Part VIII - Ecuador - Avoiding Tarantulas in the Cuyabeno Amazon Rainforest Reserve

Ok, so I did it... I survived the 6 day trek in the Amazon!

In the end, it was not as daring as I thought it would be (so, likely I will just have to go back another time, even deeper in the amazon... and for a little more time than six days! I recently heard that Bolivia's Rainforest I actually one of the nicest and undisturbed)... but that doesn't mean it was not a fun and exciting experience!

We took a motorized canoe (seating 10 people) down 145 km along the Agua Rico River, starting in Chiritzo, passing the Cuyabeno Lagoon, continuing along the black waters of the Cuyabeno River, and ending up in fantastic lodges near Puerto Cuyabeno.

We saw the social spiders (3 meter web with as much as a hundred spiders inhabiting it), a tarantula, lots of other spiders, two frogs, an anaconda snake, leaf cutter ants, colourful caterpillars, moths and butterflies, loud crickets, monkeys (squirrel, capuchins), fireflies (amazing!), three or four centipedes, cayman (smaller sized cousin of the croc), pink dolphins, lots of birds (toucans, oro-pendulums, anis, parrots, kingfishers, flyeaters), leaf shaped insects, lots of mosquitos and pyrahnas! And I have to admit it... I even ate my first insect there... lemon flavoured ants. Not bad, a little acidic though.

We also were introduced to am amazing series of plants... everything from vines that provided water, a tree with "crazy glue" sap, a telephone tree (hit the side of the trunk and it produces a loud sound which can be heard from far away), ceibo (a beautiful 45 foot tree that stands apart from the rest), lemon ant trees, the achiote plant (for face-painting), a drowned forest and tagua (vegetable ivory) palms.

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to a Traditional Shaman, from the Cofan Tribe. Adorned in a headress of Toucan feathers and a necklace of Jaguar teeth, the Shaman gave us a tour of his medicinal plant garden. Later, we watched him perform a healing ceremony, involving singing and the shaking of eucalyptus leaves.

Our tour guides, Ecomontes, were fantastic, fun and professional. We stayed in Ecomontes-owned huts (without walls) along the rivers and slept in the open air under mosquito nets. Quite often, we fell asleep to the heavy rain falling on the roof... and even once to an awe-inspiring lightning storm. We were lucky... as we were travelling in the Amazon during the dry season (July-Oct), it rarely rained during our trip.

Still, one of the most surprising aspects of the trips was our swim in the brownish rivers that eventually spill out into the Amazon River. Canoeing through... I thought that I have never seen a stiller river...the surface was absolutely smooth. However, jumping into these warm rivers, you quickly realize that you have to swim very strongly just to move a few centimeters ahead. The undercurrents are unbelievable. There's no need to swim laps here... it's just like the water version of an excercise bike!

See below for pictures of our adventures in the jungle (49 pictures):

With only one month left in Ecuador (and two weeks more in Peru) and I already feel like I have run out of time!

Before I head back, I still want to go white water rafting, paragliding (yes, that means, jumping off a cliff with nothing more than an oversized kite holding me up), go to a unique forest in the northern end of Ecuador (El Angel area), visit Santo Domingo de los Colorados, try out some surfing on the coast, discover more regional festivals, and visit the petrified forest of Puyango.

As far as Peru... I am heading to the south end to visit, surprise, surprise, Machu Pichu and walk the Inca Trail, the Nasca Lines, and the reportedly lovely town of Cusco.