Surviving The Deep Jungle

As some of you may already know, the Pope is making his way around South America, which included a stop in Ecuador.  Since there were so many road closures, it was impossible to get to work, meaning no work last Monday and Tuesday.  Whenever you get a 4 day weekend, it is crucial that you take advantage and go on a trip and some friends decided that they wanted to really experience the jungle.  We were able to find a 4 day/3 night tour for a good price so we grabbed our bug spray and anything else that we thought was “jungle appropriate” and got on a bus.  We knew this would be an adventure, but I don’t think we realized the adventure would start with the bus ride.

Since the bus ride to the town of Lago Agrio is somewhere in the 6-8 hour range, we figured it would be best to take an overnight bus.  Yes, I know that is a wide range, but with these busses you never know how many stops they will make and due to a lot of rain there was a possibility of taking a detour because of  roads being closed from landslides.  We got lucky and THE road to the jungle had just opened that day.  During the bus ride, we watched a movie that was highly inappropriate considering there were children on the bus, but thats Ecuador- these kids are tough.  At around 3am, the bus stopped and a police officer forced all of us to get off the bus.  We had to line up and show him our IDs.  I was praying that everything would work out since all I had was my drivers license and a horrible black and white photocopy of my passport-and being deported was not something I wanted to be a part of this adventure.  Pretty sure the cop didn’t care and let all of us get back on the bus.  At around 6am, we noticed that most of the people had gotten off of the bus already, and we started to get a little concerned. Turns out, we missed our stop and went 1 hour too far-oops.  We thought Lago Agrio was the last stop, but you live and learn.  Take this as a lesson that when taking an overnight bus, always ask if your destination is the last stop or not because they don’t feel the need to openly give you this information.  So we got off of the bus, walked across the street, and got on another bus heading back.  An hour later, the kind man that was collecting the bus fares told us that we had finally reached Lago Agrio!  Woohoo step 1 down! We got breakfast and waited another 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the tour company bus to pick us up.  Once we got on that bus, it was another 1 1/2 hour drive to the river.  Then, at the river, we all hopped into a motorized canoe for another 1 1/2 hour journey to the lodge.  I should also mention that it was pouring down rain during the entire canoe ride- not the best canoe ride but at least we made it to the lodge…finally.

The lodge was so cute and was basically 8-10 huts all connected by boardwalks.

After arriving at the lodge, we were fed immediately and the food was amazing.  There was also hot chocolate and coffee available to help warm up from being soaked.  My favorite part was the hut full of hammocks!!

If you can’t tell from how long it took to get here, this place was REMOTE!  There was only 1 light in our room and no actual ceiling, no outlets in the room, and the lights were solar powered so they turned it off at 10pm.  There was a charging station down in the hut with the kitchen and dining area so we were able to charge cameras and anything else you needed charged.

After being fed and relaxing in the hammocks for a bit, it was time for our first jungle adventure.  We all got into the canoe and went around the different areas around the lodge looking for animals.  The first animal we spotted was a sloth, and it pretty much just sat there in the tree.  In the Amazon, there is a special kind of dolphin called the Pink River Dolphin.  I was very excited to see this since you have to be in a specific part of the jungle to see it and obviously because its a pink dolphin.  Apparently, the pink river dolphin doesn’t have to be pink…it was grey, and I was disappointed.  Our guide explained to us that some of them are pink because they are older and have more muscles and that vasculature gives the dolphins a pink color.  Didn’t matter the reason, I was bummed.  Once we were done with that ride, it was time for dinner back at the lodge.  Once again, food was great, but we were exhausted so it was an early night for us.  Being in the humid jungle, there were lots of mosquitos so we had to sleep with mosquito nets.  I must say that I have gotten pretty good and setting up this net.

Our room kinda looked like a crime scene with all of the nets.

The next morning we woke up to the sounds of bird chirping and the taste of instant coffee.  We all agreed that breakfast was by far the best meal- fresh bread, quiche, fruit, and pancakes were just some of what we had over the 4 days.  As soon as breakfast was done, we headed out in the canoe and went for a 3 hour jungle walk.  This time of year is rainy season in the Amazon so there were parts of our walk that were very flooded, so this was definitely a dirty trek.

However, we were able to see some lots of monkeys, birds, and vegetation.

Every afternoon was free for us to relax, take a nap, or play in the water near the dock of the lodge.  We passed a lot of time hanging out in the hammocks and playing cards, and it was such a nice break from civilization and social media.  That night, we went out again around dusk to watch the sunset and search for the night animals like alligators.  And we found this guy, which our canoe driver decided to get as close to him as possible- these jungle people have absolutely no fear.

The animal life in the Amazon is incredible, but the sunsets are even more spectacular.  I would say to visit there just for the sunsets alone.

The next morning, we woke up early for some group bird watching.  My ADD personality is not exactly a good fit for bird watching, but I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity so I climbed up the tower and watched some birds.  We saw a ton of vultures and other birds that I can’t remember what they are.  Then, one of the guides took my phone to take pictures from the telescope, which turned out incredible-good thing I decided to join!

After a long 40 minutes of watching birds, we decided to go back to our room and sleep until it was time for breakfast.  Today’s activity was paddling a canoe down the river to an indigenous village to learn and cook some pan de yuca with one of the indigenous women.  It poured the entire ride and we paddled for about 1 1/2 hours.  I definitely got my workout in for the day with that activity.  As we were waiting for the rain to stop, my friend and I decided to lay down in the hammocks that were hanging inside the hut.  All of the sudden, we heard a loud sound of wood breaking so we tried to jump out of the hammocks, but that takes about 2 minutes to get out off.  We looked behind us and saw that one of the support beams broke at the corner of the hut.  From the outside, you could see how that side of the roof was significantly lower than the rest of the roof.  We actually broke these peoples hut, I still can’t believe that happened.  No more rice for us I guess.  In our defense, there was already a lot of termite damage in the wood and we just happened to finish it off.  So we wouldn’t break anything else, we then went to collect the yuca, which is a root and looks similar to a potato.  We helped to peel the yuca and grate the yuca, then the woman cooked it for us.  It looked like she was making the crust for a pizza, and this pan de yuca was very good!

Since all of us were full, it was time to head back to the lodge.  The rain had stopped and the sky cleared up for a beautiful sunny ride back.  The rest of the day was spent playing more cards and relaxing in the hammocks, which we didn’t break this time.

Our trip back to Quito was was much less eventful since we chose to take a private van for only $8 more than the bus ride was, and this van took us within a few blocks of where we live.  This trip was so much fun, but we were all ready to get back to civilization and to a place where our clothes would actually dry.  The Amazon is such an amazing place full of adventure and beauty, which I highly recommend everyone to see at some point in their life.

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