Trip journals are trip specific blogs. That is a blog about a specific trip that I've taken. I have them ordered first item first which is backward from a typical blog because it makes it easier to read about the trip from start to finish. Granted that also makes it more difficult to read the latest news when I'm on vacation because the most recent entry (the last one) will be last. But, since most people don't actually get around to reading the Trip Journal until after I'm back I think that will be ok.
Also there's a ton of them missing, this article will explain why.
I woke to Mo knocking on my door raving about a poisonous jungle frog on the loose in her room. I don't know what kind of frog it was but the image of me spending my last day(s) in a Amazonian veterinary clinic posing as a hospital gasping my last breath didn't sound appealing so I used one of my small travel bags to capture the frog and put it out. Chances are the poisonous jungle frog was probably an ordinary tree frog with a complex created by the unwarranted discrimination by ignorant gringos like us. With the frog in his natural habitat and the security of the known civilized world restored we headed for breakfast. Not satisfied by the punishment and humiliation we had the previous day we returned to Lucy's to order food without a menu. A young guy was there and thankfully he had a sense of humor. If we ate chicken for lunch because didn't know the Spanish word for anything else that meant we were eating eggs for breakfast for exactly the same reason. We all had eggs with French fries because of our limited vocabulary. He brought bread and jam as well and we enjoyed our simple breakfast while watching one of the original Superman movies with Christopher Reeves. We then went to the laundry an hour early while hoping they'd done our laundry the night before. I told them we'd be there at 9 but it was only 8. They did in fact get them done the night before which proves how much different they are than I. I would have waited until the last minute and the other I (the one catching the bus) would have missed it. I'm glad others are punctual. We boarded our bus and headed for Quito once again. The ride back was just as amazing as the ride over but it took longer because Jaun Manual Fangio apparently had the day off. Six hours later we arrive in Quito. Thirty minutes after that we're at the airport getting ready to leave for Peru. My whole life I've wanted to visit Peru and in a few hours I'd be there.... We flew on LAN Peru which proved to be a nice airline. They gave us decent food for a 2 ½ flight which never happens in the states anymore. We landed in Lima at 10:00 and met our driver after waiting for nearly 40 minutes for him to arrive. It was Christmas eve and it looked like the city had a party because there were piles of garbage everywhere and some were even on fire. Later we learn that this is the way Lima always looks. As soon as we reach our hotel we hit the hay. We only have the next morning in Lima and I wanted to walk around to get a feel for the city.
Our original plan was to head back to Quito and spend a night there before we fly to Lima but we really didn't like Quito that much, didn't have accommodations there and liked the Jungle so we decided to just take the bus in to Tena and camp out there for the night and go to Quito the day we needed to fly. Normally I'd never risk traveling on a bus the same day our plane flight but we weren't scheduled to fly out of Quito until 8:30 and it only took 5 hrs by bus from Tena leaving us plenty of time. One of the Kishwa men took us via canoe to Puerto Barantilla so we could catch our bus. I took a video of the entire boat ride so we could remember it.
Thankfully it wasn't raining at all. The bus came about 5 minutes early which never happens at home. That also means you need to be at the bus stop earlier than you think as the schedules are more of a guideline than any sort of structure to follow. I've heard stories about these buses being overly crowded but Andy said we wouldn't have a problem today. We boarded, paid our $6 for all and found a place to stand (thanks Andy). There were no seats empty but the money taker motioned to Mo to sit up front with the driver. We stopped at many more stops and picked up people.
When you travel there are two types of big things. A big thing is something that you mention and people exclaim. Big things are what influence you or others and get a reaction. An example of a big thing would be Venice. Just tell someone you've been to Venice and they'll be all ears. Another would be the coliseum in Rome or the Sistine Chapel. Sometimes big things don't exist before you find them. Dubrovnik is a big thing to me because it's such a magical city but I didn't think it was a big thing until I went there. It's also one of those big things that doesn't get a reaction because nobody knows about it. So there are two types of big things, those that exist before you travel and those you discover on the way. Some of them will only be big things to you. You can talk about them until you're blue in the face all you get back are yawns. This is unfortunate but a fact of traveling. Let me tell you about the Amazon. Before I came here I thought it was important because ever since I was a kid people have been preaching the “We can't chop down the rain forest” religion. Yes, I thought it was important but it didn't really have to do with me. After a while we just become callused and don't hear the message anymore. In a way the Amazon is sort of a medium thing. Yes, it gets reactions but most people don't know what to think. Out of the two big thing categories the Amazon fits in the second because to me it was just a check box on a list of things I wanted to see before I die. Now things have changed. The Amazon is a big thing, maybe a really big thing. I'm sure when I get back home and tell people they will yawn and wonder when I'll talk about something interesting and you may already be doing that now.
Today we went to the island where the Quichua people live. Their houses are built on stilts about 6 feet off the ground. Chickens run loose and there are things growing in the ground. On the island are plantain and corn plantations. It was neat to see bananas growing on trees and of course we'd seen corn before. We also saw and ate fruit that I can't pronounce nor did I recognize. We saw mangoes and papaya trees and yuka plants. The rain started again as we were trudging through the banana plantation but it was ok because the wide leaves make great cover form rain. After the walks through the plantations we returned to a Quichua family home.
I woke to the sound of a rooster crowing before the sun even came up. When you go to bed shortly after sundown you wake up really early. I lay in bed for about another hour before getting up for breakfast. We had granola cereal, fruit and eggs. At 9:00 we headed out for our jungle walk. They said we needed rubber boots and they were right. They provided the boots and the Amazon provided the mud. It was raining again pretty hard but we were told that was good because when the sun comes out the water from the ground evaporates and it because unbearable humid. I'll take their word for it.
orning came to soon and I'd not gotten a lot of sleep. We also would be missing breakfast because we were leaving too early so I went out to find Internet and some emergency food and water for the bus ride. The Internet cafes were closed but I did find an assortment of rolls and water for the trip. We left anyway. The way I figured it we could go to Tena and either find Internet there or just rent a hostel and stay the night. Having gotten down the straight armed hand shake I hailed a taxi. He took a really round about way to the bus station which alarmed me for a second. His response to my pointing to the map was “No problema”. We rounded the corner and I saw the great statue on the hill and knew I was near the terminal. He pointed to the traffic going the other way and I understood. We arrived at the station 30 minutes early and headed for the shady restaurant on the bottom floor. We bought various types of chicken and a sandwich and headed for our gate. On the way the guy that sold us our ticket yelled at us and exchanged our ticket for a different one on a different bus company. I don't know why and couldn't ask because of the language barrier. He told us which lane to stand in and which bus number so we waited. When it pulled in we got on and waited another 30 minutes before it pulled out. During that 30 minutes he boarded the bus to tell us not to put our bags in the overhead racks and to hold them. Later in the trip I noticed that everyone else was holding theirs as well. Crime is rampant here. I sat on the side of the bus there our luggage was so I could see if anyone was trying to steal them which they didn't.
The roads around Quito are a mess and it took us 1 hour just to get out of the city. Most of the outer edges of Quito are these little concrete block houses with corrugated metal roofs of very poor people. Once we get a little ways away we crested a hill and we saw what looked like Beverly hills with nice villas and such. Obviously the rich live in the suburbs.
I've heard great things about this ride over to Papillacta Falls and our jungle excursion started out as just and excuse to take this trip. I'm glad we did as the Andes are beautiful mountains and greener than any that I've seen in North America. Our bus climbed through strange looking forests, high cliffs with amazing waterfalls, and finally entered the clouds. Visibility was about 30 feet or so. At the crest there was another bus heading for Quito stopped on the road. They were changing a tire. I'd noticed when we were in the bus terminal that
all buses had two spare tires on the roof. The fact that the other bus got a flat told me a bit about the upcoming road. The pavement changed to dirt, rocks and mud for about the next 3 hours. The bus would swerve toward the 200 foot drop to avoid potholes, take the outside line around curves and bomb down hills so it could maintain it's speed. We got to one place where the mud was really deep and we thought we were going to get stuck then we came upon another bus slogging along through the mud even slower (and at higher risk of being stuck) so our driver decided in order to maintain momentum we'd have to pass it. It was like watching a snail race with both busses spinning their rear tires in the mud and ours slowly gaining on the other one until we got a head of it. We were honestly going about 5 mph up the muddy hill. The other bus we never saw again. As far as I know it may have never made it.
We arrived in Tena and deboarded the bus. Immediately a taxi driver approached us but we were really most interested in toilets so we all ran off to find them. I motioned to the taxi driver to stay put and we'd be back. Upon returning he was still waiting for us and a man who spoke English said the taxi driver was Quichua (not Quechua/Inca) and spoke no Spanish. I told him Puerto Barrantilla and he nodded his head. I also mentioned I needed a Bank machine so he stopped at an ATM for me since where we going only took cash. The taxi was a 4 door Suburu brat looking "truck" that had no problem getting air on the many hills along the road. We arrived 20 minutes before our scheduled time. Puerto Barrantilla is nothing but a small road going to a residence and a path that extends from there into the Jungle to the Rio Napo. We followed the path and stood next to the river in the pouring rain - waiting. About 15 minute later an indigenous man arrived in a gas powered canoe and grabbed our bags two at a time and put them in the canoe then motioned for us to climb in. No words were spoken. Ten minutes later we pulled up to a wooden staircase leading from the rivers edge up to a wooden hut.
A young guy named Andy came to get our bags and took them to the large circular building with no walls. This was to be the reception desk and dinning hall. It was nothing but hay roof, wood floor and wood poles holding the roof up. There was a large hole in the center with trees growing in it. He sat us by a small fire and explained the program to us. A Swiss lady married a Quichua man and they started a reserve in the Amazon to help hurt animals. They later started a hotel and the Liana Lodge.The lodge helps pay for their work and buying more land. So far they have 1300 hectares of land and want to buy more to protect it. After we got the spiel he took us to our “rooms” which were also hay roofed huts with screens for walls. There was one real wall and that is between the two rooms. the outside lower wall is wood and the rest of the building is screen. The thatched roof is vaulted and open inside. There is no heat, Internet or electricity on site. This meant I couldn't charge camera batteries so my little cameras are getting a workout while my G7 sits because I only have one battery for it (later I found out they have a car battery they take to town and charge up on occasion just for the purpose of charging camera batteries). Outside the back door of the hut is a large patio with hammocks that were great to relax in. The rain persisted and we just hung out and relaxed in our hammocks while listening to the rain on the flora of the rain forest. Dinner was at 7 and was pretty decent. They serve three courses of soup, entree and dessert. A lot of it is junglish like strange fruits, cinnamon from the Amazon etc... Usually one meat and the rest vegetables or potatoes. They cook with gas but we use candles for all light sources including the reception desk and dining tables. We also use candles to light our huts. They don't put out a lot of light but your eyes do get used to them. Sleeping in the hut at night was real nice because you could hear all of the jungle sounds clearly. The cicada get a little irritating but we can hear an occasional toucan. There are squirrel monkeys that hang around the lodge and are great fun to watch.