Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, Feb 14th, Quito, Ecuador


We just flew back to Quito, after four days at the Cuyabeno Lodge, which is reachable via a plane flight over the Andes to Lagoagrio,  a bus for two hours to the Bridge, and a motorized canoe for four hours upriver to the Lodge.  We just returned in reverse order, and almost didn’t get out as the water level in the river was so low we had to drag the canoe many times.  Tomorrow, probably would have been too late.  As our guide, Enrique, answered, “We’d probably just have to wait for the next big rains in the Andes.”.

Cuyabeno Lodge is a 25-year old environmental camp begun when the oil fields were busy, and tensions were higher between indigenous communities (Siona and Secoya) and Ecuadorian leaders.  It now sits in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Preserve, in the Comassario del Putamayo in the region of Mocoa, on the Ecuadorian side of the Putamayo River.  It was founded by some of those responsible for establishing the wildlife preserve.  Housing about twenty in tent cabins, with a dining hall, storage area, and three-story viewing tower, the Lodge occupies a hill whose size depends upon the river.  When it’s low, you’re thankful for mud boots. 

I really am amazed at the stamina I’ve seen Pat exhibit over these last few days.  I know most of you realize how fragile her knee is, and so will understand the stress of climbing up and down hundreds of feet of narrow, slippery trails from the river to the camp several times a day.  Now add to that our first full day here, in which the morning consisted of pursuing an anaconda across about a half-mile of thigh-deep mud, amidst dense with spine-covered branches.   Falling face-first into a bush full of spines, after twisting her knee deep into the mud, I saw how really resolute she is.  I think that helping each other's struggle with our infirmities has brought us even closer together.

Each day was filled with morning, afternoon, and evening forest walks and boat trips.  All of the support staff were excellent, and we could not have been better educated and guided.  One of my favorite outings, though didn’t think I would enjoy it, was piranha fishing.  The final competition between Robert and Mary Anne (she narrowly won with three in the boat, two others out of the water) was intense and hilarious.

While I began the Amazon adventure caring and using both my regular, wide angle lens and my telephoto, I soon found more interest in using the former, and will depend on a couple of my fellow traveler's photos for shots of the birds and monkeys.  I just couldn't get close enough with my 300mm lens, and will add those shots to my albums when we collaborate after our return.  For those of you who are dying to see them, you'll just have to be patient.  I'm hoping that by concentrating on capturing the story of the adventure in my regular lens shots, you'll be able to follow along with us better.

The high points?  Watching a Harpy Eagle fly overhead while we drifted down the river, carrying a monkey (him, not us).  Where and when snakes would show up.  Learning about the yuca root, and how many delights it provides.  The sounds of the tropical forest, and not assuming you can guess right who makes them.

Our health?  Pat's cold is mostly gone.  Mine's still hanging around.  Robert's almost over strangling me for passing it to him.  Diego's fine, as is Rusty, Mary Anne, Clarence and Susan.  While Quito is still 8,500 feet, we're feeling much better than last Sunday.  Tomorrow, we head out to see the volcanos of Ecuador.

To see the photos taken during our visit to the Amazon, click on:

Monday, Feb 11th, Cuyabeno, Ecuador
Tuesday, Feb 12th, Cuyabeno, Ecuador
Tuesday Evening, Feb 12th, Cuyabeno, Ecuador
Wednesday, Feb 13th, Cuyabeno, Ecuador
Thursday, Feb 14th, Quito, Ecuador

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