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Published: July 20th 2020
JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS: ECUADOR 2019
June 7, 2019 (Friday)
Before our trip, I researched this South American country for many months. My favorite summary
of the people was this. “Ecuadorians are strange and unique beings; they sleep peacefully surrounded
by roaring volcanoes; they live poor among incomparable riches; and they become happy listening to
sad music.” Can't wait to meet these fine folks.
Janet, Bethany and I have stayed at a hotel, not far from the Pensacola, FL airport. My daughter and
I say our good-byes to Janet, for she will be returning home. We check in at the American Airlines desk
and we anticipate a wonderful week ahead. Settling into our seats, we are visited by three therapy dogs.
We got to pet each one and I thought how soft their fur was. They even left us a souvenir business card.
Our 9:56 flight to Miami left right at 10 a.m. And we land in south Florida a little before 1 p.m. We
have a seven hour layover, and that's too long to sit at the airport. Bethany and I go to the Thrifty
Rental and pick up a Chevy Equinox. Yes, this will be cheaper than two taxi rides out to the Everglades
National Park. We have reservations for a 2:00 Tram tour at the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
For unknown reasons, we were sent to three different locations. It was not easy to pick up our rental
car. With heavy traffic, I had to call and cancel our tram tour. We drive west on the Tamiami Trail and
pass the Miccosukke Indian Reservation. Hey, our family came here in 1998. Saw the Buffalo Tiger
Airboat Rides spot, where we visited 21 years ago. Hello Everglades!
This is a quiet and tranquil place, compared to the bustling city we had just left behind. Bethany and
I took the standard photos of another National Park sign. This is now my 25th
national park to visit! I
simply showed my Senior National Parks card for our pre-paid entrance. After watching a 15 minute
video, we're ready to hike the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail. Its about one-half mile.
There is grunting in the tall grass below. We're thrilled to see an adult female alligator. Then, we see
nine baby gators follow her. At five other overlook spots, I count 20 more baby alligators. Beautiful!
We saw a variety of birds, lizards, grasshoppers, turtles and fish. Walking back to our car, a tram passes
us. Sure hope to go on one... my next trip here.
Back in Miami, we walk through a rainstorm, to enter the La Caretta restaurant. A Cuban Sampler
looks and tastes good! There was ground beef picadillo, roast pork, ham croquette, tamale, yucca, white
rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Delicious!
It's now time to return the rental car. Then we patiently wait for our flight. NO, the flight is delayed
for almost 2 hours. Then another hour delay. Yet another hour delay. A little after 11 p.m. our flight is
canceled. After two hours of standing in line at the re-booking desk, frustration sets in. There's no
available flights for us on Saturday. They can book us on Sunday at 2 p.m. And we'll arrive in Quito
after 11:30 that night. We're quite worried that we'll miss our 11:30 pick-up for an all night bus ride for
our Amazon adventure. We are given the option of a “stand-by” ticket for Saturday.
A shuttle takes us to a Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Coral Gables. We sleep in our clothes... not
what we had planned on. At 2 a.m. I called to cancel our Saturday Cotopaxi Volcano tour for Saturday.
June 8, 2019 (Saturday)
There is a continental break, and plenty of coffee for Bethany. After checking out by 12 noon, we
hung out in the hotel lobby for an hour. Fully rested, we caught the 1:00 shuttle back to the airport. We
ate at the Chef Creole... a Caribbean restaurant. I had conch fritters... one of my favorites!
We had an easy check-through at the security area. Seems like we walked about one mile to reach
our gate, D-3. The long wait begins again for stand-by passengers. Names are listed on the screen. I
am #3 on the stand-by list. But why is Bethany listed as #18??? A little delay from the inbound Cancun
flight. The departure is moved back 15 minutes to 5:55 p.m.
The booked passengers were all seated, then a few stand-by names were called. I was ecstatic when
my named was called. I picked up my new ticket, but told the attendant that I can't leave my daughter.
More prayers as she tapped away at her keyboard. With 14 other standby passengers between us, I just
didn't think we would both make the flight. BUT WE DID!!!!! This was my daddy's birthday. He would
have been 91 today. Somehow, I feel like he gave us this wonderful gift today. We're truly blessed.
Wow, what a huge sigh of relief when we were airborne at 6:16 p.m. What can I say, more prayers of
thanksgiving! Good-bye Miami. At 30,000 feet, we fly into a gorgeous sunset. The plane should be in
Quito at 9 p.m.
So happy for Bethany, for this is my world traveler daughter's first trip to South America. I flew to
the Southern Hemisphere two years ago on a missions trip to Peru. This is my 30th
foreign country to go
to. One hour into this four hour flight and we're served a real dinner: Spanish rice with chicken, salad,
roll, butter, crackers, cheese, tomato juice, water and a brownie. And it was pretty good.
The time changes as we continue flying south and west. We did land in Quito around 9 p.m. Hello
Ecuador! Hello South America! Hello Southern Hemisphere!!
If you have arrived at an airport, but your luggage didn't, that is a horrible way to start a vacation.
So we are very pleased that our luggage arrived with us! A young woman was holding a “taxi” sign as
we exited the terminal. For only $26, we enjoyed a 45 minute taxi ride to our hotel. I had reservations
at the San Francisco de Quito Hotel . The building is 321 years old. It has a beautiful courtyard. Our
luggage is taken to our room. Then Bethany and I climb the stairs... up, up, up to the roof.
It is a chilly 56 degrees as we take in gorgeous panoramic views of the capital city. There must be a
million lights on tonight! There is a spectacular view of the Virgin de Quito. It sits on Panecillo hill at
about 10,000 feet. This 135 foot tall sculpture uses 7400 pieces of aluminum. An amazing sight on our
Bethany goes on to our room, while I go to the courtyard to take a few photos. I meet a delightful
young woman from New Brunswick, Canada. Chloe is writing in her travel diary. She is part of a 13
thirteen person group who are being trained as travel agents. There are four countries they will visit on
their 6 week excursions! I'd sure like to see some of those photos. I make a phone call to my wife... The
day has ended very well. In bed by midnight.
June 9, 2019 (Sunday)
Shortly after a 6:00 wake-up call, I receive a phone call from Patricio. He pushes back our pick-up
from 7 until 7:45. That gives us enough time for breakfast. We have sliced pineapple, watermelon, rolls
and jelly, scrambled eggs, coffee and guava juice in the 1698 Camino Real Restaurant.
After checking out of our hotel room, our luggage was secured in a locked storage room. Pato ar-
rived at the new time and we're excited about our upcoming adventure. He drove north, out of this city
of 2.8 million. I took a few photos as we passed Mitad del Mundo. This is the middle of the world... on
the equator. There is a 98 foot tall monument with a globe atop it. Bethany and I have booked a tour to
see this next Saturday.
Less than 15 minutes later, we enter the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve. This is one of only two
volcanoes on the planet where people live INSIDE the crater of a volcano! And the only one used for
farming. Such fertile land produces: corn, beans, tree tomatoes, avocados, sugar cane, pumpkins and
potatoes. Beef cattle are also raised. The view from the top is, well, beyond amazing!
Okay, we now begin what I'm guessing is a two mile hike down very steep terrain. Pato gave one
hiking pole to each of us. There were several stops to drink more water. And more stops to take more
photos. I enjoy seeing so many bromeliads. Must have seen thousands of large stones on the ground.
These were spewed from the previous volcanic eruption... roughly 2500 years ago. As we entered the
flat crater area, we were greeted by dogs and chickens. Walking down the dusty trail, we passed a
woman under a shade tree. She was selling soda pop and candy. An older man on a horse passed us. We
also saw burros, cows, horses, turkeys and one pet mouse at the hostel. The owner's 5 year old daughter
was so pleased to show us a pickle jar, holding her little mouse. We hike pass the closed school.
Bethany and I have signed up for the Chivito summit hike. It started nicely, going through a flat
pasture. Then, there was a lot of steep climbing. We had to go in short bursts of hiking, as the 9000
foot elevation was draining all our energy. Looking down on the little community of 30 - 50 people, the
patchwork patterns of the farmland just seemed peaceful. We were about 20 minutes from the summit,
but this last stretch was the steepest! The elevation got the best of us today, as we just could not make it
to the top.
Back down in the flat land we ate a picnic lunch at the hostel. The Pululahua Ecolodge is about 15
years old. If I ever come back, I could stay here for a few nights. With a jacuzzi for the tourists, this
feels like the least stressful place on Earth. By chance, a geography professor was leading a field trip
for 6 college geology students. Pato introduced the professor to Bethany. He seemed thrilled to find out
that my daughter was a geologist. He then handed her a rock sample and a geologist magnifier glass.
That was so cool to see!
Now it is time to return up, up, up to the parking lot, as afternoon clouds rolled in. My goodness, it
was slow going. It's quite likely that we took 30 short breaks coming back up. We were passed, in both
directions. At one point we stopped and let six horse riders go by. Bethany and I will always remember
such incredible views... and how the high altitude got the best of us.
One dozen souvenir stores are at the top, near a hotel. I purchased my “normal” tee-shirt and post-
cards. Near our car was a local man, selling fresh honeycomb. Sweet! And before long, Pato dropped
us off at our hotel at 3:30.
My daughter needed a little nap. I found a comfy chair in this gorgeous courtyard. This building was
completed in 1698. Yes, it is 321 years old! In its early history, it housed inquisition prisoners. When
the hotel was remodeled in 1989, workers came upon an original fresco. The “Virgen del Rosario” was
painted in 1747. My travel diary is now up to date.
6:00 and it is time for dinner. We walk about three blocks to the Da Rocco Ristorante Pizzeria. The
specialties include pizza and lasagna. And that is what we enjoyed... pizza and lasagna. We settle in at
the hotel, as we shall wait for our 10:30 pick-up.
The tour van is just a few minutes early and we're driven to the Blue House Old Town Hostal. There
are 12 of us, waiting until 11:30. The bus arrives for an all night ride. Let the adventure begin!
June 10, 2019 (Monday)
Our fully loaded bus leaves Quito as we ride throughout the night. There is a 3:10 stop for petrol
and a pit stop. Surprisingly, we all seemed to get lots of sleep. And about 6:30, the 12 of us disembark
in the city of Lago Agrio (or Nueva Lojo).
We are seated at a sidewalk table of the Pizza D'Mario restaurant. Breakfast today: scrambled eggs,
juice, coffee, and chicken crepes. At about 9 a.m. We should be loaded into another van. I notice a little
logo on my Super 8 pen: “Take notes along the way”. Yes, I will.
Other tourists join us and by 9:45 we're heading east. There are at least 10 stretches of road repair
with very slow driving over the gravel. After a few hours we pass through the town of Cuyabeno. After
crossing over the Cuyabeno River, they let us off at El Puente and we take our luggage up to a two-
level lodge / rest area. Did I mention we are going into the AMAZON????? Lunch had been prepared.
It included bbq-chicken, tortilla, carrots, potatoes, guacamole and coca-cola.
connected me to this trip. It is the Cuyabeno Amazon Eco-Lodge Adventure. I
was hooked after reading their introduction. “Immerse yourself in the pristine rainforest environment of
Cuyabeno on this 5 day trip. Wander amongst ancient trees and take time to explore flooded forests
buzzing with wildlife”. After a heavy rainstorm, our luggage is loaded into one canoe. Our separate
canoe is metal, holds 10 passengers, and has an electric motor. It is 31 kilometers down the Cuyabeno
River until we reach the Jamu Lodge. Can't wait... I'm so excited!
I'm fascinated by dozens of hangings nests in a nearby tree. There were bright yellow colored birds
that made their homes here. We're delayed just a little while, due to the very heavy rains. Passengers
and crew don rain ponchos, as we depart at 2:00. As we went under a bridge, there were murals of
everyday life in Ecuador painted on it. The rain subsided, we took off the ponchos and were able to
finally see some wildlife.
The first bird that caught my eye was a white throated toucan. Atop one palm tree I counted 30+
macaws. So colorful! Our canoe went through 25 foot long strands of vines... some reaching river level.
Our guide, Veronica, pointed out a few squirrel monkeys. Then she located a hawk, and a vulture, then
a few wooly monkeys, a tiger heron, blue morpho butterflies, a two-toed sloth, and a crested hoatzin,
known locally as a “stinky turkey”.
An hour later we reach Laguna Grande... Grand Lake. We arrive during rainy season and the lake is
about 25 feet deep. In the dry season, the lake dries up along the edges... and is about 6 feet deep in the
middle. Veronica has been a tour guide for 5 years and was pleased that we could see fresh water river
dolphins. What a thrill.
The rain has stopped and in a little while we arrive at Jamu Lodge. Room keys are handed and
Bethany and I head towards the back. Since it is rainy season, the volleyball court is covered with at
least one foot of water. And we can see lots of minnows. Our cabana is on the 2nd
level. Time to take a
nap. We'll explore after supper.
Sporting a clean shirt, we join our new friends for dinner. There's minestrone soup, potato wedges,
cole slaw, rice, pork with carrots, onions and bell pepper. Fruit cocktail was brought out for dessert.
We all enjoyed the small talk with 10 Amazon adventurers, plus our guide Veronica.
I charged one phone and one camera battery. Tonight will be a new experience for us. We'll sleep
under a mosquito net for these next 4 nights. All lights at Jamu Lodge will be out by 10:30. It is mighty
DARK outside. The frogs are loud too. In bed at 10:15.
June 11, 2019 (Tuesday)
My phone alarm awakes me at 7 a.m. and I kept thinking... we slept in the jungle last night!! Had to
get a mosquito net photo of my daughter. We heard a variety of birds and saw an owl nearby. Feel clean
again after a hot shower. Breakfast is served at 8:00.
The dining area for the lodge has a thatched roof. I loved the open air design. We had scrambled
eggs, hot dogs, a fruit medley: kiwi, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple, 3 cereals, milk, yogurt, hot
cocoa and fruit juice. I read on the “bar” menu... “Enjoy the Jungle!”
Each cabin at the lodge has a name (as well as number). We're staying in Guacamayo, which means
macaw. We return to ours for a quick visit. Then we'll join the others. The lodge supplies rubber boots
for us. The blue jeans have to be tucked inside of our socks; then into the rubber boots.
At 9:30 we're all aboard the canoe and motor up the river. We pass through Laguna Grande before
reaching an island. Our schedule this morning includes a two hour hike through a rain forest!! Veronica
showed us and talked about different plants and trees and vines. Then we came upon an ant colony. She
estimated there were 8 million ants in this one colony. Each year, the queen ant will produce a princess;
and lives about 5 years. Saw a trail of leaf-cutter ants. Then spotted a cute little brown frog.
Our guide crushed a leaf from one tree and crumbled it up. I poured water on the leaf, as she
continued to shred it. Then she squeezed out an orange colored liquid. It traditionally was used to paint
faces, before going off to war. Hah, each one of us had a little face painting applied. Next, we got to
chew on the inner white portion of an edible plant.
Our next pause was at a tree where she pulled off some bark. It contained tubocurare (dtc). This is
what is used in blow-guns. Veronica pulled out her cell phone and showed us a video of native peoples
using the blow-guns. Indeed, we saw a few monkeys that were hit by these blow-gun arrows / needles
that had been dipped in dtc. She explained that the monkeys, or other small animals, are not poisoned;
they are paralyzed.
Another interesting stop was to hear about walking palm trees. They can have dozens of stilt roots
that tie-in or connect to the trunk of the tree. This can be as high as 8-10 feet off the forest floor. It
seems to be a myth that these palms actually walk. The many roots might help the tree position itself
for more sunlight.
We then stopped at another tree with pretty pink and white flowers. The cinchona tree tree is valued
for its bark. It contains quinine, which is used to treat malaria. It also has quinidine, that has been used
to treat heart arrhythmias. I think I remember that from my pharmacy school notes.
There was a large termite nest ahead of us. The entrance to the nest was near the bottom of the tree.
We noticed hundreds of these small insects climbing. Then we're shocked when Veronica says that we
could eat one. Several of us did. Yes, Bethany and I each ate one termite! We put one in our mouth then
chewed and swallowed. And it seemed to have a “minty” taste. Other folks said it tasted like a carrot.
Bethany liked the crunch.
We then learned about a tree with hundreds of pointy spikes on them. Found out that these sharp
spines / spikes were used to shred manioc. The shredded manioc is used to make bread. Next we saw
some cacao pods. These are the source of chocolate. I saw (and chewed on) a cacao pod two years ago
in the jungles of Peru.
I had noticed thick vines on this hike. Some started at ground level, then grew upwards. Others grew
downwards from high in the canopy. This has been a highlight, wandering through a rain forest. As the
hike winds down, we climb into our canoe. This time, we will paddle for a few miles, giving us all a
chance to enjoy the serene sounds of nature.
A new group of 12 tourists had just arrived at our lodge. After thoroughly scrubbing our hands, its
time for lunch. What a feast... rice, pork, salad, heart of palm, cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, carrots,
beans, plantains and water. And there was lime custard for dessert. This is a good time to ask Veronica
about the Amazon: the largest rainforest in the world! There are about 30 million people that live in the
Amazon region. 70 languages are spoken here, with over 200 tribes of peoples. Stretching over 5
million square kilometers, it is estimated that the area comprises over 390 billion individual trees.
There are 13 countries in South America, and the Amazon region stretches into 9 countries. Wow!
Resting this afternoon for several hours. I climbed to the second level, above the dining area and
found a comfortable hammock. Was quiet enough to take a short nap. There is a very small library with
25 paperback books. It also has the guest registries from 2002-2008 with comments. Back to our cabin
to rest some more.
At 5 p.m. we gather at the end of our pier, then into the canoe. We head upriver, slowing down many
times, to view the wildlife. We see a caracara bird, which is in the falcon family. High atop a tree was a
toucan, then there were macaws. Our canoe stopped while we watched a family of monkeys. Veronica
then spotted a 2-toed sloth. Around another curve we view an ordinary tree that had fallen into the
water. As we moved closer... perfect protective coloration. There was a family of 7 bats, just above the
We have now reached the laguna and there are ten canoes out there. And a few paddle-boarders.
Looks line fun. We come to a stop, turn off the engine and enjoy the quietness. Several tourists were
out there swimming. The serenity of a beautiful sunset in the Amazon is difficult to describe. As dark-
ness settled in, we motored into a tributary and reached a small island. This is Sendero La Catolica. We
embark on a 1.1 km hike, in the rain forest, AT NIGHT!!! What shall we see? We pass by an abandoned
university established research center. After it burned completely down, it was relocated off this island.
Our first discovery tonight was a poisonous caterpillar. On ahead was a small beetle, eating bird
droppings. Next we saw grasshoppers and a tarantula spider. Veronica then asked that we all turn off
our headlamps. 100%!d(MISSING)arkness! Wow, I could not imagine being alone in the rainforest at night, with
no light. With keen eyes, we were able to find a “walking stick”. There was a blend of crickets and
frogs as they communicated in the night air. There was a small brown frog at the base of a tree. Then
we got to see our first scorpion spider. And before leaving, our guide detected a Goliath bird-eating
tarantula spider. Such an adventure... hiking in the rainforest at night!
After our 90 minute hike, we're motoring across the laguna in the dark. When we finally reach the
Jamu Lodge, we have about 10 minutes to go and wash our hands. Can't wait for supper. Tonight we
have barley soup, beans, rice, tilapia, yucca, tomatoes and onions. There was purified water with a
cinnamon spice. For dessert there was babaco. What? Never heard of it. It is a torpedo shaped fruit with
an effervescent flesh... hence, it is called the champagne fruit.
Bethany and I went back to our cabin and recalled the highlights for the day. I looked at photos on
my camera. It helps me to write down items for my diary. We are both in bed by 10:15 and we listen to
the sounds of the jungle, once again. This is a very good kind of tired.
June 12, 2019 (Wednesday)
The alarm is set for 7:11. The shower drains extremely slowly, before flooding the rest of the
bathroom. The plan now is to first shave at the sink. Then I can take a 3 minute shower. Hey, I'm
getting better at this. These past two mornings I've heard a distinctive “yipping” sound. I don't think
it's a dog but I'm clueless to what it can be.
At 8:00 we join the others for breakfast. There are thin rolls of meat, sliced cheeses, scrambled eggs,
fruit, yogurt, juice and coffee. We're told to be at the boat at 9:20. There are 4 from Israel, 2 from the
U.S.A., 2 from France, and 2 from Lichtenstein.
This morning we will journey down the river, heading east. We make several stops along the river
bank as Veronica spies some wildlife up in the trees. I'm thrilled to see many blue morpho butterflies,
monkeys and beautiful birds, including an owl. We pass by a couple of tourist lodges.
There are two destinations for us today; both involving indigenous people. There are 30-40 Siona
at our first village. Julie is 15 years old and will be our guide today. We're ushered into a community
center that is their center of activity. Plantain chips are offered to us. And there are a few hand-made
items for sale. There were 4 cacao pods on a table. One was split open,where we could see the beans
which are used to make chocolate.
Julie leads us outside where manioc was planted about one year ago. It's now time to harvest a few.
She slashes the branches almost down to the ground. Then two of our men pull up the manioc roots.
Manioc is also known as cassava or yuca. With her machete, she wiped off mud and cut into the white
area. There were 15 roots we “peeled” until it was all white. We washed them in a bucket of river
water; then washed them again.
Going back inside the large community center building, I noticed the thatched roof above. We grated
or shredded the manioc roots on two metal grates, which had been bought at a faraway town. With 15
roots to grate, this project was a little difficult, and quite time consuming.
The white residue was placed into a rope type basket/container. It was hung from a hook with a small
pole at the bottom. Two people would walk in a circle, squeezing out excess water. This water
was saved in the bucket and will be used later as a “broth” to cook monkeys, tapir etc.
The squeezed manioc was placed onto a bamboo sieve. It was rubbed until it was dry, then placed
into a large pan. It took about 3 minutes to cook the tortilla. We cooked and ate several of them. Just a
little while later, two plantains were added to a batch of dry manioc powder and smashed (like a mortar
and pestle.) So, we had a hot, sticky and very tasty plantain tortilla (dessert.) Another little project she
had us working on was grinding cacao... into a chocolate powder. It had a bittersweet taste.
Before lunch was served, we all went to wash our hands at the community restroom. We're pleased
to see that it is “modern” with running water. Our lunch in the jungle today was tuna fish, cucumber-
onion-tomato combo, rice, chicken, fresh “manioc bread”, carrots and lots of water. Afterwards, there
was a beautiful blue morpho butterfly that came inside. It is SO difficult to get a good picture of one of
these butterflies. Then, we took a group photo before leaving. What a different perspective about living
in the Amazon.
About 3 miles downriver, our canoe stopped at another village. This time we only met with a
shaman. By definition, a shaman is a person who attempts to make contact with the spiritual world
through a trance. I had chosen to wear one of my Costa Rica missions trip tee-shirts. It has the “cross”
on it. I thought I was proudly making a statement. After introductions, he talked and Veronica then
translated. He was dressed in a blue colored tunic. There was a necklace with about 40 curved white
teeth. Another double strand of necklace must have had over 400 small shells. His visor had 40 medium
sized green parrot feathers. It also had five large macaw feathers. And to finish his very colorful attire
were different colored feathers in his ears!
He explained to us about ayahuasca. It is a brew made from the combination of two different plants.
Drinking it leads to an altered level of consciousness due to psychoactive substances in the ingredients.
Ayahuasca was originally used for spiritual and religiousness purposes. For some participants, taking
part in an ayahuasca ceremony is a popular way to “open their minds” and experience hallucinations,
Euphoria, visions even paranoia. The bottom line for us to learn from this was... don't partake of this
potentially lethal stuff!
Our French lady volunteered to go up to the table and participate in a ceremony. We were not told what
type of illness / ailment he would be treating. There was continuous chanting and he had a handful of
leaves that he continued to shake around her head. Very interesting.
We were then given a blow-gun demonstration. The blow-gun was about 7 feet long with a small
dart placed near the mouth area. When in actual use, the dart tip is immersed in a liquid which contains
d-tubocurarine. It will paralyze an animal (monkey, sloth, tapir) but not poison it. Of course, our host-
shaman hit the tiny target, at the other side of the hut. Several of us tried it ourselves, but none of us hit
the target. Glad I don't have to hunt down my daily food, from the treetops.
This has been a very informative trip. As I was the first one back into the canoe, I found a wad of
folded money. Who dropped this? It would have been easy to keep this $60. As we started the canoe
ride upriver, I told the group that I had found some $$. One of the men was very thankful that I had
returned it. And how do you think I was “rewarded' for this good deed? Actually, no reward was needed
and I felt good. However, ten minutes later Veronica found an anaconda snake in a tree, near the waters
edge. This was our FIRST ANACONDA snake sighting on this Amazon adventure. Most of its skin
was brown, with a small dark polka-dot pattern. Who knows if my good deed played a part in us seeing
this baby, 8-foot long snake?
On the canoe ride back, we stopped briefly to see more squirrel and capuchin monkeys. Of course
there was another stop, when our guide saw a family of 2-toed sloths. We arrive at the Jamu Lodge at
4:30 and rest just a little while. Then at 5:20 we are leaving again, each wearing a swimsuit.
Our destination is Laguna Grande and we shall swim at sunset. There are several other canoes close
by as we enjoy a peaceful and gorgeous sunset. Veronica tells us that since we are far from the shore,
we are much safer from caiman and piranha. Yes, Bethany and I are SWIMMING IN THE AMAZON
RIVER watershed. This was so refreshing! It seems like the top two feet of the water was warm; then it
got chilly heading down 25 feet to the bottom of the lake.
It was fairly dark as the motorized canoe reached our lodge. We had a few minutes to wash up and
then it was suppertime. Tonight we had gnosh soup with beef & sliced corn cobs, rice, cheesy yucca,
baked chicken drumsticks, a cucumber/carrot/cabbage salad and an oreo cheesecake for dessert. There
was the normal small talk about our experience with the shaman and the indigenous tribe. Several of
our folks would soon be leaving for the Galapagos Islands. I had each of our teammates write names
and e-mail addresses. I'd like to send photos to many of them. And before we left, a 5-inch tree frog
jumped from the table, past Bethany's face and onto a wall.
Back at our room, I grabbed the battery charger and returned to the dining area. I started charging
my camera battery when other guests came along with a flashlight, They shone their light on a huge
tarantula spider, up in the rafters! What a day this has been. With an early ride tomorrow morning to
go bird watching, I'm in bed by 10:15
June 13, 2019 (Thursday)
Bethany and I are up with the 5:20 alarm. We hear howler monkeys in the distance. Of course, we
thought of our cabana in Costa Rica, 11 years ago. They sound vicious. And a male howler monkey can
be heard three miles away.
Nine of our ten left at 6 a.m. For a motorized canoe ride... looking for birds. Veronica brought an old
bird watchers book, which had hundreds of photos. She would show us... what we had just seen. This
morning we viewed tiger heron, vultures, king fisher, red macaw and stinky turkeys (crested hoatzin).
There was a family of squirrel monkeys as well. It rained on us at least 45 minutes. That might be the
reason for seeing so few birds.
At 8:00 we sat down for breakfast. There were Southwestern style scrambled eggs, cheese biscuits,
sliced ham and cheese and fruit. This was our last meal with our traveling friends. The other eight load
into one canoe. Quite sad to say good-bye... hugs and handshakes. We're gonna miss them. Veronica,
Bethany and I left in a canoe hauling luggage, towels and bed linens. After a little while, the three of us
transferred to a smaller canoe with three paddles.
Our pathways were short-cut routes, and they became narrower. Trees and branches from either side
draped over us. Then we got stuck on a log. Just had to back up and paddle faster. Away from the busy
Laguna Grande, the quietness was overwhelming. There is an area called caiman laguna that we slowly
paddled through. Yes, we had finally reached “the middle of nowhere!”
Veronica then pulled out a fishing line and hook. She had brought along a little chicken for bait. Yes,
Bethany and I took turns fishing for piranha. I caught the first one and was extremely careful removing
the hook from its mouth. I got a few close-up photos of the razor sharp teeth. I was surprised that the
eyes were a vivid orange color. I soon released my fish, then let Bethany try her luck. She had several
nibbles before she brought one up. She was so excited that she slung it over the boat. A few minutes
later she snagged another one. It fell off the hook and into our canoe. I tightly grabbed the fish and as
soon as I handed Bethany her fish... it slipped into water. I got to fish a little more, but no catches. We
were fishing around the treetops for about one hour. FUN!! I didn't know we would be piranha fishing
on this tour.
The three of us paddled across the lagoon to dry land. It's lunch time! There are containers of baked
chicken, french fries, beans, carrots, coca-cola and an apple for dessert. No stress, just nature!
Our guide said that it would take about 3 hours to paddle back to the Jamu Lodge. Wow! Paddle and
rest, paddle and rest. 45 minutes later, a canoe carrying 5 new guests stopped and we boarded with
them. So lucky! Even with the motor going, we could hear a few howler monkeys. We arrive at the
lodge about 3 p.m. Our arms are really tired as we look forward to a little nap.
5:00 and all of us are in the canoe, going back to Laguna Grande. We swim in the Amazon once
again!! As the sun was setting, 5 of us were enjoying the cool water. A dozen canoes from other lodges
were out there with us. Refreshing! And we got to view a rainbow. This just added to a wonderful
ending to our last full day in the Amazon!
We got a chance to chat with our new tour friends as we got back around 6:30. A hot shower sure
feels good as we head to dinner at 7:30. There is beef, rice, broccoli and carrots, yucca, salad, water and
a slice of cake. We linger at the table and get to know these 5 new guests. There are 3 young folks from
Germany and an older Israeli couple. They are just settling in for their 4 day trip, while Bethany and I
will leave tomorrow. We did most of our packing and were in bed by 11 p.m.
June 14, 2019 (TGIF)
I saw a blue morpho butterfly before going to breakfast. Another pleasant memory. Choices this a.m.
were scrambled eggs, cereal, fruit, yogurt, rolled ham and cheese and guava juice. We filled out a
survey about our Cuyabeno Amazon Adventure, then retrieved our passports and wallets. It's time to
finish packing as we shall leave at 9:30.
There was a pretty tiger heron at the pier to tell us good-bye. Up the river we passed a canoe with
ten tourists. Another canoe followed with their luggage. We motored right through the Grand Lake one
last time. Then there was a shortcut to save some time. The pathway route became so narrow that our
five foot wide canoe was touched on both sides by green branches. And we looked for snakes up in the
branches. Yes, we were glad that our “driver” knew his way through here.
There was about a two mile stretch where we saw dozens of butterflies; including heliconias and my
favorite, the blue morphos. Near the end of our river journey, Veronica spotted a baby anaconda snake.
It was about 8 feet long. We're told that adults can reach 20+ feet in length! Then we saw several
anhinga birds, known for their turkey-like tails. Bethany reminded me that the Amazon is known as
“the lungs of our planet”. This really could be the freshest air on Earth! (More than 20%!o(MISSING)f the world's
oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.)
The trip from the lodge took about two+ hours. Our canoe was now at the bridge, overlooking the
Cuyabeno River. An unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime river journey has ended... the Amazon Eco-
Adventure!!! We will have lunch at the destination building. I've enjoyed seeing the yellow fly-catchers
at work and listening to “talking” birds (maybe mynahs?).
We will rest for 2 hours, relax and eat lunch. There are tortillas, bbq-chicken, rice, carrots, peas,
guacamole and coca-cola. Another group of eco-adventurers arrives in a tour bus. Their luggage is
unloaded and ours is put on. We'll ride through green countryside until reaching the airport in Nueva
Loja. Some will fly to Quito; while Bethany and I and 13 others start a 6-hour ride back to the capital
city. Looking at a map in Nueva Lojo (also known as Lago Agrio), we are about 15 miles from the
border with Columbia.
There were dozens of places along our route where the roads were being repaired. So we traveled
over gravel areas. There were hundreds of speed bumps and 20+ rivers to cross. After 3 hours, we
stopped at a small roadside restaurant. The views looking into a valley, with lush green mountains in
the background put smiles on all our faces. There were 6 items on the counter to choose from, as there
were no menus (?). I only recognized two. So, I took the safe choice with pea soup.
Our bus driver passed lots of slower vehicles on winding and twisty mountain passages. With me
sitting directly behind the driver for 6 hours... it did not calm my anxiety. I could see how often he
straddled the yellow line!
My daughter and I are very tired, but so glad to be back in the Old Town area of Quito. Outside was
a taxi driver holding a sign: COBB x 2. There were two happy tourists at 10 p.m. checking into the
HRA hotel less than 10 minutes later. We organized and pre-packed as we will be checking out
tomorrow morning. We did venture up to the 3rd
floor, where the restaurant had closed. There are large
panoramic windows which showcase this BEAUTIFUL city at night. Right across the street is the
Santo Domingo Church, completed in 1688. I placed a wake-up call for 7:00 and we're in bed before
June 15, 2019 (Saturday)
Our nice and hot showers drain very well. I read that the water used in the bathrooms are heated by
solar panels on the roof. We checked out of the Hotel Real Audiencia at 8:45. There is a storage room
where guests can leave their luggage. That will be helpful. Our Full Day Old Town City Tour begins at
9:00. Angel picks us up at the front door and we embark on another United Nations World Heritage Site
visit: Quito Historic City Center.
The Spanish established Quito in 1534. It was built on the ruins of an Incan city. Our first stop today
will be the Teleferico. For some unknown reason, it was not open yet. Gotta come back later. Next on
the agenda is a trip to the EQUATOR. The first photo is a sign that reads: Latitude 0.0.0. We stop at a
museum, dedicated to life in the rainforest. There are depictions and exhibits of a variety of items. The
shrunken head of a native really caught our attention. What a story... Of course we had to take several
photos at “THE” special spot: LATITUDE 00 degrees 00 minutes 00 seconds. I felt special, with my
feet in both hemispheres! We were then invited to try and balance an egg on the head of a nail. It was
more difficult than I thought. Maybe next time. Next up from our guide was a science experiment. He
had a small sink a few feet north of the equator and poured water into it. 4 or 5 leaves spun counter-
clockwise. Then the sink was moved a few feet south of the equator. 4 or 5 leaves spun clockwise as
they went down the drain. Seeing is believing!
Next is a little demonstration about our balance... on and near the equator. My thumb and pointer
finger were easily pulled apart, near the red line. However, standing on the equator line, it was indeed
more difficult for the guide to pull my finger apart. This has been informative and fun!
In 1736, the First French Geodesic Mission arrived with a small group of men from France & Spain.
Using the most modern instruments, they “located” the equator. Modern day GPS shows that the site
was incorrect by ONLY 790 feet. A large (and newer) monument marks the famous site. Standing at a
height of 98 feet, this monument was completed in 1982. There's several opportunities for photos at
“Mitad del Mundo” or Middle of the World! Plus there is an Inti-Nan Museum we visited as well.
Back in the city of Quito, we purchase express tickets on the Teleferico. This chairlift takes us high
above the city. I liked the billboard for this ride: Touch the Sky! About 15 minutes later and we're at the
top! Elevation is 12,943 feet and we are feeling a little winded. There is a wooden sign, showing the ten
volcanoes that can be viewed on a sunny day, plus their height. We walked past 3 young folks on their
mountain bikes. There is a steep trail that looks inviting for the bikers.
We are on the east side of the Pichincha Volcano. We hike a little more along the trail to Ruta del
Ruca. At this elevation it is difficult to breathe. Until we get better acclimated, there's no way we can
go 5 hours to the summit (15,700 feet). We decide that the llamas ahead of us needed their pictures
taken. Then Bethany and I hike back down to the chairlift, where Angel is waiting for us.
Next up is the Virgen de Quito. It is atop the hill of El Panecillo. It stands at 135 feet and is the
tallest aluminum statue in the world. There are 7400 pieces of aluminum that make up this statue. This
statue was completed in 1975 and is easily the most dominant sight in the Quito evenings.
For lunch we traveled down a little ways to Pim's Panecillo Restaurant. I had breaded trout with
almonds and mashed potatoes. And we had fried empenadas as an appetizer. The food was delicious
but the scenery was spectacular!!
Now to finish our Old City tour with a visit to a few of the old, historic churches. We got our
exercise as we walked to La Basilica Church, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, and the San
Francisco Church. Along the way, we stopped at the Plaza of Independence. Such a historic, interesting
Where did the time go? It's 6:00 and our tour is finished. We arrive back at the hotel and retrieve our
luggage. We have decide to hire Angel as our taxi driver to the airport. Bethany and I decide to split a
smoke-house burger at Johnny Rockets... and then we wait. Bethany checks in for the American
Airlines flight this evening to Miami. She is flying solo, for I will stay here another week. She stands in
line as I kiss her on the cheek and tell her good-bye. What an amazing father-daughter week we have
had. We'll remember this journey for a long time. I go and wait about 90 minutes for 14 Methodists
from Mobile, AL to arrive. I'm going to be a part of a missions team. Another adventure. Life is good!
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