I have been to the Amazon before. It was out of Iquitos, Peru where we took a boat down the Amazon and then the Napo River to a remote lodge. It was the rainy season then so all the trails were flooded and we had to use a canoe to use the trails. It was fascinating and I vowed that I would try to get back again. This was my return trip.
This time I went out of Lago Agrio, Ecuador into the Cuyabena Reserve. Even though the Cuyabena Reserve on the Cuyabena River was great, getting there via the Aguarica River was an experience in seeing what the oil companies have done to both the environment and the culture of the Amazon here. There are both pros and cons for the people, but if you are looking for the old Amazonian way of life, then this is not the area to visit. Also, the communities we met were of Quechua, which is not originally from the Amazon but the Andes. They had traveled down to the Amazon to work in the rubber industry a couple of centuries ago and stayed setting up communities and making a life in the jungle.
I went with the Dracaena organization which operates the Nicky Lodge in the Cuyabena. It is the only lodge in the reserve. A few of the guides were actually from Quito, having the education needed for showing tourists and explaining about the environment, birds, insects and such. There were also local guides that came along who knew the jungle itself, medicinal plants, and life and culture of the area.
Our lodging was rustic. Since the lodge is to help the communities establish employment other than in oil, they built and work at the lodge. The proceeds then also go back to the community. The lodge had the thatched roofs and no windows. You had netting over the bed to protect you from insects. There was a bathroom with a cold shower which was a welcome sight when you returned from the hikes all hot and sweaty. The jungle is hot and very humid. You never feel as if you get dry. They kept us very busy with activities, hikes and canoes on the Cuyabeno River to observe wildlife and plants and visits to the local community and a chance to learn how to make yucca bread.
Here are some pictures of my time there.
Going down the Cuyabena River. It is part of the Cuyabena Wildlife Reserve.
This is part of the Nicky Lodge System. This was built by the local community to establish a tourism industry for an income to the communities in the area. A local guide was always required to be with us during any hikes. Since the land is designated to them, only they can use machetes and also had the greatest knowledge of the jungle and jungle life.
The new school for the children. Note the Chevron symbol in the lower left. Chevron bought oil reserves from Texaco who left a major environmental mess which was and is in legal arbitration. Chevron is fighting to not pay for the damages.
In addition to caimans, we also saw the Pink River Dolphins and Grey River Dolphins. It was strange to see dolphins in the river. They were playing and sometimes were trail behind the boat to check us out. It was a great site to see and impossible to get a picture.
Making yucca bread
We use a type of grater to grate the root into a fine mash. A fire is started so it will be ready when we are finished.
Fishing in the Amazon
Yes, we did try fishing. They had some rods made from branches and attached a fishing line and old, dull hooks. The plan was to wait till you get a nibble and yank hard right out of the water. We used beef for bait and they just loved it. (Is this the same river some were swimming in the evening before??) Also, catfish were going after the bait as well. It was catch and release for us as we didn't want to bother with such small bony fishes.
Coconut Grubs - lunch anyone?
I declined. These are the grubs of some beetle and taste like coconut. We had a couple of brave folks to try it. Bite the head off and feel the explosion of guts in your mouth. Cut open the coconut and pull out the grubs.
Put them on a serving leaf. Yummy!