Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Amazon - Cuyabeno Reserve

When Chrissy (our daughter) came down to visit, we took her on a four-day trip in the Amazon Basin. Because we're cheap, we chose to do the Cuyabeno Reserve instead of the Yasuni National Park.  In the Cuyabeno, you can get four days for around $250 per person. The places I found with guides, accomodations, and meals in Yasuni were in the thousands per person. The Cuyabeno Reserve is a significant bus ride from Lago Agrio, the area where the issues between the Ecuadorean indiginous and Chevron took place. Through tourism dollars, they are hoping to avoid additional drilling in the area.

On the first day, we arrived in Lago Agrio in the early morning and bought a week of parking for the car at a hotel. Just to put it in perspective, that week of parking cost a whole $6. We had a nice breakfast, then boarded the bus to Cuyabeno.

On arrival, a motorized canoe picked us up and took us to our lodge, the Samona Lodge, another significant ride down the Rio Aguarico, a part of the Amazon River system. We were joined by a couple from Santiago, Chile. It was a beautiful ride down the river and the lodge is lovely. Be prepared, though. These lodges are fully permaculture. The electricity is solar, the water is self treated (and not drinkable - like most water in Ecuador), and there is no wi-fi or air conditioning. This lodge usually shuts off the electricity around 9:00 p.m., but because of my CPAP machine, we were able to have electricity overnight. The shower water was tepid at best, though.

After naps and lunch, we went swimming in the river. We were warned beforehand that there were anacondas and caimans living in the water, but nobody got hurt, so all was good, and it's not everyday that you get a chance to swim in the Amazon!

The second and third days were hikes and canoe rides through the area. Our guide, Clide, was awesome. Seeing my frustration with not being able to zoom in on some of the animals, he ultimately took my camera from me and took pictures of some the animals through his binoculars for me. We saw lots of birds and monkeys. Only one caiman and no large snakes, though we did go through some parts of the river that they warned us to keep our hands inside the canoe because of the number of caimans, anacondas, and other dangerous animals that lived there. Here are some of the shots we got.

On the third day, we went to an indiginous village and got a sample of a shaman doing a cleansing ritual. We also got to try our hand at using the blow gun to shoot darts at a cocoa seed, and we got to make pan de yuca (yuca flour bread) starting from fresh yuca root that we harvested.

On the last day, we took a pre-breakfast trip down the river to see birds and monkeys again. Then we took a group shot and headed back down the river and back to Lago Agrio. If you ever get the chance to do this, I would definitely advise it!

From back to front: Bruce and Clide (guide extrordinaire), Chrissy, me, and Aurora (awsome indiginous guide), and Daniel and Vitoria (from Chile).

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