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Deep in the Amazon jungle

Spotting boobies in Ecuador

View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

A miniature plane (in my standards) took us from big Quito to shabby little Lago Agrio in the Oriente, Ecuador’s Amazon Basin. The change in climate was overwhelming. It was now hot and humid! Goodbye warm clothes, hello summer clothing and ice cold white wine!

Although the city’s official name is Nueva Loja, everybody calls it Lago Agrio, Bitter Lake, after Sour Lake in Texas from where Texaco is. Texaco was the first company to drill oil there and did a terrible job in keeping the rainforest clean. During the time it was operating there it supposedly dumped a huge amount of toxic waste, water and raw crude into the rainforest, which resulted in big troubles for the indigenous population and the ecosystem. Even though they stopped operating there for over 15 years ago it is said that there are still places left that leak out toxics into the nature. Unbelievable.

Another interesting fact about this town is that it is so close to the Colombian border that allegedly there are a bunch of hiding drug smugglers and guerrilla people around. Although we as tourists shouldn’t have any troubles because of this, we were happy to move on the next morning towards the Cuyabeno reserve close to the north-eastern border. There was nothing to see in town anyway, just a lot of construction work and shitty streets.
We started our tour with a 4 hour bus ride that took us to the Cuyabeno river. On the way we saw a terrible amount of rainforest torn down in order to make way for this endless amount of oil palm trees. It was sad to see, but what can you do? When we got to the river it started raining and by the time we got in the boats it was pouring down. So the beginning of the boat trip was a bit stressing, but when the rain cleared and the sun came out we started taking more notice of the surroundings and we became aware of the spectacular nature around us. The river front was covered with all kinds of diverse beautiful green plants and trees, all kinds of colourful birds and butterflies were flying about and there was this constant ”rainforest noise” around us.

Oil palms


When we got to the lodge the ”noise” was even more apparent: all kinds of never heard before weird sounds of insects and birds made this constant thick noise. It was quite amazing. The lodge was quite cool, too. We had our own small huts with our own bathrooms. But these were no regular huts; instead of windows there was just a net or only an opening and when you stood and brushed your teeth in the bathroom you were staring right into the jungle and shared the views with the occasional frog or spider that happened to be by the sink.


This is our toilet. Check out the frog next to Mickus


A spider in our room

A frog in our toilet

The first evening we took a stroll into the jungle in the darkness. It was quite cool to see all kinds of insects crawling around on the trees and leaves. The next day we did a few hours’ walk in the jungle in bright light and it was quite different from when it was dark. The guide showed us different kinds of medicinal plants and other tricks of the jungle like how to make a strong drumming noise using a big leaf, how to get fresh water from the roots of a particular tree, how to climb a tree very fast and how to build a trap for small animals. We also tried some piranha fishing but with much worse luck than in the Pampas in Bolivia. We didn’t catch anything, but we had lots of fun anyway. We also got to taste some of the delicacies of the jungle. Inside the bark of a certain tree live some small ants that taste like lemon. It was hard to believe it, but when you licked up one from the park it tasted just like sweet lemon! At some point the guide gathered some weird nuts from the ground under some trees and beat them open with his huge jungle knife. Inside were thick white larvae. Oh yes, we got to eat these sewer tasting bad boys. Bo was the bravest; he put the whole thing in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. ”Delicious”, he said.










These are the maggots we tasted

Drinking fresh water from a tree root


Building an animal trap




Since we were a bit tired and annoyed of our infantile guide we decided to do something different from the rest of the group the second day. We ended up paddling to a small village a few hours away. It turned out to be quite rewarding, because moving down the river without the noise from the engine was pretty different. It was possible to spot much more wildlife without the engine scaring the animals away, and the trip was far more enjoyable with only the “rainforest noise” around us.



Monkeys in the tree




We did an interesting stop on our way to the village. We had with us this guy from Germany who’s passion was spiders. He had come to the jungle only to find different species of spiders. His trip had not been in vain because he had already managed to find two unknown species of spiders. How cool is that? Many of the spiders live in holes that you can find in the ground if you know to look for them. So on our way to the village we stopped at a place in order to find some. We found a couple of holes that he dug up. He found a spider in both of them. For us it was exciting but he had already seen these species the day before so he wasn’t that impressed so he put them back in their holes. The night before we actually went spider hunting in the dark, which was quite exciting. We saw lots of spiders of different colours and sizes. But no new species that time either.

One of the spiders we found


In the village that we paddled to we visited this bar/home of somebody where we had some beers to cool off from the heat. The family also offered us some chicha, a traditional indigenous beverage. Chicha is a fermented drink made either out of yucca or corn. The one made out of corn is traditionally made in the highlands, whereas the yucca one is made in the Oriente, so we got to taste chicha de yucca. Yucca is a root that is kind of soft and tasteless. They seem to use it a lot like we use potatoes to accompany a meal. While I’m at it I might as well mention the banana. I can really see why they call Ecuador the banana republic, because they eat a lot of bananas here. You can see them everywhere, and almost with all meals you get these pieces of bananas that have been pressed with this special kind of tool and fried into hard thick lumps.



The last night in the jungle we went caiman hunting. We already thought we were out of luck when somebody spotted a couple of shiny eyes in the distance. We went closer and got to see a baby caiman up close when the young guy accompanying us picked it up and showed it to us.


The last day of our jungle trip we travelled again 4 hours along the river and 4 hours along the road and then we were back in shabby Lago Agrio again at the small airport. It was time to say goodbye to Barbro and Bo. It had been an adventure, but as all good things, this too had to come to an end.

And then there were two. Again.


Posted by AnnaMickus 08:26 Archived in Ecuador

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