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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Thursday, March 8, 2012

About a month ago, I spent a week in Ecuador's stretch of the Amazon Rainforest. A plethora of wildlife combined with good company made it one of my most memorable experiences to date.  I would even go so far to say that the Amazon Rainforest is the most amazing natural wonder I have seen. 

From Quito I took a 10 hour bone-rattling overnight bus journey to a small town called Puyo.  I arrived at Puyo around 4:00AM, waited a few hours and caught another bus (4 hours) to a small riverside community of about 30 people on the Rio Negro in Eastern Ecuador.  From here I hopped into a canoe and headed upstream to the camp I would be staying at for the next few days.

Within the first hour of the boat journey, dark clouds filled the sky and it started pouring.  Being the Rainforest, the boat driver was well prepared and handed everyone raincoats, which were only somewhat effective against the heavy rains.  We spent 4 more hours taking cover from the storm while making our way up the river.   

The camp was much nicer then I ever expected.  I had roughed it on Salkantay, and was expecting more of the same given the cheap price.  The camp, which was situated right on the river, featured an activity/eating area, kitchen, and 12 cabanas…each with its own bathroom. 

After getting situated, we had a couple hours to chill out and recover from the 2 day journey through the jungle.  I situated myself in a hammock and spent some time watching the river life.  After dinner, we headed into the jungle for a night hike.  Along the way, we saw everything from tarantulas to bats.  Our guide named Romelo, had been working in this particular stretch of the rainforest for several years.  He had come across everything from Jaguars and Anacondas to Malaria and botflies.  Despite the assortment of dangers, he loved his job and was damn good at it. 

After getting schooled on Amazon wildlife for a couple hours, we headed back to camp to wind down before bed.  We were all sitting around having a few beers when one of the other backpackers came across a boa-constrictor on the trail to her cabin.  Romelo captured it and released it INSIDE the lodge.  He said that they had a lot of rats lately, and was hoping the snake would catch one.  We spent the rest of the night concerned about running into the snake.

The following morning, we woke up early to take another walk through the Jungle.  We waded through marshland, climbed trees, and learned about more species of wildlife before returning later that afternoon. 

That evening I would get my first glimpse of the Amazons most famous predator…the piranha.  We headed up stream via canoe until we arrived at a smaller river streaming off the Rio Negro.  Catching Piranha sounds much simpler then it really is.  The technique involves slapping a piece of meat on top of the water and jigging until you get a bit.  The Piranhas are extremely intelligent and fast, a combination that makes for some frustrating fishing.  I would get a bit every time I drop my hook into the water, but never a fish.   After about an hour, I landed my first fish, which weighed around a pound or so.  We would eventually eat the delicious Piranha for dinner.

The 3rd day of the trip was used to scope out river life.  We woke up early to cruise the river before sunrise.  We were lucky enough to run into one of the world's most endangered creatures...the pink dolphin.  We spent an hour or so following the pod around.  Around midday, we stopped at a traditional village to catch up with some locals.  They showed us how to make yucca, which is considered the food of the jungle (didn’t have much taste to it).  Before heading back to camp, we stopped at a bird watching tower to catch sunset from above the canopy. 

The final day, we did a bit more piranha fishing and river cruising before heading back to the riverside village to catch a bus back to Quito.  My time in the Amazon was short, but satisfying.  Seeing the great wonder in person is something that I will never forget.

I am currently on Colombia’s Caribbean coast in a city called Cartagena.  I have been in Colombia for close to a month now, and have really enjoyed it.  Tomorrow, I will head to a place called Taygonga, where I will spend my 25th birthday. 

I lost my Aunt yesterday.  I am really glad that I got to spend some time with her when she came to visit St Louis a few years ago.  I have several vivid memories from that trip that I will keep forever.  RIP Aunt Rhonda, you will be missed.
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