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Archive for April, 2008

All of our hikes and tours were led by 2 guides. One was a native Indian guide (on the left below – named Segundo) and the other was a high school professor by training that acted as translator and story teller (named Oscar).

The kids really took a liking to Segundo. Even though he spoke no English, he showed them special jungle trees, birds and bugs and cleared the path for them on all our hikes with his super machette.

Here is Vikram with a millipede on his hand.

Here is Nikhil with some of the butterflies that seemed to be attracted to him.

And here is Annika by the nut trees.

Here is Annika in front of one of the millions of odd looking trees. It is said that 10 acres of Amazon jungle have more species of wildlife than the entire United States. This picture is in the middle of the day, but because the jungle is so dense it seems almost dark and requires the use of a flash.

One of the kids’ favorite trees was Sangre de Drago or dragon’s blood tree. When pierced by a knife, the tree oozes a red sap that is medicinal in it properties and is said to treat everything from cuts and bites to cancer. It is one of the magical herbs in the jungle. Our guide also showed us the trees used to make everything from pitocin (from the cecropia tree), jungle viagra, the rubber plant (used to make chewing gum), jungle peanuts, and all kinds of magic mushrooms.

Here is Vikram looking inside a bat hole.

The bats are hiding inside the tree trunk (this picture again uses a flash). One of the evenings, we did a night-time canoe ride and saw (and felt) whole flocks of bats flying around.

One of the hundreds of unique spiders.

Here is a picture of a termite nest. There were thousands of these huge nests along the trails.

Here is a picture of a couple of vultures hanging out at the top of a tree.

We saw so many birds that the guides pointed out including euphonias, macaws, toucans, herons, crested owls, tanagers, woodpeckers, hawks and hummingbirds.

We also saw many different types of monkeys including the tiny pygmy marmoset, night monkey, squirrel monkeys, capuchins and howler monkeys. The monkeys were particularly fun to watch as they traveled in packs and were extremely loud and disruptive.

One of the afternoons, the boys went fishing in the lake for live piranha. They were extremely aggressive and devoured the bait as soon as it went in the water. Our Indian guide with lots of skill caught one and showed off the piranha’s razor sharp teeth. There were dozens of these red bellied and white bellied piranhas swimming in the lake.

The boys then went swimming in the same lake! It is said that although the piranha are vicious, they only attack if there are open wounds and they can smell blood. In the same lake at night, we saw a caiman. Again, the guide said they only come out at night. In fact, the last evening we were there, there was a group of kids still swimming at the dock and the guide ushered them to come out of the water.

I will add one more post with some additional videos and pictures from the suspension bridge and the tree house in the kapok tree. These were some of the best features of the lodge.

Click here for the next post.

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The middle part of our trip was spent in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador.

We started off with an early morning plane ride from Quito airport to a small town called Coca about a 1/2 hour east of Quito.

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From there it is a short “chiva” bus ride to our safe house where the staff pack our bags into sealed waterproof containers for the boat ride thru the jungle.

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At the safe house we have a quick lunch and then board a small power boat for the 70km ride down the Napo River.

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Here are Nikhil and Vikram fast asleep during the two and a half hour ride.

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Along the way, we see the pristine old growth rain forests being carved up by big bad American oil concerns like Chevron and Texaco.

The river is dotted by the tell tale signs of tanker boats, oil rigs and the flames of burning oil.

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The only way to get the oil out is by river boat. There are no roads in and out of the jungle. It is tragic to see the rain forest disappearing for the sake of big oil profits.

Once we get to the dropoff point on the Napo River, it is a 1/2 hour hike on a boardwalk and mud trail followed by a 20 minute canoe ride.

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And finally, we arrive at Sacha Lodge to begin our adventure. The lodge has running water, 24 hour electricity and even made special accomodations for vegetarian meals.
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The huts are comfortable and spacious and as posh as one can imagine in a jungle this remote.

After a short night hike and a briefing dinner, we got into the daily routine of a 5:30AM wakeup call, a 3-4 hour morning hike, an afternoon swim in the lake and a night time canoe ride or another hike. On my next post, I’ll highlight some of the rare birds, butterflies, monkeys, trees, bugs and other wildlife we were able to see.

Click here for the next post.

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