Amazing Amazon

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South America » Ecuador » East » Cuyabeno Reserve
November 25th 2014
Published: December 21st 2014
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A late night pickup from CarpeDM tourism agency had us on a private van for an 8 hour overnight drive to Lago Agrio where we waited for the pickup by our local guide. Another 2 hour bus journey to a river in the Cuyabeno area of the jungle and a 2 hour riverboat ride took us to Guacamayo Ecolodge, our jungle home for the next 3 nights. During our riverboat cruise to the village we spotted two types of monkeys (black Saki and Squirrel), many birds (stinky turkeys, gold pendulars, parrots, herrons), turtles and of course plenty of bugs.

As all our meals were provided at the village, we had a different activity each day for a few hours at a time before returning to camp. These activities included canoeing on the Laguna Grande where we were also able to swim at sunset, searching amongst giant acacia trees for anacondas, bird viewing from a 10m platform, day and night jungle walks to see the various animals at their best times and a visit to the local indigenous communities.

During these excursions we saw many more animals including more monkeys (pocket, nocturnal and red howlers who really are loud!), macaws, toucans,
Giant trees in primary rainforestGiant trees in primary rainforestGiant trees in primary rainforest

As there isn't much differentiation between wet and dry season, carbon dating cannot be used on trees in the Amazon basin. As the trees don't develop rings in the wood, estimates of the age of a tree can only be based on size.
caimans (alligators), frogs (a type revered by locals for its healing powers visited us in our bathroom), spiders of varying colours and terrifying sizes, snakes and others insects that looked far worse than their bite. We also watched in awe as our guide Darrio spotted animals from afar, lead us through dense primary rainforest and used his machete with finesse as he cleared paths for us and chopped down a tree to create a bridge so we could safely cross a swamp.

During our visit to the local indigenous community we were shown how the women harvest root vegetables and create flat bread as well as sampling their chilli paste (not for the faint hearted) and taking a tour of the village which featured simple huts, irrigation from the river, and of course a soccer field and grandstand. We also visited a Shaman and learnt about the history of their role in the communities, practices, training and the fear that current generations don’t have much interest in continuing these traditions. We also learned about the use of plants in hallucinogenic beverages where a Shaman will guide a person through their visions and interpret deeper meanings. The shaman was dressed in bright robes adorned with many beads and a feather headdress. He also gave us a small group blessing for those who were interested before playing a game of blow darts with the men.

It was a great experience to get out of the cities and see primary rainforest in the Amazon basin. Though we lucked out with not being able to see anacondas, sloths or pink dolphins, we had been warned that as it is approaching dry season that not all animals would be easy to spot. Darrio informed us that the water levels are 2.5m below that of wet season. Our experience was even more rewarding as the ecovillage meets sustainable standards and supports local communities, an important aspect of reducing our tourist footprint as stories we told about deforestation and exploitation of locals.

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