Initially I booked a trip on my own to Tena as I did not find anybody to join me for a jungle tour when I actually found a quick message from Hannah. She was planning to go to the jungle and asked if I would like to join her for a trip starting from Lago Agrio. It’s nice to meet people again, with whom you already liked to travel. In fact I was already looking forward to meeting her back in Boutiquito Hostel. And additionally the bus ride back to Quito was much easier anyway than going to Tena. I spent another day relaxing in Quito before taking the night bus to Lago Agrio, the entry point for Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, the 2nd largest reserve in Ecuador. It’s not been the most relaxing night and when we arrived at the meeting point we’ve been 3h early. So we spent the time chatting with other people leaving for different lodges. I left with mixed feelings: excitement and fear of what would expect me in the jungle.
Our place was called Nicki Lodge. After having spent roughly 2,5h in a small bus and 3h in a boat, we finally reached the lodge which was absolutely hidden in the forest and quite off the main river.
Arriving around 4pm the group was called in to start the first night walk at around 6:30pm. Being equipped with wellingtons and good advices how to behave in the jungle we went off into the dark. Main targets: searching for snakes and tarantulas. Having found some spiders but no tarantula made me slightly relieved. It would have been a bit too much for the first day in the jungle. The little airy room Hannah and I inhabited was surprisingly luxurious: we had 3 single beds and a real bath room. Water came directly from the river though and of course we had to share our bath room with some visitors, depending the day time. During the first night I slept so deep that when I woke up in the morning I was absolutely refreshed and relaxed. And also the other nights should have promised to be the same. When I took a deep breath I was overwhelmed by the smell of the fresh air. There was no pollution and no other noise than the natural one you would expect in the jungle. A so unique and beautiful sound I remember was the one of Oropendola birds which made a strange liquid “plong” noise.
2nd and 3rd day we spent in the jungle or on the boat discovering the nature, seeing monkeys, pink river dolphins, piranhas, turtles, snakes and of course plenty of spiders. We learned about the healing power of certain plants and how indigenous people use them and what is probably right about it and what is not. This was also the reason why I inhaled some garlic type of fruit. Chopping a little fruit of a to me unknown tree which did smell pretty much like garlic and mixing it with a bit of water made the base for a natural drug. Effect: deblocking the nose to an unimaginable extent. To be honest it did pretty much do the job but neither could I control my tears nor the slight swearing as not only my nose was burning (again to an unimaginable extend) but also my eyes and the heat even did reach my ears. When the burning actually stopped after 5 minutes I could not believe how intense all the different fragrances of the jungle actually were. And I was sure that I haven’t smelled such a clean and fresh air in my life before.
We also visited a village, which was built as a common project between the oil industry and the government of Ecuador. I was not very keen on setting a foot on that ground but our guide needed some medical treatment so we went to see the village, too. Wandering around, me and 3 others of our group slipped into the nearby school to have a look at books and facilities. It’s hard to say with what kind of feeling I finally left. No doubt the archetecture was shockingly poor of creativity. It looked unnatural and just in the wrong place. Our guide said that 70% of the people were happy with the new village. And of course it’s true that children had easy access to education and computer facilities which were almost comparable with European standards. Also having full electricity and running water seemed an improvement to most of the places in the jungle. Our guide mentioned that most of this places do not educate traditional living and therefore their own culture will disappear soon. I think he had a point. I however did not feel to be in the position to judge it. Do I have any traditions other than speaking German from time to time? This topic created a quite interesting base for a debate between Hannah and me but actually without a real result. Afterwards we visited a traditional household: a farm where we made yuka-bread. I loved to get my hands on that yuka plant, washing, grating and finally drying it out. The way we made the pancakes was quite a surprise to me. Without oil, egg, milk or anything the yuka flour did stick together that one could simple bake it in a pan over the open fire.
As night falls, the jungle offers quite marvelous sights, beautiful sunsets and magificent view of nocturnal species. Animal watching is devided into 2 parts: monkeys, birds and some river animals (sunbathing turtles and river dolphins) can be seen during the day; best in the morning when it’s not that warm. The scary and really intersting part comes during the night. We took our wellingtons (well, only when sure that there was no poisoning spider in it) twice within 4 days and went off to find some animals in the jungle during night times. FiN ally we spotted a huge tarantula. And after day 3 in the jungle it did not schock me to see that animal sitting in a tree not far from our house. On our way just a couple of minutes later we found more spiders, smaller but with impressive colours and shapes. We saw more snakes, frogs, ants and got amazing explanations to it.
But what surprised me most about myself: after days like that I fell asleep within 5 minutes in our room which was open to all 4 sides. I did sleep like a stone and did no care at all what could be under the roof or next to me on the wall. Sure I was well ignoring a possibile visit of a tarantula or another big spider in our room. But then, what reason should they have to be in our room if they had a whole jungle to live in with plenty of mosquitos.
To sum it up, Nicky-Lodge was a good choise. It’s hard to find a great trip fitting into a low budget of a traveller and still being in a remote and untouched place.