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Published: January 3rd 2016
Our journey to the Amazon started with getting back from the Galapagos. After almost missing check in for the flight it turned out it was delayed by 4 hours instead!
Anyway once back in Quito we headed towards the bus station where we decided not to catch a night bus to Lago Agrio (the place where our jungle tour started) and stayed at a hostel near the station. The next morning after getting a good amount of sleep we started the 7 hour journey. Now we had read that Lago Agrio was a bit of a hole and a little unsafe (due to the proximity to the most dangerous Colombian border crossing and high number of Westerners passing through on the way to the jungle!) and what we had read was pretty accurate. The hotel we stayed in was recommended by Lonely Planet but it was the most unfriendly place we have ever been to!
The next morning we headed off to our meeting point for the start of our jungle tour, a hotel that was a 10 min taxi ride away only to find out the bus that we took went straight back to our hotel to pick
up more people! After another two hours on a bus we finally arrived at the river that would lead us to the Guacamayo Lodge. This river eventually leads into the Amazon. Here we met our guide Fabian, a cool Ecuadorian chap that had lived in England for a few years. We also met Fernando our canoe captain who grew up in one of the local communities.
From there we took another two and half hours to get to our lodge. The reason it took so long was that we kept stopping to see amazing wildlife along the way (a common theme throughout the trip!) which included 3 types of monkey, a few herons, a ‘snake neck’ bird chowing down on a fish and any number of birds and butterflies. Both Fabian and Fernando had an awesome eye for spotting wildlife way before any of our (slightly odd) group did! After a nap back at our cool jungle lodge we headed out for sunset at Laguna Grande. On our way we got our first sighting of a pink dolphin (was actually grey but it was a baby and they eventually turn pink). When we got to the Laguna the sunset
was pretty awesome and we got a chance to swim, which I took full advantage of whilst Vicks stayed in the canoe on camera duty.
We headed back in the dark towards our lodge. On the way we spotted a couple of tree snakes along with some caiman (like alligators) which was pretty awesome. We attempted to bond with our group over dinner but found them all a little hard work, a Spanish family (who were really nice to us but I didn’t understand a word they said – Vicks did though!), two young American guys that acted like they were 50 rather than 20, a single lady from Germany and a single lady from the Ukraine – well we thought she was single until we found out later that she was the other half of our tour guide!
Anyway the next morning we headed off downstream to a local Shiona community where we pulled up some Yuccas (potato like vegetables) and promptly made bread with them. The process was cool to watch and the finished product (like a tortilla) was nice, if a little dry. Next up we headed to find a local Shaman (a medicine man).
On the third community we came across we eventually found one (often they are off treating people). So these Shaman drink a hallucinogenic called Ayahuasca every day. This gives them ability to diagnose and treat people – basically they are high 90% of the time! At the end of the talk they asked the group for a volunteer to take part in a typical healing ritual. After being told that it involved getting whipped on the back with a plant that had spikes surprisingly there were not many people going forward! I decided to volunteer as it was clear no one else would and I was reassured that any marks made on my back would disappear in a couple of hours. The ritual started with him shuffling some leaves around my head and singing in an odd language. He then dropped the leaves and picked up the spikey plant and started hitting my back – it kind of felt like being hit with really strong stinging nettles! It hurt quite a lot funnily enough! Afterwards my back was bright red, covered in welts and boiling hot! Apparently as I had a lot of welts it meant I was stressed..! After
a couple of photos with the Shaman (and people taking pictures of my back) we headed back spotting two more species of dolphins, a sloth with her baby very close up, a tiny turtle and a couple of birds locally known as stinky turkeys!
The next day was New Year’s Eve and we started dead early at 6am up the viewing tower at our lodge to get up high to bird spot. We saw an amazing coloured toucan and parrots. Following this we headed back to the Laguna and stopped nearby to do a nature trail. Fabian stopped regularly, showing us cool plants and animals. Vicks was brave enough to put her hand on an ants nest (apparently rubbing your hands together after this is a good mosquito repellent) and we swung on vines, Tarzan style. We saw red howler monkeys too, apparently the loudest animal in the world. Part of the walk saw us cross a swamp – this was really deep and a couple of people missed their step and fell in up to their waists in sludgy water! After coming back to our canoe we jumped in the Laguna for a swim (Vicks included this time)
and saw a massive Anaconda (4 metres long) on a tree nearby! We headed back for lunch and then went back out again to the Laguna for sunset. The sunset was cool but the massive clouds gathering around us were more impressive! It looked apocalyptic! We dodged the massive downpours enough to do a night walk where we saw spiders, frogs and huge grasshoppers!
We celebrated English new year at 7pm (whilst walking) and headed back to the lodge where it was clear another group (an American family) were planning to see in the New Year smashed as they had a number of bottles of rum and wine! They were well on their way once we had dinner and they got louder and louder! We spent most of the evening chatting to our guide Fabian who kept getting rum off the Americans and feeding it to me! We managed to stay up to midnight and ended up fairly drunk for the first time in 4 months!
Funnily enough, the following morning I was not feeling my best and rejected the chance to paddle in a canoe downstream before breakfast like Vicks did (she spotted yet more cool birds).
She was brave and went alone with the Spaniards who loved her - they were from Galicia and were very excited on finding out that she lived there! I, on the other hand, didn’t even make breakfast! I felt just about ok to start our boat trip and bus journey to Lago Agrio (we saw a caiman chilling out on the shore). We were pretty glad when we got back that we didn’t have a 7 hour ride back to Quito like most people did! We went back to the hotel, where the staff were extremely rude to us for no reason, tried charging us extra for our room and ended up in a room which smelt like an animal died in it… with a cold shower. This prompted me to write a really bad review on Trip Advisor in full view of the staff! We did manage to watch Titanic though, they had quite good TV channels! Next morning we headed to the airport in Lago Agrio and flew back to Quito – it took a whole 25mins from take-off to landing compared to 7 hour bus journey and our hotel picked us up from Quito for the least
stress free travel ever!
Overall the Amazon is fascinating. The wildlife was awesome (not quite on a Galápagos level but very different) along with the massive plants and random bits of flora and fauna. The only downer is that all tours start from the pit that is Lago Agrio!
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