Deep dive into the Rainforest
Trip Start Feb 02, 2012
6Trip End Feb 17, 2012
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Where I stayed
Sacha Lodge, Coca, Ecuador
What I did
Saturday morning and we were pulling out of Quito with a flight on Tame Airline and their Embraer 190. Security is a breeze. In other words, not very secure. With a 30 minute flight and a change in elevation from 9,600 to around 900 feet sea level, we are in the Amazon basin. Arriving in Coca, a small community at the point the Coca river intersects the Napo. About 4,000 miles downriver after crossing the Columbian, Peruvian and Brazilian borders and intersecting the Amazon along the way, the water passing Coca would dump into the Atlantic with a whole lot of rainforest in between.
At Coca we boarded a motorized canoe for our 1 ½ hour trip down the Napo River to Sacha Lodge . The Napo river is wide with light brown water produced by runoff from the Andes Mountains. It has lots of current and is full of sandbars and other river traffic with people and freight. Along the riverbank there are several native family settlements with the real dugout canoes as their form of transportation.
The boat landing at Sacha Lodge is only the first step in arriving. A 30 minute walk through a rainforest path and then a 10 minute canoe ride across a beautiful blackwater lake and you arrive at an impressive lodge that has all of its supplies coming in the same way we arrived. There are no roads.
Sacha Lodge is owned by a Swiss national that fell in love with the ecology and decided to build a lodge. The lodge has 26 cabins, no air conditioning, generator power, no telephones, no TV and a staff of guides and support staff that are 90% Ecuadorian and mostly indigenous tribe people. To sum it up, if you are looking for a rainforest experience, this is a place to be.
We begin with a lecture on the area and then on to a fitting for rubber boots that will be your best friend for the remainder of the stay. Did I mention it rains a lot. We are assigned our nature guide Sebastian, a college grad in Eco-tourism who is leaving with us to take a job as head of bird research for Ecuador's rainforest and a native guide, Adelmo, a member of the Quichuan indigenous Indians.
An evening hike in the rainforest with flashlights is our first outing. While Sebastian had an unbelievable scientific knowledge of birds, reptiles and insects, Adelmo had an uncanny ability of knowing where things were supposed to be, spotting them with a vision level I wish I had and a wealth of knowledge of the folklore, medicinal properties of plants and basic crafts used in everyday living for indigenous rainforest Indians.
Sleeping without air conditioning in the rainforest with a symphony of rainforest noises yielded a surprisingly good nights sleep.
Wake up comes early with this rainforest bunch. The animals and birds move early before the midday heat, so we are up at 5:30 and on the trail at 6:30. Guess what, it was raining. But in anticipation of the rain stopping we hiked about a mile to the "canopy walk". This is where Mary went well beyond her comfort level. The canopy walk is comprised of 3 towers that are 140 feet tall,
Back to the lodge in time for a few minutes in the butterfly house and lunch. Meals are at a reserved table with your guide. The meals are adequate, not extraordinary and deserts and native fruits are great.
With a couple of hours for relaxation, we take off for an afternoon hike. Adelmo takes us on a whirlwind tour of medicinal plants. Our favorite was the “dragons blood”, a dark red sap from a tree with the dragons blood supposedly removing age spots on the skin. Mary is going for this product immediately and subsequently gets 6 ounces in Coca for a clinical trial.
On our walk from our cabin to our evening meal, one of our co-travelers had spotted a small caiman (looks like an ugly alligator) in a drainage ditch. I got some great photos of it and showed them to our guide at dinner.
The following day was up early again with a canoe ride and a hike to the river landing on the Napo. We went by motorized canoe down river several miles to the Yasuni National Park to see a “parrot lick”. This was a bank apparently rich in minerals that the yellow crested parrot among others really loved. There were hundreds of colorful and noisy parrots clinging to the earthen bank, eating dirt. A very unusual sight.
Mary, rainforested out, abandoned us for the afternoon outing. We took a canoe up a tributary to the blackwater lake and hiked for a short distance to the biggest treehouse I have ever seen.
Our last outing was a moonlight canoe outing on the lake and into the blackwater swamps. Our goal was to spot the larger caiman but a bright moon light keeps those critters under water. We did spot some electric eel and a beautiful night sky
Packing bags for the return to Quito was a real treat.
Our Tame Airline flight to Quito was uneventful. Back into high altitude but no symptoms (we drank our cocoa tea in Coca) we boarded our bus and are on our way to Otavalo to see the beautiful weaving products of the indigenous indians in the Otavalo area.