so before i get into what is probably our last blog, this one about being in the amazon jungle, a couple of bus details that i left out last time - which we think are kinda funny (though only after the fact!).
on some busses, a fellow will come by and film each person onboard incase there is an accident and they need to match the face to whatever is left. yikes!
in our last blog, i mentioned that the busses stop OFTEN. well on our trip to quilatoa, we had many chickens tied to the roof and each time an indigenous person would barrel down the aisle to get off (typically hitting everyone along the way in the head), they would then have their chickens taken down. the bus would start again, and say, 20 meters later, then next passenger would run down the aisle and their
chickens would be taken down. and on and on it goes.
so my transition to the jungle tale starts with a long and horrendous overnight bus to cuyabena reserve in the jungle.
we started at the quitembe bus terminal in the south of quito. the bus terminal is in a dangerous area and when the taxi drops you off, you must get into the terminal immediately. taxi drivers typically try to scam extra money out of tourists by not using their meters, so it´s typical to have a battle of will with the taxi drivers. the quitembe terminal is really modern and almost like an airport, but so jam packed with people, that is quite loud and chaotic, with lots of vendor stands (which include the usual of food/drink, bootleg cd/dvd´s, pharmacies, etc.) we bought a sleeping pill to split from the pharmacy and eventually boarded our bus.
equipped with earplugs, a facemask for light, and our small bags for the jungle, we got situated and split our sleeping pill. right about the time we started to dose off, on come the venders, selling a variety of snacks, bootleg dvd´s, and this time we got a rapper, bounding up and down the aisle rapping along to a stereo playing a dr. dre beat. when this finally subsided, we were then treated to a booming action movie, complete with gunfights, explosions and screaming. for two hours. after this, it´s all ecuadorian music for the rest of the night. with very little sleep, we were required to be up and alert at 7am so that we did not miss our stop in cuyabeno. this stop didn´t occur till 8am, however, AFTER we picked up all the school students and works from the local towns and dropped them off.
eventually we were dropped off at cuyabena bridge, with no instructions. our tour company told us that the canoe driver would be waiting for us, though these guys did not show up for an hour and a half, so we were tired and confused for a bit. a local guy was going to take us to the lodge in his canoe, but then our guides arrived. we took a short canoe right to the cuyabeno lodge, which consisted of numerous thatched-roof huts, with partial walls, a bed and a mosquito net. this simplicity suited us just fine. in fact, with the exception of all the insects (giant spiders, flying roaches, mosquitos and sandflies), we loved our hut.
within ten minutes of arrival (remember we didn´t sleep overnight), we were with the group that had been there a few more days, and jumped into a canoe for a ride through the jungle river. at one point, the canoe got stuck over a fallen tree and vines, and some of us needed to get out and help lift the canoe to freedom. during this rescue mission, a tarantula and scorpion fell on the canoe, which was jarring, but exciting. at one point, we exited the canoe and began a hike through the hot, sticky jungle canopy. so many insects and spiders, but exactly what i was looking for.
we returned to the lodge and got the lowdown from the folks who had been there a few days. bad food, disorginization, telling people to be up and ready at designated times, and then not showing up, etc. at first i thought the people were just not into it, but this turned out to be exactly the case. the food was indeed pretty bad, but we didn´t expect much, so not a big deal. we went to sleep to a variety of amazing jungle noises, and then at 3:30 am, were awoken to a drunk and screaming/singing guy, who continued on till 9:30 in the morning. everyone got up tired and annoyed, until we found the culprit, sleeping on the dining area couch, empty bottles of liquor and a machete
nearby, mumbling and yelling in his stupor, having pissed himself (and the couch) during the event. eventually he awoke, still hammered, stood up and pee´d on the dock. everyone was amused/irritated and spirits were down. to add to this, we were told to be ready between 7-8 am to go on a trip to the laguna to see animals and visit a native village. the workers, guide and translator (chuck from orange county) and stayed up drinking and didn´t awake till 9am and were hung over and surly. they also postponed the trip till the next day. everyone was annoyed.
alas, we got to go on a long hike through the jungle, complete with knee-high mud paths (they provide boots), lots of frogs, bugs, fauna, birds and medicinal trees. i LOVE this sort of thing and it was great fun.
later we went piranha fishing. this is quite difficult and nobody caught one, though dorota caught another, small fish which provided some excitement. we returned through the river as it got dark outside, had dinner and went to sleep.
the next morning, we ate, met the new folks visiting the lodge and set out on the 2 1/2 hour canoe trip to the laguna. we then visited a native village (the name escapes me), which has a billboard advertising it´s existance! we watched a lady make yucca bread, which is only made from yucca and it very tasty, had a beer and head back to the river. we saw a sloth in a tree, some monkies, some pink dolphins, caymans (small alligators), many birds, and large butterflies. as we were so far from our lodge, we spent the last hour and a half in the dark, which was somewhat nervewracking, and included swooping bats and a lot of mosquitos. oh yeah, and an enormous full moon, which when we were in certain places, illuminated the pitch black canopy. thrilled to return safely, we had a rousing dinner and beer session with the new folks who arrived at the camp that day.
we decided to avoid the night bus and depart the next morning. despite the problems with the company, which everyone was annoyed about, it was pretty amazing to be there. calm and overwhelming at the same time. i LOVE the jungle.
anyway, we caught the first bus to lago agrio, which took about two hours. then we hopped a bus to quito, which is quoted at 7 hours, but took closer to 9. had all the usual amenities; blaring movies starring the "roc", dubbed in spanish of course. sweltering heat, endless barrage of venders. endless starts and stops, and this time, two separate military check points, where we were taken off the bus and had our bags searched. we were close to the columbian border, so drugs and guns are what they are looking for.
after our last horrible bus ride, we arrived in quito, quickly got a taxi and rode for 45 minutes to our hostal.
yesterday, we walked around old town quito, which is quite nice and colonial. we had some food, including traditional tamales, and dorota bought shoes.
later that evening, we went to new town quito and wound up at the tour company office (which set up our haphazard trip to the jungle) and ended up having beers with the whole staff, including chuck and two girls from our group, fiona and amy from england. quite fun, actually.
today we got up and took a two hour bus to south america´s largest marketplace in otavallo, where people from all over come to sell their wares, eat food and socialize. very colorful and interesting, but i can only take so much at a time, which is why i´m here blogging to you folks. which reminds me that i am late in meeing my group (dorota, amy and fiona), so i need to split.
so, with that... this is probably my last blog.
it´s been a seemingly long and interesting trip, but we´re very happy to come back home to see some family and friends!
thanks for reading!
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