An around 10 hour trip by bus and boat from Quito took me to Cuyabeno, a region in the far east of Ecuador. A region in the Amazon rain forest. “The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is an important nature reserve in Amazonia with rather unusual ecological characteristics. Located at the foothills of the Andes, it is different from any other Amazon protected area in the world. All large amazon mammals are present: the lowland tapirs, two species of deer, all Amazon cats, including jaguars and pumas, capibaras, two species of dolphins, manatees, both otter species. Monkeys are represented by 10 species, while rodents and bats are represented by dozens of species.”(Wikipedia).
I spent 4 nights at the Dolphin Eco Lodge, directly located at the black Cuyabeno River. From there our group undertook several excursions into the jungle like hiking, paddling, bird watching, swimming and visiting a local community. Their street is the river which they are able to navigate effortlessly by day and night – just orientating by the shapes of the trees.
The way there sucked because the night bus from Quito was very uncomfortable. So the first thing I did was taking a nap by the river. In the evenings we went to Laguna Grande, a four meter deep lagoon that periodically dries out completely. It’s a very beautiful ecosystem and pretty spot to go swimming and watch the sun set. Every night I fell asleep listening to strange but calming jungle noises or the occasional rainfall on the reed roofs.
The second day we visited the nearby local community Siona Tarabeaya where they showed us how to prepare the traditional Casabe bread. It’s made of Yuca, a root that sort of looks like a carrot but is white inside. After cutting and planing it, we drained the Yuca and then heated it up on fire. Five minutes later it stuck together like a wrap or pancake without adding any other ingredient.
After eating lunch we met the Shaman who explained us how he uses local plants and spirituality as sort of medication. He said he can only heal local jungle diseases though. He basically detects those illnesses by getting high on Ayahuasca, a brew made of certain leaves and root bark that contains hallucinogenic substances. It is viewed by many as a spiritual awakening and what is often described as a rebirth. In addition, it is reported that some people who tried it feel they gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra-dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers. Anyway, we didn’t try it but we did try some stuff made out of fungus (I think) that serves as medicine for stomach problems. It tasted like bitter tree bark alcohol.
That same evening we did a night hike to spot lots of nocturnal animals. We basically saw a lot of spiders, including a tarantula and also a scorpion and a huge frog. It’s been lots of fun.
After breakfast we set out on a hike through the forest which was very beautiful and adventurous. It’s been pouring it down for hours in the morning so everything has been swampy and muddy. We wore rubber boots but I sank in up to my thighs and was covered in mud. We spotted a few birds, the coolest of which was a colorful toucan. Another tarantula in its little cave that got annoyed at us because we kept disturbing it with a stick and it sort of punched that stick with its feet like a cat. We also spotted several types of monkeys, small and big ones that were fun to watch and lots of tiny frogs the size of a finger nail. I swung around on a liana like Tarzan which I could have done all day. In the afternoon we went paddling and from the water saw a sloth chilling far up in a tree, several pink dolphins (that aren’t actually pink and a baby anaconda. Apparently not few sloths die by falling from trees because they mistake their other arm with the branch, basically hold on to themselves and then fall down and die. That evening we went for a last swim, rode on the front of the boat and saw the prettiest of all sunsets at the Laguna Grande.