Posted by: tim ellis | November 16, 2008

Ecuador – Friday 4th July, 2008

Going up the Jungle! I’ve had a message from Metropolitan Travel to say I’m being picked up at 10:15 – this is about 2 hours later than had been suggested earlier, which is good,because it means I can take my time over breakfast and packing – fitting the essentials into my sports bag as hold baggage and my daysack as hand luggage, so my suitcase can stay at the hotel until Monday.

We get to the airport without a hitch, but the Sacha representative who has all the tickets doesn’t appear to have one for me! It appears I’m on the list just as MR TIMOTHY, and after much searching, a boarding pass with that name on is produced – but I don’t get the information folder everyone else is given. Then it’s through to the VIP lounge to fill in the Sacha Lodge form, and meet some of the other guests, who can largely be divided into those coming here after the Galapagos, and those who will be going to the Galapagos when they leave the Jungle. Amongst the latter are Jeff and Carol, Americans who will also be on the Cachalote with me (although they are staying in Sacha one extra night).

The plane is a small (around 70 seat) jet, and the flight is smooth and short, although our chance of seeing snow capped Andean peaks is scuppered by clouds. 

Coca airport is small – baggage reclaim is just a counter loaded directly from the trailer (my bag is the first one off). You have to show your baggage check ticket on leaving the building – I have mine, but the corresponding sticker has fallen of my bag in transit! We load the bags into a pick-up and clamber (literally) into an open-sided bus to drive across town to the Sacha building where there is fruit, drink and sandwiches waiting for us.

After lunch we are given life jackets, and proceed down to the river to board the “speed canoe” – I am sharing a bench with a Belgian father and daughter – for a 2 hour journey at 40 kph down the river to the lodge. From the river there is a (quite lengthy) trek along the boardwalk (or in places along a muddy path) where we see both leaf-cutter and army ants, to get to the more traditional, paddled, canoes to travel across the lake to the lodge itself. We are given welcome drinks, nibbles and orientation in the bar, before heading off to our cabins until 7pm, when we meet up for boot issuing, and to be assigned to our guides.

The cabins are large and well appointed, with electric lights, a safe, and a ceiling fan, as well as a shower with hot and cold water, and a balcony looking out on the rainforest.

My guide is Diego, and the other members of our group are all antipodean, Kerry and Richard from New Zealand, and Pat and Jan from Australia. Diego has a packed program for us, starting with a walk tonight at 8:30, then a 5 AM call tomorrow for a walk starting at 6! So after (an excellent) dinner we are off to put on our newly acquired wellies and head off into the jungle – as we rapidly leave the boardwalks the necessity of the boots becomes obvious. We are also accompanied by Pablo, a native guide, who will share his knowledge and experience with us (translated by Diego, as he doesn’t speak English).  

We walk for just over an hour, finding a number of frogs, (both large and small), spiders (likewise), including a tarantula and the sociable spider, and some gecko. Straight to bed when we return, in view of the early rise.

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