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wehl’s Travel Diary

Friday, 12 Jan 2007

Location: Cuyabeno Reserve, Ecuador

MapArrived into Lago Agrio mid morning on Monday 8th, only to meet up with our tour group and head towards the Cuyabeno Reserve.
The Cuyabeno Reserve was created in 1979 and it covers over 600,000 ha of untainted rainforest around the Río Cuyabeno. The reserve is accessible from Lago Agrio and it has become an important tourist destination because of its lakes, swamps and amazing diversity of animals such as: insects, butterflies, river dolphins, capybaras, caimans, anacondas and tapirs as well as 15 species of monkey to well over 500 types of birds.

We jumped in a bus in Lago Agrio and headed towards the Cuyabeno River, where we boarded a motorised canoe and began our 4hr, which turned into a 6hr, boat ride down to our campsite. Our accommodation was right above the river, staying in traditional raised, grassed roof huts, sleeping in much needed mosquito net tents. After dinner on the first night, we went on a night jungle walk with our guide, only to observe grasshoppers, stick insects, spiders, frogs (which looked remarkably like cane toads) and a complete colony of bats - it was pitch black with hundreds of bats flapping around our heads - needless to say, we chose that to be our last 'night walk'!

Day 2 - Woke early to board the canoe and cruise up stream to a 25m bird watching tower, which gets you right up to the tree canopies and gives you a great idea of the levels of vegetation and bird life. Beautiful heliconias and bromeliads growing everywhere - saw a few tucans flying over, before we headed back to camp for breakfast.
We then visited a local indigenous community where we tested some native fruits - but the jungle really turned the heat on for us that day. Returning to camp to have a swim in the river was a relief - but somewhat unnerving due to the muddy colour of the water and the fact that we were deep in the Amazon.
Ironically, that afternoon we went searching for Anacondas, where we happened to come across a 5m monster. Unfortunately this monster was a good 2 days dead - and gave off a smell we never wish to experience again!

Day 3 - Went on a 4hr jungle walk where our guide showed us some traditional plants used for medicinal purposes and also weaving techniques to make things such as baskets + belts.
In the afternoon we went fishing for Piranhas - which turned out to be very successful, despite our primitive fishing gear! We also sighted some pink dolphins swimming and playing near our boat.

We then cruised to a big sand bar at the mouth of the river, where we watched an amazing sunset and had a fun game of soccer. It seems anywhere we go in South America, there will be room for a soccer field - the kids love it.

Day 4 - After breakfast we went up stream to watch the red + green parrots feed on the clay of a particular bank of the river - apparently the clay's high salt content cleanses the birds' toxins. We then moved further upstream to another campsite, where we went on another jungle walk, checking out trees, insects, spiders and fresh footprints of native pigs and tapirs. We then paddled back downstream in traditional dugout canoes - seeing plenty of little monkeys playing along the way. Returned to camp after a 4hr paddle - just in time for the rain to set in - we have never seen rain like it - real, torrential amazon rain.

Day 5 - The rain went all through the evening, and was still pouring down when it was time to leave. Dressed in rain ponchos, we braced ourselves for a 3hr canoe ride back up stream, where we were met by our bus to take us back to Lago Agrio by late afternoon. Decided to take an overnight bus back to Quito, as we didn't wish to stay in Lago Agrio. We arrived exhausted into Quito at 3am, after 2 drug/weapon checks along the way.