A baby Anaconda (5 feet long)
We took another long bus ride to the jungle. The bus ride started with an awesome Steven Seagal movie called Today You Die. A quick summary: Steven Seagal tries his hardest to be black, but lacks a tad of street cred since he is over 60 and well... picture him saying "homie" and "hitting the rock". Seagal wears his typical black trenchcoat throughout the film (which makes him look pregnant), even while in prison. Beyond the horrendous acting, nonsensical narrative (e.g. there are no guards at the prison except to fire futile shots at an escaping helicopter), and awful everything else, it wasn't a bad movie. How do people get money to make these movies? Anyway, the bus ride was interrupted by a landslide (a typical problem in the Andes), and we got to Lago Agrio
at 8am to catch a bus to the river where we would catch a boat into the jungle.
"What are those burgies doing here?"
The bus ride to the river was another 3 hours, following an oil pipeline and numerous towns built on the money from that oil. They all looked the same, they all looked out of place. We arrived to the river, where as usual we had to wait for an unknown amount of time in the blistering sun for our guide to arrive (in this case an hour and a half). Once the bus/Steven Seagal/waiting travelling epic was over we headed down the river into the jungle. The motorized canoe ride was awesome as we weaved through the jungle, seeing blue butterflies, monkies, macaws, all other sorts of birds, and a young 5 feet long Anaconda (they can be 30 feet if not more). After 2 hours or so, we arrived to our rustic cabins next to Lago Grande, a beautiful, clear water lake. We spent the rest of the first day floating on the lake, swimming, and watching an amazing sunset.
The clouds over the Amazonian flats
By the second day we realized that our guide was awesome (his name was Victor, booked through the agency Green Planet in Quito
, highly recommended), but our group not so much, which is the risk of tours . It was formed by 5 women, one an old petit burgeosie woman from Quito, her spoiled and bratty daughter, the maid of these two women, and 2 more girls from the tour agency hired to guide the matriarch and her daughter. The two petit burgeois women were rather dumb (hence all the "help"), especially with their high pitched exclamation of the obvious: "Que bonito!" "Que increible!". We wish we would have stayed with the chilled out monkeys... The second day we went downriver to the visit the Shamen (a doctor/witch who is very knowledgable and also kind of scary).
Em holding a lemon (for real)
During a strangely touristy hour he told us about himself, the Shamen's duties and training, their vast knowledge of medicinal plants among other things. Even within the tourist setting, he still looked otherwordly (due to his tunic, dozens of necklaces made from seashells to jaguar teeth, and countless colorful feathers) and a force to be reckoned with, albeit not in terms of brute force. Then we went to have lunch at the house of an indigenous community where they showed us how they use the roots of the Yuca as a substite for flour. Very cool, very surprising. We headed home, where we saw river dolfins swimming around the lake (*incredibly high pitched voice* "Mira! Que bonito!") The third day we went on a walk through the jungle. Tall trees, epyphytes (plants or trees that grow on trees), and vines were the norm.
It was really amazing to see that many of these trees and vines had medicinal or poisonous uses, such as one tree is used to make Shampoo, while a certain vine was extremely poisonous (and cancerous), and yet another could save your life if bitten by a snake. We didn't see much animal life here except for termites, incredible itchy ants, and a spider carryng her egg somewhere safer, away from us apparently. To see things we also had to deal with the spoiled brat who wouldn't relinquish the lead, would cut us to get close to the front of the line, and would scare anything that you wanted to see with her stick (such as yellow and black poisonous frog) or her screamings ("Mira!" *poke, poke* *destroy*). Eventually we played ball and cut her to get to the front and we were able to hear Victor's knowlegde of the jungle.
The baby gator in the hands of Victor
Afterwards Victor took us to the lake once more to swim. We decided to stay on the boat as we left our swimsuits in Quito (nobody told us you could swim, but yes, still dumb) and we didn't want to get more clothes wet. So we sat there and watched the rest of the group go into the water. Since Quito is in the middle of Ecuador a lot of people don't know to swim, so all the women were swimming (well, floating) with life vests. Suddenly we hear splashing noises and notice that the maid's life vest somehow turned sideways and she was trying her hardest to keep her head out of the water (i.e. not drown) while the daughter looked on about a foot away. Victor called to his brother who was in the water to help the maid out as we all started to crack up at the ridiculous situation.
Martin Pescador bird
Again, the daughter kept watching the maid struggle from a foot away until Victor's brother turned the maid on her back. Hilarious (the daughter, not the maid, we are not bastards). Although its pretty damn hard to drown with a life vest on but the maid was doing a good job.
At night we went fishing for pirañas, but caught nothing and headed home, where as usual ate a delicious meal. During dinner we found a big frog with a yellow stripe down its back. But we were far more surprised when Victor left to wonder along the shore of the lake, and suddenly brought back a baby caiman with a bit of a triumphant smile. This was pretty incredible (also kind of cruel, yes) especially since the mother was right there too. So we looked at the caiman and touched it (quite cold and its skin was rough but very pretty), while trying not to scare it, which was accomplished by the women's screams ("Que increible!" and camera flashes).
Find the tucan!
Soon therefter Victor went looking for the mother and returned the baby. The last day we woke up at 5:30 to go birdwatching. We saw numerous birds obviously, but the coolest was the Tucan, which has an awesome song and its quite a sight as well (again, pictures due for late June). We then went to the cabins, hung out, and rode the boat upriver again. Before riding the bus back, the matriarch made us see pictures from her camera because she said she got lucky and captured the dolphins (which is really difficult, she had a nice picture). But then in her verbal diarrhea, and amidst her daughter cries ("Que bonito!") she started making mindless talk and asked us if we thought it was a caiman. Not quite the same. Enough of these people! Let´s go to Quito!... Again