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Ecuador Rain Forest Cubayano Reserve

BackPaco

Day 1.

The Amazonian adventure began months ago when we dedicated many hours into finding the ultimate Amazonian adventure possible. It is easy to get screwed over by all the offers out there. Most of them are too expensive for what they are really worth or they simply aren’t really into the Amazonian forest; they are a small patch of forest very close to the city. We decided to get a lodge in a National Park that protects the forest. By doing so we were certain to be in the middle of pristine primary jungle hundreds of kilometers from the nearest civilisations. We booked our tour with the touristic agency Imagine Ecuador: it was simple they sent us many choices and then we confirmed and paid everything by email. Amongst all the choices we decided to get the 5 days / 4 nights Cubayano  Eco-lodge in the middle of the Cubayano national park of Ecuador.

It all began in Quito; after 2 days of visiting the city we had to buy our bus tickets. To reach our destination, Rio Lagrio, we had to head out towards the east, down the mountains, into the Amazonian basin. For the ridiculous sum of 8$ we got our 7 hour night bus ride that was scheduled to leave at 11pm. The bus ride wasn’t that smooth, lot of turning and the bathrooms at the end of the bus were broken and therefore inaccessible. A guy eventually started to throw out a couple of bench behind us; poor thing, it lasted for a good 45 minutes until nothing would come out. The smell propagated throughout the bus and that didn’t help to make the ride enjoyable. Eventually, the bus stopped for a bathroom break. It was an interesting sight, there actually where no washrooms anywhere to be seen and everybody just pissed on the wall of a house. At least 40 people… I am glad I wasn’t the owner of that house.

The second part of the trip went fairly well, I fell asleep and woke up quite disoriented in Lagro Agrio Bus stop; it was 6 am. We paid a taxi the modest sum of 3 dollars to end up 15 minutes later at Hotel Pizza D’iamor; our rendezvous spot. The indications on our paper were simply that at 9 am that morning someone would pick us up there. So we ate a breakfast while watching some weird movies in Spanish on the big screen; I also fell asleep a bit here and there.

Jairo, our epic Amazonian guide showed up and told us to fallow him. We entered a huge van where Gasoline, material, food and water were stored. Being in a protected location everything must get out, and new material must come in; nothing can be left to waste in the park. The drive lasted around 2 hours and eventually we got to a bridge and stopped. Under that bridge a small river would connect us to the Lodge by boat. Being 4 strong guys, we helped the team pack up the boat and do the transfer of material; it was also a way to get the guide to like us and work harder for us during the days to come (you really want your guide to be on your side.)

The boat ride was amazing. Gliding on a brown river with massive walls of vegetation on each side; caging us on this small affluent of the Amazonian river. Within 15 minutes we saw a pack of hundreds of small monkeys jumping from branches to branches. There were many of them and also cute little babies taking leaps from branches to branches. These squirrel Tailed monkey answering back to the perfect sound imitations of our guide.

Every seconds we were looking everywhere hoping to catch the glimpse of an animal or rare sighting. We saw toucans, Shouter Monkeys, all kind of birds and some school of fishes moving in the water.  Towards the middle of our 2 hour ride it started to rain a little and then abruptly stopped. At the end of the trip, few minutes before arriving, it started to rain extremely violently; I had never seen so much rain fall at once. Even though it is the dry season it does rain a lot; it is THE rainforest after all.

Upon arrival we took our bags out and we dropped them in a hut with several hammocks. We were all soaking wet and we placed our poncho and wet clothes so they might dry out. A nice lunch was waiting for us where we got an appetizer, a great meal (delicious chicken!) and some strawberries for dessert. The lunch did us a lot of good, and we ate while being given instructions on the lodge and being pointed out some tarantulas on the walls.

After the lunch we were shown our room, in the anaconda hut, where mosquito nets surrounded our beds. The room is great and a private bathroom and shower is included. We dropped our bags and headed outside where our guide wanted to show us something. He found a Boa under the central hut and wanted to catch it. He came from behind the snake and in a single movement he inserted his fingers on the head of the serpent so he would not be bitten. After manipulating us he asked if we wanted to try and grab it; me and Felix accepted that invitation gladly. It is something to hold a snake pet but holding a wild Boa is a different experience! Pretty much, it didn’t want to be picked up and didn’t like us shutting its mouth shut. After a while of petting it the guide took it and brought it to the kitchen where it could eat some rodent and other animals if they were to point their nose out.

It is now siesta time. As I am writing this in a hammock, with my friends sleeping in theirs, a rain cloud is passing over us and greys out the sky. While writing this I am also multitasking and doing a video about the city of Bogota. The greatest part of this moment is just hearing all the sounds of the insects and birds and the screams of monkeys in the distance. After the siesta, we are supposed to get in swimming suit as we will go swim in a lake and try to find some caimans. We will surely come back after dusk so we were instructed to bring out headlamp for the insect hunting part.

So far, I love the amazon, it is a dream come true!

Following: Yesterday Night was crazy. We got our equipment and got into bathing suit and then headed out to the boat where our guide Jairo was waiting for us. We headed down a part of the river we haven’t seen so far while spotting the wildlife. There are all kinds of awesome birds but one of them got my attention. They are pretty much living reptiles; Stinky Turkeys. They have been around since dinosaurs (and they actually look a lot like them) and they only feed on leaves which their two stomachs can digest. We headed out towards the swimming spot while receiving all kind of interesting information for Jairo. We entered a small bay, and we got explained that this spot is a really good one for 8 meter anacondas and 3-5 meters caimans… and then we stopped the boat because this was the swimming spot.

Swimming in a very brown river (same color then my coffee) where you can’t see anything but you know perfectly there are all kinds of predators around is an interesting experience. You can’t really relax and it is more a dare then a fun bath. We swam for a few minutes before getting out and taking a small walk. It was around 5h00 and already at the distance it was pitch black. Minutes by minutes everything got darken in the east while in the west we were offered an incredible sunset. Once it was dark enough we boarded the boat and started our night hunt.

Going through several rivers with our head lamps was a crazy experience. When pointing the lamp in the water we could see thousands of small fishes near the surface and some bigger ones beneath them. We were dashing on our boat in the darkness and sometimes when we pointed the ledges of the river we could see some red spots that revealed to be the reflection of the eyes of a Cayman. Most of them just disappeared under water once we got close but we managed to get close to some really big ones.

At a moment we stopped at a spot where the river got much smaller and it was much more shallow. Within seconds our guide pointed out an electric eel of around 2 meters swimming in the middle of hundreds of smaller fishes. It was amazing but it then started to rain A LOT. It made the water muddier and harder to see. Our head lamps could barely be of use due to the intensity of the rain but our guide still managed to catch a baby cayman which was very friendly. We played with it a bit before putting it back in the water.

Going back to the Lodge was even crazier; with the rain so thick our light couldn’t even reach the sides of the river. The boat was going incredibly fast and our guide asked us to turn out all light so we could see the fireflies… it was a good sighting but we were afraid for our life knowing how hard these waters are to navigate and seeing that the pitch blackness didn’t encourage the guide to slow the boat down. It was just one of those moments where you have no control and you enjoy the present moment. I think that last phrase pretty much sums up the Amazonian experience as a whole.

We ended the night with good food at the Lodge and by playing cards the four of us plus our guide.

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