Click HERE for the Sacha Lodge website, and prepare to be amazed.
We covered a lot of ground today with varied modes of travel. We took a bus to the airport, then flew in a real jet airplane from Quito to Coca. Then we took a great big motorized fiberglass covered dugout canoe thingy down the river to the Sacha Lodge dock.
From there we hiked along the river and then through the jungle to a canoe dock. Then we took a canoe ride from the dock to the lodge itself, right on the shore of Lake Pilchicocha. For large, easier to read Google maps of all this, click here, here, and here.
Outskirts of Quito from the air. Bye mountains.
Hello Amazon rain forest.
A vast expanse of trees.
With agriculture in some areas. The problem, as Eduardo explained it, is that the soil in the Amazon is nutrient-poor. You wouldn't (well, I wouldn't) expect that, what with plants growing and decaying there for a gazillion years, but apparently if you dig down about six inches you start hitting clay. This means that if you plant the same thing on the same plot year after year, pretty soon your crops stop growing. The Indians of the Amazon learned long ago to plant, harvest, and move away and plant elsewhere to give the original garden time to recuperate. Time will tell what happens to these farms.
Now we've landed at Coca. C'mon, Road Scholars, hurry it up. We're not high in the Andes anymore and this bus is hot.
The unavoidable starting point for many of Ecuador’s most fascinating jungle tours, Coca is the rather charmless public face of the Río Napo. In the 1990s the town was transformed by the oil industry from a tiny river settlement with dirt roads into a hot, teeming mass of concrete. The capital of the Orellana province since 1999 (and officially known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana), Coca is the last real civilization before the Río Napo transports you deep into the rainforest to the Parque Nacional Yasuní and beyond into the Amazon basin.
Coca is trying to tart itself up. A pretty malecón (esplanade) is extending block by block along the riverfront and bars where it's actually pleasant to drink have appeared. Meanwhile, a stunning new suspension bridge now spans the Napo, taking traffic bound down Via Auca towards Tiguino (another starting point for rainforest forays). And after years without a single splash of green in its center, the town even now has a park.
A Coca street vendor with those ice cream cones plugged into some substance that looks like ice cream but it never melts. Somebody said it was a meringue. I guess in the tropics if you can't have ice cream it's nice to imagine you're eating it.
This is the holding area for tourists getting ready for the boat ride to Sacha Lodge.
We had a box lunch while we waited. It was nice enough -- filling, anyway.
We would be joined by some other tourists, a family from Canada, to fill up the boat that would take us to Sacha Lodge.
Now down to the river we go. Those were some steep old concrete steps.
This guy turned out to be one of the nature guides at Sacha -- name of Pablo. Nice guy. We divided into subgroups at Sacha Lodge, and I had Daniel for a guide.
Wow, look at that!
There's an impressive bridge crossing the Napo River at Coca.
Nancy is enjoying this. The weather is very nice. Just you wait, Nancy.
That bridge again. I suspect oil money had something to do with its construction.
Such a pretty day. Wait, are those storm clouds up ahead?
Uhhh, yep, I think so
Cruising Down the Napo River, right into the storm.
Quick, everybody, put on your ponchos.
And duck down.
Well that didn't last too long.
Signs of civilization in the jungle?
The Napo was as wide as the Mississippi, maybe even wider in places. And it was muddy. But it appeared to be much more shallow. The boat kept zigzagging back and forth to stay in the deepest part, and occasionally we even scraped bottom right out in the middle of the river. I was glad we didn't have to get out and push.
Is this Sacha Lodge?
Looks like it is.
So that wasn't Sacha after all? We have to walk to Sacha? At least we have a nice wooden walkway.
For part of the way.
We've been skirting along the river. When do we turn and go deep into the jungle.
Are these guys really going to take all these bottles of Coke into the jungle?
Let's take a moment to rest by the "cool" river before we head deep into the Amazon rain forest.
Hot and sweaty and slightly muddy, and we're not even halfway there yet.
C'mon, we've made it this far. Let's go!
Hey, more wooden walkway!
Better than the mud.
Looks like we're coming upon something up ahead.
Canoes! The walk is over, but not the adventure.
Bill and Lowell are happy as can be!
This will give you a better idea of what the ride was like. Pretty nice, actually.
That big black ball is a termite nest.
Yeah, this is fun.
Wait, is that a break in the foliage up ahead?
Sure is. And that, at long last my fellow Road Scholars, is Sacha lodge up ahead.
But first we have to cross the lake.
C'mon food and drink, bed and bath, rest and relaxation.
We even have a welcoming committee!
And a nice lakeside dining area where we can rest our weary muscles. C'mon, Lowell, perk up. Have a glass of cold water.
See? All better, even though I began to wonder if the Sacha Lodge manager would ever end his interminable welcome speech.
Now it's time to find my cabin. They say I should go this way...
And then that way....
Finally -- my home. The door is on the right; Ken and Nancy are on the left.
Ohhh, nice! But no windows? Just screens? This is beginning to feel like a swanky Mid-South Youth Camp.
Certainly a nicer bed.
I sure hope all those screens are sealed on tight.
It's going to be like showering right out in the jungle.
I've even got a personal hammock on a private deck. Now this is living.
But will this cacophony continue all night long? Short answer? Yep. And when I'd finally get into bed every night I was so tired the noise didn't bother me a bit.
What do you mean it's not time for rest? We're going out in the canoe again?
Well sure, why not? Everybody knows you have to suffer to have a good time, and what better is there to do way out here?
Besides, it's a beautiful afternoon.
That's where a great big old Caiman was resting a short time ago.
Come on along for the ride.
That's a bird. I took a picture of it because everybody else was taking a picture of it. I don't know what kind of bird it is, but I bet Marilyn and Connie would know. They seem to know everything there is to know about birds. And there are plenty to see out here.
It's getting a little late, guys.
No, wait, over there! Look!
No, don't look at the pretty. Look for monkeys in the trees!
I think I hear some.
Over there to the right.
Are there snakes and lizards and caimans and piranha over there?
Sure, but there are monkeys, too. See that one up in the tree? No? Well look closer. Use your imagination.
All right, can you see them now?
Told you there were monkeys in those trees.
Well that does it. This days is over now, right? What's that? At 8:30 a nature walk with flashlights in the dark? What will we see?
Jungle tarantulas. And a few other weird things. That was fun, but I've had it. I'm going to bed.