Tag Archives: Cuyabeno

Sounds of the jungle

Crickets and other insects provide the constant orchestral baseline for the jungle soundtrack. The accompaniment is, however, surprisingly sparse during the day, with the odd bird, monkey or frog adding to the score (and don’t forget the ducks, yes ducks, that almost feel too familiar and domestic for a jungle setting). There is some percussion in the form of the odd splash of cayman taking to water and turtles diving in off of their basking spot and fish jumping into the air and smacking the water surface as they fall again.

The rain arrives on day three, and the constant drip drip sounds heavier on the plastic roof of the kitchen. Long after the showers have finished, water channels down through dense foliage and tricks you intothinking it  is still raining as big fat drops fall from the leaves and land in your path. Paddling the canoe in the rain is a multi-sensory experience with light sploshes to your face (the rest of your head and body protected by an oversized poncho), and the ones that miss you hit the water and ripple out and out. Walking in the rain feels great, – the jungle a grown up playground where you can jump in puddles and stomp through mud and free your wellies with a satisfying squelch.

On trips out in the canoe the engine hums at different frequencies as the driver full throttles ahead on deeper, familiar stretches of the river, or dips the engine completely to navigate the shallows. Occasionally, grinding over the riverbed in the extreme low water you can hear the crunch of breaking branches as the engine is first fully engaged, then killed. The boat holds together, gliding quietly for a moment  before the engine kicks back in. The main sound when paddling the smaller canoe is the gentle splashes of the oars dipping in and out of the water. In rare moments, – when we are all in sync, in harmony, – it is hypnotic.

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If you go down to the woods tonight…

The jungle at night is not somewhere you’d want to be by yourself, our guide told us. Scorpions, spiders and other dangerous creepy crawlies and animals make their way out of hiding when dusk falls. One wrong move could put you, at the very least, in some serious pain.

Head torches on, we walked single file and slowly through jungle pathways, flashing our lights everywhere to avoid stepping on bugs or bumping into snakes or spiders hanging from the trees. But we also walked slowly in order to spot things.

Nearly walking into a shiny spider thread, I followed it with my torch to a perfectly formed web on which sat a huge spinning spider. This was the first of many.

© Eran Samocha and Chen Cohen

Others spotted dart frogs, a cluster of rash inducing hairy caterpillars, tree frogs, a tarantula. We saw scorpions, an anaconda, giant grasshoppers and the stickest stick inset I’ve ever seen. We didn’t see any wild cats or boars but with ten of us walking in succession, it was never really an option.

Switching off our torches to listen and adjust to the natural jungle environment was a magical moment. No speaking, no shuffling, – just the buzz of the insects, a musty, earthy smell and the warm heat rising from the ground.

© Eran Samocha and Chen Cohen

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Welcome to the jungle (we got fun and games and good food)

The bus whizzed away from Lago Agrio at scary speeds past the DESPACIO sign, past the ESCUELA sign, and onwards into the jungle along a road bordered by thick, rusty oil pipes and vast vegetation.

Two hours later my group of ten arrived at El Puente where we loaded up our bags onto a motorised canoe and clambered on board. The sun beat down and the breeze was minimal and the little wooden benches were hard, but as we travelled down the Cuyabeno river I was transported to a happy headspace. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a movie – with all the varied landscape it could have been a horror, an action-adventure, an exotic romance– and then I pinched myself and thought – this is freakin’ real! – this is actually my life!

Heading down to the lodge

The journey took us past old, hairy trees with gangly, gnarly roots exposed by the low water levels of the dry season. Social yellow butterflies hung out in groups of twenty, thirty, more, and giant Blue Morpho butterflies gently fluttered by along the river banks, visible from far away as the sun caught their colourful backs.

All sorts of things stuck out of the brown, murky water and appeared to be snakes or birds or the tops of caymans’ snouts until you got closer and realised they were just, well, sticks and stones and leaves. Without our guide, Jairo, we would have missed the majority of wildlife. His keen eye, fine tuned to the jungle backdrop, sought out anacondas and yellow-headed vultures and stinky turkeys and yellow-spotted river turtles. We stopped the engine on a couple of occasions to watch squirrel monkeys, yellow-handed titi monkeys and black-mantled tamarins scramble through the trees. All this and we had yet to arrive at our destination, Samona Lodge.

Spot the monkey

After two hours I was ready to get off the boat, my clothes sweaty and my bum pretty numb. The humidity was high and the bugs and insects were starting to come out as dusk approached (although the cockroach in my bed was by far the worst I had to deal with, even more so than the baby tarantula on the hand railing). I got shown to my shared room inside a naturally vented wooden hut, and to my lower bunk bed which was surrounded by a mosquito net.

Slapping on the insect repellent and grabbing my torch, I headed to supper around a candlelit table and prepared for some days without electricity. Over a delicious quinoa soup, Jairo told us of the plans for the next few days, which included hiking, walking, fishing, swimming, and siestas. After more great food (I’m now of the opinion that yucca is so much better than potato) I swung in a hammock in the central social area, my batteries already massively recharged, and I realised that I’d fallen in love with butterflies. Who would have guessed?!

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