Je bekijkt de reis...
29 maart 2015
Well, mosquitoes exist for the sole purpose of driving light-skinned Westerners insane. They were the reason that a relatively happily married couple were lying awake, sweating and scratching at three in the morning and blaming each other for having the stupid idea of spending four days in the Amazon jungle. This was the first night and there were three more to go...
We were staying at a jungle lodge called Libertad. The journey involved a flight of 21\2 hours from Lima, ninety minutes by car and another ninety minutes in a motorized skiff which is the sole mode of transport for the villagers in the region. They lodge itself was made up of five thatched, wooden huts raised above the water on pilings, although in the case of ours only barely. The nice thing about the lodge is that it is owned and run by the locals themselves. Most are run by foreign companies with the villagers getting a small share of the proceeds and some jobs. That was the same with Libertad as well but because of a series of events fat too complicated to explain here the German owner sold it back to the village almost for free and they now run it.
Throughout their stay each group has their own personal guide. Besides us there were a Swedish couple and a group of five Germans. Every day we would all head off on our separate trips and compare notes over lunch and dinner. It was the rainy season so most of the land was flooded. This meant we could only take one walk on a higher piece of ground, although to describe that as dry would be a lie. Within five paces we were totally disoriented and claustrophobic and overcome by the heat and humidity. It turned into very brief lesson on the various plants they gathered to use as medicines. They seemed to find a use for just about everything that grew there. Most of the time was spent on the river, hunting for and spotting monkeys, birds with the most fantastic colors and snakes and countless insects, as well as some extremely friendly dolphins. On one of the nights we went out to find a caiman, the small Amazon version of an alligator. At one point Larry asked us to turn off our torches and when we put them back on he was holding a baby caiman in his hands. The best came on the last afternoon when we were out spotting sloths. We assumed Larry was joking when he asked whether we wanted to hold one but almost before we knew it Oswaldo, the driver of the boat, had fashioned a sort of noose from reeds and a branch and was scaling the tree with his hands and feet.
Larry then started to move the boat away in case anything went wrong. No sooner had he said it than a smal grey object came plummeting out of the sky and crashed into the water precisely where the boat had been seconds before. Larry grabbed the sloth by the scruff of the neck and pulled it into the boat. Sloths are known to be slow but what followed was comic and sad together. In very slow motion the sloth pulled itself to the side of the boat,oh so slowly climbed onto the edge and jumped into water, Larry then pulled it back into the boat. Once again the sloth repeated the escape attempt with the same result. And then twice more, each time more slowly then the first. After the fifth attempt it it decided, fuck it, and curled up and went to sleep. Eventually Larry brought it back to the lodge and released it into the trees there. For the record, I have to mention that we went fishing for piranhas at one point and Fionnuala caught three or four and I caught none. You would have heard that soon enough anyway.
Another good thing is that in that part of the Amazon region it seems that efforts are being made to protect the indigenous way of life from the advancing oil and gas exploration. The local people have been given some guarantees, but what they are worth remains to be seen. Talking later to people who did a similar trip in Ecuador, they said that the president had made similar commitments that there would be no exploration but it later emerged he had already granted concessions and they had seen miles and miles of pipelines already in place as they were traveling to their lodge.
After the trip we flew back to Lima and spent a night before taking a bus overnight to Ecuador. We carelessly ignored warnings that we should take the bus across the border and got of at the last town before it. Naturally w paid the price. The bus company allowed taxi drivers to grab passengers as they left the bus and offer to take them to the border. The annoying thing was that the bus company we went with was recommended as the best one (although I could name at least three better ones at least I could if I could remember their names) and the taxi driver they said worked for the, ended up charging us five times the regular price. We got off lightly though as an American on the same bus end up paying 50 dollars for a 1.50 fare to the border. After we had completed the formalities we shared another taxi with him into the border town on the Ecuador side. He seemed totally out of his depth and we felt really sorry for him for being ripped off until he informed us he had beeN working for a travel agency in Cusco for over two years. I couldn't for the life of me understand how someone working in th ebusiness and who spoke Spanish could have got into such a mess.
Anyway, there's nothing at all to say about Guayaquil. It was purely theplacewewentto see whether we could get a trip to the Galápagos Islands.
Early on Monday morning we went into town to town and enquires at two travel agencies but there was nothing either available in the short term or affordable. Eventually however we tracked down a hostel that doubles as a n agency and they offered us a choice of three trips leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday. Even better, they proudly announced they accepted credit cards. In a maner of speaking. When we had chosen a trip and they had finished making the booking the woman calmly said that most people paid cash anyway because it cost an extra 180 dollars to pay by credit card.
The catch being that the trip for both of us cost 2500 and the most we could get out of the ATM was 1500. We ended up having to pay the credit card charges anyway.
Anyway, we made the trip which was pretty good. There were sixteen of us, mainly Americans and it was a good friendly group. There are about ten islands in all, three of them inhabited. Each boat - and there are lots of them - has to follow a fixed itinerary. Every day followed the same schedule. Breakfast, a vist to an island for a walk to see the wildlife, return to the boat for lunch and then some time for snorkeling in the afternoon. Although it was enjoyable I have to say the diversity of wildlife was pretty poor. At one point, the guide had to resort to pointing out a iguana that was eating rather than simply sleeping in order to stir up some excitement. Otherwise on each island there wer just one of two species of birds. One was the domain of the red-footed boobie (honest, that is what they're called) which is a fascinating creature and nice to look at, but fro about half an hour or so, not two hours when
there is nothin else to see. And of course there were sea lions, lots
and lots of sea lions wherever you turned, but the cute factor had long worn off for me by the time the trip ended. All in all, I suspect that the islands are a one-off experience for bird watchers and nature lovers but I found them overrated and very over-priced. I feel supported in that view by the fact that the Galápagos Islands have a problem with ... Illegal immigration. A lot of people from the mainland are trying to smuggle their way to them or arranging false marriages in order to find work since the islands economy is thriving.
So now we are in Cuenca in southern Ecuador where it has been raining most of the day as you caprobably tell from the length of this report. But it's time to eat so that's all she wrote.
29 maart 2015 21:13 | Door: Anna
I am planning to publish my last MM filled with your stories, I am sure you don't have any objections.