Amazon Adventurers

On Friday 5th April we left Quito on an early morning flight bound for Coca ready to start our 5 day Amazon experience. It was so action packed that I will break it down day-by-day below. Please prepare yourself for wildlife photo overload…The quality on many of the bird photos isn’t that great as they are often 50-100 m or more away and a bit beyond the limit of our zoom.

Day 1:

plane window quito to cocaOur early morning 40-minute flight was short but quite scenic. Unfortunately, neither of us had a window seat, but I managed to get a photo out the window by asking the man next to me if I could lean across and take a quick snap. As soon as we exited the plane in Coca the heat and humidity hit us in the face! It was quite a shock after leaving the cool climate of Quito. We were met by our guide at the airport and one other traveller (who was originally from Germany but now retired in Ecuador). We were directed into taxis which took us into the town centre where we stored our bags at a hotel while all the supplies for our trip were being organised. Our guide took us to a shop to purchase a flashlight each as we’d need it for the night walks. We also enjoyed a wander around the town and down to the Napo river. Our guide pointed out the many boats that were travelling to Peru. The last thing that needed to be organised before leaving Coca was being sized up for gumboots – an essential for trekking in the Amazon jungle. We followed our guide through town to a small warehouse where we hoped there would be some boots large enough for Kadin -as Ecuadorian people have smaller feet. Luckily, they had boots to fit us. They were pretty good-looking gumboots and they had ‘made in Ecuador’ imprinted on them and most noticeably they were very clean -looked almost brand new!

Finally, all our gear was loaded onto the back of two taxi trucks (utes) and wrapped up in a big tarp. We then started the next leg of our journey, a 2-hour drive from Coca to the Shiripuno River. The drive went pass several oil wells – big business in the area (and also rather controversial). We finally made it to the Shiripuno River where our gear was loaded onto a small motor canoe. Here we also filled out several forms and paid our Waorani park entrance fee. It was very hot waiting at the Waorani office. We sat against the building but as the sun moved, we were left with very little shade. We had to wait for the other taxi to arrive with all the food supplies and the chef – who also had our lunch.

Finally, they arrived, and we were each provided a packed lunch and once everything was loaded onto our little canoe, the 6 of us (our guide, the driver, the chef, the German-Ecuadorian and ourselves) boarded and set off downstream. The breeze finally providing some relief from the heat. The ride was quite slow as we often had to manoeuvre through shallow water and fallen tree logs.

After a long 4 hours, and rather numb bums from sitting in the canoe, we reached the Shiripuno Amazon Lodge. Our room was very rustic. It contained 2 single beds which had really good mosquito nets over them – they were like tents that surrounded the mattresses like a fitted sheet. There were other rooms with double beds – but a single each seemed like a better idea due to the 100% humidity. The room also had a private bathroom which had a flush toilet and a cold shower. There was a candle which we had to light soon after we arrived as darkness was falling around us, and there was no electricity and definitely no wifi (almost 5 days of tech-free). After a refreshing cold shower, we headed over to the dining room where we had a 3 course meal and our guide gave us the run down for the following day’s activities. He also ensured I had a great sleep by telling us all about the tarantulas and tree boa snakes that frequent the rooms. Of course, he said that as long as I’m inside the mosquito net tent, I’ll be safe. Regardless, I did sleep well… because my strategy was that if I close my eyes, I won’t know about any of the creepy crawlies and we were also rather exhausted from all the travel.

Day 2:

We woke with the birds at dawn. It was still very muggy – so the cold shower was much needed to start the day. We dressed in our jungle trekking attire – not really wanting to wear long pants and shirts due to the heat. Our breakfast was served at 7am, once again in 3 courses; cut fruit to start, followed by jam and toast, then ending with a plate of scrambled eggs. We then headed up stream looking at the birds in the trees as we went. We even spotted a small caiman on the river bank too. We then pulled up by the river bank and hopped off, the driver leaving us with the guide.

We then proceeded the 4-hour walk back to the lodge through the jungle following the path. However, the path was often obstructed by fallen trees and low hanging branches… but our guide led the way with his machete cutting our path. It was quite exciting when we came across different insects, reptiles, birds and monkeys…

After our walk we enjoyed a cold shower and then had our 3 course lunch. This was followed by a nap in our cabin. Then we were all geared up again to go for another canoe ride. Our guide informed us that today was our best chance to get to the Oxbow Lake due to the water level in the river, so we headed upstream in the canoe. However, the entry that our guide had intended was too low, but we could go up further and then float back down around the Oxbow Lake. The float down was peaceful and eventful. One of the coolest things we saw was a sloth in the tree -an Ecuadorian sloth. When our guide made a whistle like a Harpy Eagle the sloth started to climb up the tree…

After dinner (another 3 course affair – the food was pretty good at the lodge), we headed out on a night walk. Before we even left the lodge, we found a red snake slithering along under the cabins. The spiders were pretty freaky. But Kadin enjoyed getting up close with the camera. I didn’t mind admiring them from a distance. The frogs and grass hoppers were pretty cute. The weirdest thing was the guide pointed out was the ‘malaria mosquitos’ which he showed us were yellow in colour…

Day 3:

We started the day at 5:45am with a bird-watching canoe float downstream. It was a peaceful way to start the morning. We saw many awesome birds, our favourites were the Macaws – but they were hard to get photos of, as they moved pretty fast and were often far away. The woodpeckers were incredibly loud as they hammered into the tree trunks. We were even entertained by a troop of Saki Monkeys before returning back to the lodge for breakfast.

Thankfully, the temperature was a bit cooler today. We geared up again in our jungle trekking attire and headed upstream again to go for another jungle trek. This time it was an uphill journey with a scenic lookout. Our guide taught us about the different medicinal uses for the plants along the path and we tried some of the native fruit. The most interesting thing we saw was a hummingbird nest which we could see two baby hummingbirds inside…

After lunch and another rest, we headed down stream again in our canoe for some more bird watching. Then when darkness fell, we headed back upstream with our flashlights looking out for caiman on the river banks… Night time CaimanWe then had another delicious dinner, went over the next dayโ€™s plans and headed for bed.

Day 4:

Another early start for bird watching in the canoe. This time we motored upstream and then floated back to the lodge. Again, it was a peaceful way to wake up. It was another overcast day and seemed less humid than the first day…

After breakfast we geared up and headed out again. This time we floated down stream. We managed to get up quite close to some Scarlett Macaws feeding in the trees…

Once again, the driver left us on the bank of the river, and we followed our guide for a 3.5hour hike back to the lodge. This trek had quite a few frogs and butterflies…

After lunch, we had a bit more down time before our evening activity. We left camp in the late afternoon. Once again, floating down stream to give more bird watching opportunities. We then took a small side stream and stopped up to try something I’d been really looking forward too… Piranha fishing! We were each given a handmade line with a chunk of raw chicken on the hook. As soon as I’d thrown my line in, I was ready to be attacked! But turns out piranha don’t really behave like they do in the movies. After a little while, both Kadin and I started getting little nibbles. The canoe driver got a piranha on his line, but it dropped off just as it neared the boat. At one stage we had some monkeys in the tree above us. After about an hour, we headed back upstream and had another go fishing there. Unfortunately, we werenโ€™t successful catching any piranhas, but our guide caught a catfish, which we ate with our dinner…

Day 5:

We packed up our bags in the morning, had our breakfast and got ready to leave the lodge. Today all the staff were returning on the canoe with us (chef, cleaner, driver, guide). It was expected to be a long return journey as the water level was still low. Today, our guide had some organised stops along the river, which made the 4-hour return river trip more bearable. Our first stop was to see the giant Ficus tree. We hopped off the canoe, climbed up the river bank and only needed to walk 50m into the jungle before being faced with a massive tree…

Further upstream, we stopped again to visit some of the Waorani people. This was a special experience. Our guide showed us the fruit that the people use to paint their faces for ceremonies and decorated our faces with tribal patterns. We went inside the family house, got up close with their pets and wandered around their gardens. Our guide let us taste some of the fruits, we were given a large stalk of sugar cane to chew on. We also had a turn at using the blow gun which the Waorani people use to hunt monkey and birds. We finished our visit by purchasing a hand-woven serving plate…

Our boat ride finished back at the park office where we transferred to a taxi truck once again. This time we were driven directly to the airport. We had a couple of hours to wait at Copa airport and then enjoyed the short scenic flight back to Quito. This time we had a window seat – but the side with less mountains, but the clouds were the best looking clouds I’d ever seen…

Have fun at work!

Gemma

5 comments

  1. Looks like you are having a fantastic adventure:) Iโ€™m really enjoying following your journey and looking at all the amazing photos. Stay safe xx

    Liked by 1 person

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