nice way to spend our last night in the jungle and I’ll think it will be sad when we leave tomorrow morning!

Day 4

I woke up this morning for our last guided trip with Evi whilst Julia chose to stay in bed. As a guide Evi has been amazing and certainly added a lot to our experience. His knowledge and passion for his surroundings is first class and his eyesight is incredible! How he spots some of the animals is beyond me, for example this morning he somehow pointed out the worlds smallest monkey, the ‘pocket monkey’ that was hiding behind a group of leaves on a tree! I struggled to see it after he’d pointed it out and we were within a couple of metres of it so how he spotted it from further away on a fast moving canoe I do not know! We also saw a lot of toucans and we even saw a sloth moving around in a tall tree which was nice to see. Until now we’d only seen them curled up in balls and I had no idea how long their arms were until we saw this one reaching out to climb and grab food.

After breakfast we headed off for our final canoe ride back to the Cuyabeno bridge where we started off four days ago. It was sad saying goodbye to all the staff that have made the experience so great and those in the group that were staying on longer. We’d already seen so many amazing different types of animals I didn’t think it would be possible to top it but as we were about 20 minutes away from our destination we spotted two black anacondas curled up on a log next to the river and we were able to cruise right up alongside to check them out and get some pictures. It’s been an amazing four days and I think after the soaking we got on the first day we have been really lucky with the weather. The Nicky Amazon Lodge was really nice but it was the great staff and guided that make the place and I’m sure I won’t forget this years birthday in a hurry!


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