Sacha Lodge - 00 29.2S 76 26.3W 2hrs down river from Coca, Ecuador
After a 45 min flight to Coca, we were met by a bus and taken to Sacha's City House for a box lunch and briefing. We then all piled into the long motorized canoe for a two hour ride down the meandering river. The skilled driver managed to find his way down the river without hitting any of the many downed trees or sand bars. We then had a 20 minute hike through the woods on a boardwalk in the rain to arrive at the black water lake, so called due to the high tannin content making it rather dark. A short paddle by canoe brought us to the lodge where we were served some drinks and apps while told a bit more about our coming activities before being shown to our very nice cabins. At 7:00 we got our rubber boots, at 7:30 we had a scrumptious dinner, and at 8:30 we got to appreciate our rubber boots during a night walk.
We saw many grasshoppers and crickets, a few tree frogs, a small snake, many spiders and a few stick insects (like a praying mantis). My favorite was the tree frogs, with their cute toes and big eyes. The late night was followed by and early 6:00 wake up for our first hike out towards the northeast corner of the reserve which included monkeys, some birds, and some neat descriptions of what some of the plants are used for by our native Spanish speaking guide Benjamin while our English speaking naturalist guide, Fernando, translated and discussed the insects we were seeing. Bill unfortunately got stung by a Bullet Ant, so called due to the pain involved in the sting. Luckily, he got hit on the leg muscle, which isn't quite as bad as a fatty area or highly sensitive areas like the hands. He recovered after lunch in time to fish for paranahs (no luck unfortunately, but they ate a lot of our bait) and at 4:00 we went to the top of a large tree via a wooden observation tower to bird-watch. Never thought we would enjoy birding so much, but it was quite enjoyable to find the colorful birds amongst the tree tops and view them either via my travel binoculars (thanks dad...they are great!) or the spotting scope Fernando had brought. We stayed in the tree till the sun went down and canoed back in the dark, looking for caimans, a smaller cousin of the crocodile (though not that small).
Our second full day started at 5:30 for a very early morning viewing from the steel canopy walk. Again, we were mostly bird watching, seeing toucans, parakeets, and many other colorful birds. The walk back included more monkeys, including a pygmy marmoset up close and personal. Our afternoon activity was a short hike followed by a relaxing canoe ride back to the lodge to finish off an amazing day.
Our last morning was a later start, then we replayed the arrival procedure in reverse, canoeing across the lake, hiking to the river, and motoring back to coca, then onto a plane to Quito. We followed that flight with one to Cuenca.
Cuenca - South-East Ecuador
We arrived late afternoon and found our hotel, Casa Ordonez, an amazingly restored colonial home still owned by the grandson of an old Cuenca land-owner, who used to own the entire block and much else before the 2nd generation blew the fortune by not working and gambling. He spoke excellent english, having served in the US Navy for 6 years. We went to a wonderful french restaurant for our Thanksgiving Dinner (how very american of us).
For Black Friday (not quite the holiday here that it is back in the states), we went to the Central Bank Museum, which includes a floor of art, a floor of cultural exhibits describing the different regions of Ecuador, a floor of archialogical finds from the ruins out back showing pre-Incan civilization and some info on the Incan & Colonial eras, as well as a floor showing the history of Ecuadorian currency, the most interesting exhibit as far as I was concerned. It gave an appreciation for our founding fathers establishing a central bank as Ecuador had several different currencies offered by the large banks in the country until the 1930's when they created a central bank and offered Sucre until the 90's when hyper inflation forced them to adopt the US dollar.
Saturday was the travel day from hell, spending almost 8 hours on buses before getting home to the boat at about 7:45. Now our vacation is over and it is time to get back to work so we can leave La Libertad on Thursday next week.