The Amazon!


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South America » Ecuador » East » Cuyabeno Reserve
November 25th 2011
Published: December 30th 2011
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I'm pretty sure that if you come to South America there are few places that you can't miss. One of those places is of course the Amazon jungle. So of course Chev and I went into that jungle. We booked a trek through a company in Quito and set off from there to a town called Lago Agrio. This was the jumping off point for us to go into the Reserva Cuyobeno, the national park located in the northeast of Ecuador where there is still primary rainforest.
We were picked up in Lago Agrio by our guide and driven to the entrance of the reserve where we were feed a very lovely lunch of fried rice. After eating we loaded into a motorized canoe and headed down the waterway into the jungle, our guide at the front of the boat ready to point out any wildlife.
Within 20 minutes she spotted a small anaconda. It was curled up in the bushes off to the side of the river. After that, during the 2 1/2 hour journey down the river we spotted 5 different kinds of monkeys, including squirrel monkeys and yellow handed titi monkeys, macaws and a tiger heron. It was amazing.
We arrived at the lodge and got settled into our dorm room and had a bit of a rest before we set out for another explore of the local waterways in the boat. We went to Laguna Grande and found a 6m long anaconda which had crawled out of the water to digest and shed its skin. The guide let us know that we were very lucky to see this snake as they only come out once every year or two and the rest of the time they stay in the water to hunt. A snake of this size may only eat once a year depending on the type of prey that it catches. Absolutely stunning. After seeing this anaconda and learning that there are other large snakes living in the Laguna the next logical thing to do was to go swimming, which is exactly what we did. The water was so dark, due to the high acidity, but was also extremely refreshing. After swimming we tried to find caiman on the way back to no avail. Back at the lodge we had a wonderful dinner and called it a night at the late time of 7:30.
The next morning we woke ready to explore more of the jungle. This second day was dedicated to learning about some of the local people who have called the Amazon home for hundreds of years. We again journeyed by boat to a nearby village of the Siona people. At the first house we went we met the family pet monkey, Nacho, who was very friendly and took an extreme likening to one of the members of our group. It was quite funny to see a grown man giggling while being chased by a monkey. Next we went to another part of the village across the river. Our guide painted our faces with the red juice of a local plant so we all looked and felt very tribal and then she took us into the jungle to show s the largest type of tree in the forest. The legend of the Siona people is that if you sleep next to this tree in the forest, spirits will come and make you get lost in the jungle.
On our way back out of the jungle we met up with one of the village women and she took us to her yuca plantation so we could see how the yuca is harvested and then replanted. The yuca which harvested was going to be used to make a local, traditional yuca flat bread. We all walked back to one of the village huts and watched in awe as this local woman made this delicious bread out of a potto like tuber. The steps are as follows: 1) Grate the yuca. She used a metal sheet with holes hammered in it but traditionally the people used the trunk of a very spiky palm. 2) Put grated yuca in woven basket/sling. 3) Fold sling, hang it up and wring out moisture from the yuca. 4) Spread wrung out yuca on a woven sifter thingy and shift the yuca so it is very fine. 5) Place shifted yuca flour onto preheated clay pan and spread thinly. 6) Press down on yuca with the bottom of a bowl, kinda like rolling it with a rolling pin. 7) Heat on both sides until golden brown. 8) Eat with tuna or jam or anything else you can think of. It was so good and amazing to see the whole process from start to finish.
After a very delicious and filling lunch and a bit of a swim. Local shaman came to talk to us about his role in the community. He spoke about the process of becoming a shaman and the use of the drug ayahuasca. We learned that shamans learn about the future and how to heal and about which plants to use for hunting and eating from the hallucinations which they see while on the drug. The shaman we spoke to trained for 16 years to use ayahuasca and explained there is a lot of ceremony behind the use of this sacred plant. It made me think a lot about the many westerner who are trying this drug for various spiritual reasons and Chev and had a very in depth conversation about the validity of the westerners use of this sacred plant.
That night we went for a night walk which was an adventure it itself. What comes out at night you might ask? A lot of bugs and frogs. Now for us it was hard o find the frogs, though we could hear them well enough, but he bugs were a different story. We saw all types of spiders, scorpion spiders, cockroaches, beetles, butterflies, moths and tarantulas. It was a bit freaky but also very very cool. Back at the lodge we climbed to the top of their bird watching tower and stared at the stars. So many stars and so different from the northern hemisphere. No Big Dipper.
The next morning we went to do another jungle walk but this time during the day. The jungle was beautiful and we learned a lot about the local plants but didn't see very many animals besides some small frogs and a rat. After the walk we paddled our boat through the waterways back to the lodge. So serene. The late afternoon was spent in Laguna Grande were we found river dolphins! We watched them swimming around for about twenty minutes and then we went piranha fishing. I caught nothing but did have some nibbles but a couple other people in our group got some little ones. Very cool!
That night the rains finally came to the rainforest and continued on until morning, causing us to miss our bird watching, but allowing us to sleep in and enjoy the sound of rain on a thatched roof. By the time it was time to leave, the rain stopped and we had one final boat ride through the beautiful jungle scenery.
Overall an amazing experience which was worth every penny and the ringworm I contracted there, but would not realize what it was for another five days. The next stop...Banos.

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