|Well, we made it, but I think the smell of our clothing arrived first. It was a great trip, but we both felt four days was enough in the humid and poisonous plant and animal filled rain forest. Melissa says she has so much more respect now for people who do field work in the rainforest.
We flew out of Quito to Coca, which Tom referred to as a "frontier town", which was very appropriate. The flight was about 25 minutes and considered the easy part of the transportation extravagnza. Once we landed we took a bus. We all climbed aboard the top and rode threw the City until we reached the water. The attached photos give you some idea what each one of these transportation devices looked like. We climbed aboard a metal motorized boat and rode down the Napo river for 2-1/2 hours. We then walked in-land for about 15 to 20 minutes where we got into canoes, crossed the lake and then reached our final destination.
It was isolated and that made the adventure even better. They had several main huts for dining and drinks and then individual huts for two people. Once we got there we got some snacks and were assigned rubber boots for our daily walks. The food throughout our stay was excellent, lots of local products. We got a different fresh fruit juice with every meal. That has actually been the norm throughout all of our stay in Ecuador, makes the idea of drinking orange juice every morning back home seem very boring. Our favorite fruit juice thus far has been Wanabana.
We reached our little bamboo hut which luckily had netting over the beds and electricity in the bathroom for some hours of the day. At night we had kerosine lamps. Along with the lamps came an assortment of insects. Nothing like really large cockroches, terminte ants and grasshoppers hanging around the sink and toliet throughout the evening hours. The showers were heated but came from the lake. I think they filtered some of the mud out of the water so you only had a slight film on you once you got out.
Now for the really interesting stuff. We went out for a walk in the rainforest in the afternoon after arriving and spent some time in their butterfly farm where they harvest butterfly pupae to transport around the world. Quite beautiful. Then we went for a two hour walk looking for critters and discussing the fauna and flora. Once we returned we took that shower I talked about earlier and changed our clothes. Since it was so humid our walking clothes were fairly wet, so you would hang them up hoping they would dry for the next excursion. They never would though.
The next morning we got up to go out to look at parrots and parakeets at clay licks. We were out about five or six hours that morning and went to several locations looking at some different types of parrots. Absolutely beautiful. We didn't get a chance to see any macaws but on a walking excursion we did hear them and see them flying above. Getting to the different clay licks was rather interesting. We hiked through lots of hungry mud. Now I understand the rubber boot assignments in the beginning. At the last location there were birds with the most beautiful colors under their wings so when they would fly, it would be this mass of bright colors flying by. All of a sudden they all decided they were done with the salt lick and they flew off together. This time they flew right at us and we all ducked as hundreds flew over our heads.
We went back and did lunch and then went out for another three hour hike. Yes, in those same clothes. Kathy and the others all ate lemon flavored ants which the naturalist found in a tree limb. Unlike the Galapagos, actually seeing animals you are looking for occurs only about 5% of the time. We did see our arch nemisis, the poisonous congo ant, more times than we wanted too. We did get to see many different plants and flowers.
That night we went out in the canoes in the dark looking for caymons (crocodiles). We saw one of them, only its eyes up above the water.
The third day we got up for a two or three hour walk. We visited an observation tower 140 feet up where we looked for birds and monkeys. Melissa says all the years searching for birds during her research helped her out. She spotted many animals before anyone else.
In the afternoon we got into wood canoes which require you to be balancing them at all times. I was sure we would go over at any time. During this trip our guide, Diego, is showing us this wasp nest. He says yell out the name of the lake, but of course he is the only one that remembers the name so he is on his own. Seconds later you can hear inside the wasp's nest the sound of marching soldiers. Then he tells us to row as fast as we can.
We finally get back and get to relax a little and take a swim in that rather large mud puddle known as the lake, which is connected to the river. We all get out and are covered with mud, it really accentuated every hair on our bodies. Fabulous, I couldn't remember if I had opened my mouth at all while in the water. God knows what was under that water. The night before we were looking for caymons in the same location. There is also supposedly parana in the lake.
So we go shower and then yes get back into that same clothing and canoe across the lake to pristine dense forest to look for my favorite, "snakes". Yes hunting for anaconda with really large spiders and webs with wasps on branches. Needless to say neither Melissa and I were in our comfort zone at the time. And that water I probably swallowed is now rumbling in my large intestine. Well we didn't see any snakes to my relief but on the canoe ride back we saw this family of monkeys. It was a mother and her two young'ins playing tag in a large tree. It was really cute.
The last day they woke us up at 5:00 to drink some coffee and do that transportation nightmare in reverse. We got back to Quito, relaxed a little and then met in Artha and Tom's room for cocktails and then out to dinner. We ended the evening in an Irish pub drinking Irish coffees and an assortment of other cocktails. We have a picture of the group attached. They were all great to travel with and we will miss them. There was Artha and Tom from Boston, Beata from Poland also the sister of Dorota. Dorota and Marek from Chicago originally from Poland, and then Carol from Australia.
We have now all said our goodbyes and Melissa and I are headed to Lima, Peru tomorrow.