Sunday, June 24, 2012
QUITO - COCA - AMAZON
Saturday morning started off with breakfast at seven so we could get on bus and get to airport for a 10 o'clock flight to Coca. We arrived at the check in counter about 8:35 and quickly realized that our flight was now at 9 a.m. Who knows why the flight time changed. We hustled through "security" and boarded the plane. Our flight was about 25 minutes. To travel from Quito to Coca by car would take nine hours. The Coca airport was very small and we quickly found our Amazon guide Libbio. We loaded up in an open air bus and rode to the dock where our 16 passenger motorized canoe awaited. We watched for about 30 minutes while the crew loaded everything up on this long skinny boat. Two 40 hp engines were attached to the back of the canoe. As we waited at the dock Libbio took our European shoe size so that rubber boots could be supplied….hmmmm…..what are these for?
I wonder how many people realize that the Amazon river can be very shallow? I certainly did not…but 30 minutes into our five hour Amazon river canoe ride we were stuck. Yes, our boat got caught in very shallow water and we were beached. The crew jumped in the water and began to push us backwards looking for deeper water. It took 5 - 10 minutes to dislodge us. Finally free we continued on. Every so often we would really slow down so the crew could look for the current to decide what route to follow. Our destination was 96 kilometers from Coca but there are no roads that lead here…only the river.
About 30 minutes from our Amazon Dolphin Lodge the boat pulls over to a small dock in the middle of nowhere. I young lady and two children come out and we pay a $10 per person fee to travel.
The lodge that we stayed at for four nights is the farthest east on the Amazon. No tourist cabanas are past us. Our accommodations are typical for this area. We stay in thatched roof, bamboo walled, generator supplied cabanas (lights from 6-9 p.m.). We do have mosquito nets to sleep under. This is a big improvement from Mindo where we had NO protection from insects. In fact one day in Mindo I woke up and drowsily walked into bathroom to brush my hair…Holy cow! I had about 50-75 tiny red bites across my forehead. They did not itch but I looked like I had the measles. Anyway, here we have other bugs but our repellent seems to be working and we are getting a break from all of the Mindo area biting. We do share out accommodations with lots of insects….I have seen the largest spider in my adult life living here amongst us. In fact once student, Callie, was taking a shower and down came this 4-5 inch spider. They do not harm us other than giving us a heart attack when we first see it.
Our days are filled with walking in our rubber boots through the massive jungle or riding in our canoes looking for toucans, monkeys and caymans. We have seen lots of interesting wild life but we have not been really close up for great photos. On our first jungle hike Libbio talked about the indigenous people of this area and how they survive. He showed us plants used for medicine, palms leaves that he wove and could be used for roof, mattresses, camouflage from the jaguars, etc. Very interesting hike and stories from Libbio.
But overall, my favorite experience was fishing for piranas. Libbio and the crew made each of us a fishing line attached to a piece of wood about six inches long. How re we going to land a fish using this, I thought. We loaded up on three canoes. the big wooden canoe had an 8 hp engine attached to it ( I chose this boat ). The two lighter canoes were attached by rope to the big one and all three boats glided slowly across the laguna and over to the river. soon we were fishing, using beef for bait. I tossed my line overbaord and got a hit quickly and pulled in the first piranha of the day. It was about 8-9 inches but had grande teeth. Everyone in my boat caught piranhas (other boats were not so successful). Sam and Dennis, the boat captain, caught several big piranhas. We had fresh fried piranhas for lunch.