Saturday, April 17, 2010

La Selva Lodge, Ecuador

We escaped the high altitude for a few days to explore the jungle of the Amazon Basin.  We took a short flight from Quito to the town of Coca, then boarded a river canoe, about 10 meters long with a generous outboard motor, and went about 2 hours down the Rio Napo river, which is a tributary of the Amazon.  The Rio Napo itself was quite a large river, about 1 to 2 km across.  If you continue another 20 hours downstream you hit the Amazon, or so I am told.

After disembarking from the canoe, we walked about 15 minutes through the jungle on a boardwalk, then boarded a smaller canoe and were paddled across a lake to La Selva Jungle Lodge.  Here we spent four days walking in the jungle, paddling on the lake, swimming with the piranhas, and miraculously, not getting rained on, by rain anyway.  The first night we were sitting in the bar, when the sound of pouring water got our attention.  Since it was not raining out, this was very curious.  Upon closer investigation we found a very large splattering of what looked like white bird poop.  We looked up into the thatched ceiling and saw not a bird, but a boa constrictor!  One unlucky guest got splattered when on the way down the white stuff (literally) hit the fan.

The jungle was very interesting and we saw many many different plants and animals - weird insects, tarantulas, frogs, lizards, a young anaconda, dozens of monkeys, and many birds. Most of the birds were seen from the top of the 45 meter observation tower, which gave a great view over the forest canopy.

The lodge also has a butterfly farm, where about 30 types of butterfies are raised, the pupae are shipped all over the world to research facilites, zoos, etc.  We enjoyed a nice visit there checking out all the interesting caterpillars and beautiful butterflies.
One day we went back out to the river and visited a Parrot "clay lick" where the birds come to eat the clay, which supposedly helps their digestive systems.  Perhaps they just like to eat dirt.  Whatever the reason the dozens of parrots made quite a racket!  We then proceeded across the river to visit a local family, who shared some of their local beer and cane alcohol with us, as well as letting us try our hand with the children's training blow-gun.

Our final day we did some fishing.  Tana caught two piranhas, one of which we kept and ate.  It was actually rather tasty.

Next stop, Galapagos Islands.

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