The Amazon Basin

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
1
41
238
Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Thursday, February 17, 2005

At first it looked like a stack of old car tires, piled haphazardly in a tree in the middle of the river. When we got closer, I could see a greenish-brown diamond pattern along what would have been the centre of the tread. Then it moved. Its head, smallish compared to the rest of its body, was about the size of a large fist. Then the anaconda slid slowly into the river. We watched for almost two minutes as the entire six or perhaps seven metres of it disappeared below the dark surface.

Traveling with Tom and Margaret, a Dutch couple that we met in the Galapagos, we were determined to live and sleep with the creatures of the Amazon jungle - at least for a couple of days. From Quito it's an eight hour bus ride to the north-eastern town of Lago Agrio - gateway to the Amazon basin. Beautiful waterfalls greeted us as the bus headed down the Andean mountains towards the jungle. Tractor trailers, buses and vegetable trucks littered the mountain crevices, smashed to pieces - bad breaks or bad drivers, who knows? War planes zoomed overhead and camouflaged soldiers with machine guns walked the streets of Lago Agrio as we ate our breakfasts of scrambled eggs, untoasted Wonderbread and bad instant coffee. Then it was three hours by pickup truck over a bumpy dirt road. When the road ended, the river began. The final leg was a 35 km motorized canoe journey down the narrow, windy Cuyabeno River.

Our place, the Cuyabeno Lodge, sat on the edge of a lagoon. The lagoon is split by the equator. On any given boat or hiking trip, you might cross hemispheres six or seven times. One is no cooler than the other. It┤s so hot at the lodge, that the suntan lotion that came out of the bottle thick and creamy in the Galapagos came out like 2% or maybe 1% milk at Cuyabeno. Our mostly open-air, semi-detached cabin consisted of a bed with mosquito net. We were given four candles for light because there was no electricity. There was also a toilet and shower in our cabin. Only eight to ten drops of sun-induced hot water came out of the shower at a time. Cuyabeno knows no cold.

Our Ecuadorian guide Paul had the eyes of a falcon and hands faster than a viper┤s lunge. Paul could see and catch frogs on the jungle floor that were not only the colour of the floor, but fast and less than 1/2 a centimetre in size. He caught bats, giant spiders, including a tarantula, and bugs of all size and description. It was Paul who found the anaconda. He showed us five of the twelve species of monkeys in Ecuador - one of them no bigger than a Toronto squirrel. Paul showed us river dolphins and a two-metre caiman. The list went on and on. Paul even knew a little doctoring. He told us that there were no malaria-carrying mosquitoes in that particular area of Cuyabeno. Both Ellen and I smiled, thanked him, and popped our anti-malaria pills as fast as you can say ĘShow us more little frogs, PaulĘ.

And of course at the end of a long hot day, we swam right out there in the heart of the lagoon. Paul said that the caimans and snakes wouldn┤t hurt us. It was far too hot not to trust him on that one.

JUST THE FACTS:

So far on this trip we've traveled in close quarters with 21 people (Galapagos and Cuyabeno). Only one person was a smoker - a young female doctor from Holland.
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