Upper Amazon Basin

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April 2nd 2011
Published: April 2nd 2011
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Sunday 27 March 2011

At 8am we caught a local bus which we stopped along the road to our hotel. We drove 30 minutes to the Quito central bus station to travel 4.5 hours into the Upper Amazon basic to our next stop, the Cotococha Lodge, which is 200Kms East of Quito. We had seats booked for us by Diego. It was a great bus and we shared it with the locals. Every time we stopped the locals would get on the bus to sell their wares and would get off at the next town. Everywhere we travel is so picturesque with having the Andes as the back drop. We were reducing elevation as the village we were going to was at 500 metres a.s.l. We changed busses at Tena. On the way we stopped for a traditional Ecuadorian lunch – soup (this time with chicken offal, kidneys etc with ended up on my side plate) and potato, rice, chicken and sweet corn.

The next local bus was only a 45 minute ride to our accommodation. The Cotococha Lodge was amazing. Surrounded by thick jungle with the sound of the thundering Napo River, our cabana had really comfortable beds, ensuite, high pitched ceilings with bamboo-type decor and with a hammock out on the front veranda. The reception area and bar was next to the open lounge area where there was an open, central fire. Above that was an upper-level lounge with comfy chairs and library, with a view of the river. Beautiful!! The lower area was where we all met for briefings, chatting, playing cards etc. Adjoining this area was the restaurant which had 2 sides that were open air. The temperature was balmy but with a bit of humidity as expected. There is no malaria in this area but we kept repellant on us as there were sandflies. Once arrived at the Lodge, we then prepared for our jungle treck. We were given rubber boots and safety vests, the latter for our fast canoe ride to the start of the trek. We saw the many rapids on the river (about a grade 3). There was plenty of bird life around.

We then started trekking up hill. My boots which I used for the Kokoda Track would have been great but it was only going to be for 2 hours. Much of the way we followed the river, sometimes which it grooved its way through rocks, and sometimes through sand. It was beautiful. We then came across this fantastic waterfall which was about 10 metres high with a good size and very deep pool at its base. Half the group went for a swim and climbed up behind the waterfall to dive into the pool. It was great. After about an hour, we retraced our steps back to the boat.

We then were given a big tyre to ride the rapids of the Napo River. What fun was that? The water was a bit nippy, but it was balanced with the great feeling of floating down the river. It was incredible riding the rapid. Some of us lost our tyres but Tom & I stayed on. We moved pretty fast through the rapids but more slowly in other parts of the river which was very relaxing. It was spitting with rain but it was an advantage not having the sun out. Most of us missed the bank where our village was so we had to paddle like mad to get to our side of the bank and walk back with our tyre over lots of pebbles. Tom went passed the furtherest so he was picked up by the boat. He knew what he was doing – very smart !!!!

After a warm shower we all met around the fire and swapped stories over a few drinks before dinner. They are a really interesting group, with no one being ‘painful’. Again we continue to be really lucky with the people whom we have travelled. We have several nurses, hair dresser, mining engineer, clerical, pay roll officers, bank call centre managers, court registrar, chartered accountant etc. There are several who resigned from their job to travel and a couple of them want a career change.

Dinner was again, amazing. Soup, steak, salad with lots of different flavours, and fresh fruit with fruit juices, including paw paw, water melon, orange. All that of course was washed down with red or white wine or beer or soft drinks we bought from the bar – again very cheaply. We see no Champaign in Ecuador. The beers are Pilsener and Club. Their red wines which are ladled cabinet sauvignon are very light wines.
After the BEST sleep – oh, nearly forgot, there is no electricity in the rooms/cabanas so all along the paths and on our cabana, is lit with kerosene lanterns. It’s just wonderful.

So back to the adventure, after a wonderful sleep, we visited the local Quiche community who showed us how they make their pottery and beaded bracelets etc. We also had a taste of their fermented guava juice which is their celebration drink. There were about 40 people in this village. They rise at 4.30am and work their garden and fish. There is a local school for the children. All the children look very fit and happy. They are all incredible swimmers, no matter the age. We then had a game of soccer in an open-air, concrete floored shelter. They were damn good and thrashed the pants off us. They were so quick.

We then visited an animal rescue place and saw ant eaters, a very, very cheeky monkeys, anaconda, macaw birds and parrots, and ocelot. They also grow medicinal plants, one of which is a blood juice tree which the fellow put on my ant bites with instant effect. The monkey was so fast, it climbed up onto one of the girl’s heads. It also started teasing the anaconda. We then walked back to our Lodge. Everything was very close.
Tanya from Switzerland with 4 meter anaconda

Near the Equator of course the sun consistently rises at 6.00am ans sets at 7.00pm all year around. We had another night of chatting and story telling, with a few playing cards. It was great.
After another great night’s sleep we were at breakfast by 7.30am and ready to catch the local bus by 8.00am. At the gate of our Lodge we waited for the bus but in the mean time Diego saw a truck that stopped. It had a load of big logs in the back which was covered. He decided that we should go to our bus station in the back of the truck. What a hoot. I was certainly something different as there we were, sitting on the logs. Great fun...but Tom was very quiet !!!! We arrived safely at the bus station and we were off to Banos.

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