Week 24 - Ecuadorean Amazon
We left the 'love' motel and headed Eastwards towards the Amazon region. This time we managed to stay on the right path and it was one of the best rides so far. It was a nice easy dirt road most of the way, we were surrounded by forest and there were so many waterfalls on route we gave up counting. It was truly amazing and we felt so lucky to be there.
We found our destination, a small village called Limoncocha, just as it started to rain. Within about five minutes, we managed to find the only accommodation in town, although it was currently under renovation and then the skies really opened and dropped their contents, and we were glad to be under shelter. We all just watched the rain come down, the kids came out to play in the rain, mainly in the puddles. It´s amazing how kids here find so much entertainment from anything and everything! We moved the bikes down the long path to the little parking space just before the Cabanas. From the cabanas we could see Limoncocha lake, which apparently has a yellow tinge close up hence 'limon'.
In the evening, we were directed to a tiny little restaurant, again the only one in town, and we had dinner. Again, the chickens had been running for their lives for all of their waking hours because there was not much meat on the bones, but the rest was good. We also managed to negotiate $10 each for a boat ride around the lake the next morning. The only downside...being ready to rock at 7am! Yuck. However, I did manage to drag my arse out of bed at 6.50am and off we went to the lake. On the way we saw some monkeys playing in the trees, which was my first wild monkey sighting of my life. Woohoo! We walked down to the water and got onto the boat that our guide took us to. We then set off out around the lake and saw a tonne of different birds and monkeys. It was so calm and beautiful. It took about an hour and a half to do a complete circle of the lake.
When we got off the boat there was a guy catching fish with his bare hands, one of which was a piranha. We then walked back to the cabanas, packed up our stuff and headed to Coca (also known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana), about two hours ride away. When we arrived we asked around and found a place called Hostal Oasis, right on the river, plus they had the cutest puppy ever. We drank some beer while we waited for the rooms to be cleaned and then after a nice cool shower, we visited the local animal sanctuary. It was awesome. Not only was it free but we were able to wander around by ourselves and we saw some jaguars. We arrived just in time to see them being fed big slabs of meat. The keeper just threw them at the fence and the jaguars caught them with their big claws and pulled it through the fence. Awesome! There were so many monkeys and birds and other animals, I loved it.
After our return, we headed out for some food. Unfortunately we made the mistake of not asking the prices before...$8 each for a meal which consisted of a small dumpling for starters and a foul tasting watery soup with a small piece of steamed chicken in it. Not overly impressed. Anyway, time for more beer and puppy time!
The next day we crossed the river and headed on the back roads towards Misahualli. The road was beautiful, and we stopped for lunch at a tiny little place on the side of the road in the tiniest village ever. We were joined by the local doctor who spoke excellent english, so we had a good conversation about travel over some nice food...chicken spaghetti, rice, and fried plantains. The roads were a little bumpy but nothing technical, with a couple of nice river crossings to cool us down.
Sadly, today was the day that the bikes would start to play silly buggers again!! To start, just before we got the the first river crossing I noticed a little bit of steam or smoke coming from the bike. We took off all of my luggage and side pannels, then inspected everything. No electrical faults luckily, but the shock had spilt its guts and was bloody hot. Not good! It meant for the next 40-50km I had no functioning shock, and even though I would normally stand off road, now I had no choice. We were very upset that my brand new shock, installed just before we set out on the trip, had failed within six months of use. Grrrrrr! Anyway, before I start moaning too much now, this will be covered in a separate blog later on about kit; what lasted twelve months and what didn't!!
So, we cracked on. Next up, Kelvin got a rear puncture after we stopped at a little tienda for a much needed cold coke and beer. Elsebie noticed the tyre was flat as we were just about to leave, so we asked if we could use their little lean-to to change the tyre as the sun was beating down and it was scorchio. Michnus and Kelvin changed the tyre while Elsebie and I drank our special coke and beer cocktails while watching them sweating away, although I did lend a hand and managed to get dirty!
About an hour later and the tube was changed. We set off on the road again and were met with some nice smooth tarmac...just what you need when your shock is stuffed! Kelvin was riding in front and after about 5 minutes of less I saw him suddenly loose control but he managed to save it and bring the bike to a stop. The rear tyre was completely flat and partially off the rim. After removing the tube we could see that our nice colombian replacement inner tube had completely split at the seam...there was a split in the tube about five inches long! Shit! Thankfully, Michnus was carrying a good quality tube so we used that instead. Another 45 minutes or so and we were on our way again. Yippee!
We were being followed closey by very dark clouds and we hoped it wouldn't piss it down before we got to our intended destination. We kept going at about five miles per hour, because we hit dirt road again, and then we got to our new home for a few days, Grand Selva Lodge, with a beautiful swimming pool and surrounded by Amazon forest. Just as we got our bikes under the shelter the skies opened and it rained super hard. Phew, we got there just in time.
We sat and chatted while we waited for our rooms and we were overjoyed to find they had aircon. Karen and Roberto owned the place and we were able to arrange tours over the following three days for $45 a person, including accommodation and all meals. Although it put us over budget, it was a good deal and at least $20 per person cheaper per day than the next cheapest tours, plus how often do you get to be in the Amazon without going by plane?! After a huge meal, we went to bed and woke up to torrential rain the next day, so it was decided the chocolate making would be our first outing. We went to this beautiful place with a little lake and they showed us how to make chocolate from scratch, all the way from the plant to the table. We roasted the cocoa beans, put them through the grinder, cooked it, added milk and made hot chocolate for everyone. We also made a chocolate face mask and relaxed while one of the ecuadorian ladies applied it to our faces. Heaven! We then headed into Misahualli for some lunch and watched the monkey's trying to steal sauce bottles off the tables, which was quite amusing.
In the afternoon we visited an indigenous village where they had a whole load of traps set up, most of which were smaller versions of the real thing. It was really interesting to see and you wouldn't want to walk near one by accident, they were lethal, but I guess that's the point. We saw a lot of medicinal plants, fruits, village housing and implements plus three of the local girls did a traditional dance for us. We then practiced firing blow darts. I was useless, Kelvin hit the bullseye so he was happy! On the way back the girls climbed one of the huge fruit trees and threw down some of the fruits for us. For the life of me I can't remember the name of the fruit but it tasted lovely. The sun was finally out and it was time to return to the hostal and have a nice swim. What a great day. Just to top it off, Roberto decided to show us one of his spiders, and I decided to brave it, even though it made my skin crawl just looking at it. It was amazing to see though.
On our second day there we went on a long jungle walk for a few hours accompanied by the hostels wonderful dogs. We walked along the dirt road and then right up into the jungle. It was hard work, and again we were shown and told about the uses of many medicinal plants along the way. We also got to swing on a vine, which was awesome except for I felt like I was going to let go. As I am typing this you know I managed to hold on!
The view from the top was spectacular and we could see the meandering Napo river and miles upon miles of rainforest. Beautiful. On the way back we waded through a river above welly height and Michnus just lay down in it to cool off. Very tempting but I managed to hold off until we got back to the pool. Within five minutes of finishing the walk I was diving in the nice cool pool water. No more activities for the day thank goodness, we were all pooped.
On the final day we headed to an animal rescue centre in the morning which involved a boat ride down the Napo river. A local dog tried to hitchhike but failed. We saw a monkey and her baby hanging out in a tree over the river on our way, which was magical. We got to the rescue centre and were then given a tour of the whole place by a young german guy who was working there. It was really good and there were a few differences between this place and the animal sanctuary we went to in Coca. Here they had Puma's, which I had never seen before, and although they had Jaguars we were unable to see them so I'm glad we were able to see them at the other place. We also saw the eye of a Cayman poking out of the top of the muddy water. There were so many beautiful birds and other animals, it was a great morning.
We took a boat ride back up the river, then after lunch we headed to the monkey beach in Misahualli. The monkey's were all on a siesta so we tied our bag to a log so the monkeys couldn't steal it in our absence. Michnus, Elsebie and I went for a swim in the Napo river, which was quite cold, and Kelvin went for a walk to scout out the monkeys. I stayed in the river quite a while and it was lush once I acclimatised. After that, we went back into the village as we were getting bitten like crazy. On route we came accross the now awakened monkeys and saw some baby monkeys to. One of the monkeys made the mistake of hitting a bee's nest and got chased by the bees accross the road. The mother and baby monkey on its back were both swiping to try and get rid of the buzzing bees, and they finally escaped. We then headed back to the lodge for another huge meal, via a farm where Roberto bought some fish for his pond and we saw some huge pigs! The farmer was about 100 years old and still managed everything despite a huge scoliosis. We all went to watch him catch the fish for Roberto out of his own lake.
We left the lodge earlyish and headed across to Tena where we said goodbye to Michnus and Elsebie after having spent the last eight weeks or so travelling with them, but we would be soon to meet again. Time had flown by!