It had been a long day already. We flew from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to a city called Coca, which actually was bigger than I thought it would be. I expected a little town with only a dilapidated tin-roofed store where a few locals would hang out, sipping colas. I imagined it quiet and sleepy. Instead, it was a city with busy streets—one right after another, in a proper grid—where people took their lives in their hands when they crossed the street. There was a man in the middle of one street juggling three machetes. (Note to self: Don’t cross the street there.) Taxis zoomed by, cars were hurriedly negotiating the streets without much concern for anyone else (in other words, get out of the way), and a fish market with a long row of vendors cutting and displaying their catch took up two blocks, attracting a multitude of buyers. This was not a quiet, sleepy town.
I was in one taxi and Steve was in another. I don’t know what taxi our bags were in. The folks from Sacha Lodge had met us at the airport and quickly shuffled a group of us—six new arrivals—in random taxis as if we were planning to escape the country in a hurry. Yes, in taxis. At the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. With Gangnam Style blaring on the radio of our taxi.
That’s how I arrived in the Amazon Rainforest.
Coca is actually Puerto Francisco de Orellana, the capital of the Orellana province in Eastern Ecuador, and is located right where the Coca River meets the Napo River. We were there to take a motorized canoe on the Napo River (the largest tributary that feeds into the great Amazon River) to get to Sacha Lodge.
Excited to begin our adventure in the Amazon
We’re totally in the Amazon!
It had just occurred to me that morning that we were going to the Amazon. A place on this planet I never thought I’d ever visit. Mostly because it’s my husband’s fault. Had I not met him, I would probably just do artsy-fartsy stuff like go to museums, tour old European villages and lounge around on sandy beaches reading a book.
No, none of that. Instead, he’s lured me into adventure travel via global birding. Yes, bird watching is pretty badass. (See my other blog, The AccidentalBirder, where I documented about when we needed armed guards in Belize while we went birding and chasing a swarm of army ants in Panama. Yes, totally badass.)
We didn’t have our luggage on our canoe ride. It was all taken to Sacha Lodge ahead of time so it would be waiting for us in our cabin. (Sacha Lodge is owned by the Swiss. I would expect nothing less from the Swiss.)
When you arrive at the airport a person from Sacha Lodge puts tags on all your luggage. They’re very organized.
After my rear end was numb from the two-hour canoe ride we then arrived at what I thought was our final destination.
Hooray! We’re here! Actually, not really.
Getting there is half the fun, or so the saying goes. Well, that’s only if there’s also a bathroom on that journey. Thankfully, there was a bathroom (flushing toilets!), which I ran to once the canoe docked. There was even toilet paper. (Aw, those Swiss think of everything.)
Now, there’s a reason there’s a bathroom here. Turns out our journey’s not done. We then had to walk about a mile in the jungle. Over a boardwalk laden path and sometimes over the swamp. Awesome! Kind of.
This trail became known affectionately by others (and us) as the Death March. This was not the only time we would walk this path. It’s just long and arduous (for me, at least). And doing it at 5 a.m. in the dark in pouring down rain (which is what we did one morning) makes it seem endless.
Once we finished our mile-long walk I thought we’d be at Sacha Lodge. Not yet, folks. We then got into canoes–not motorized this time, but instead two Sacha Lodge guides paddled us to the lodge through a creek for about 20 minutes and to a lake right outside the lodge. And then there it was–Sacha Lodge. Finally.
Praise the Lord. We’re here.
Our group of six—they call us “newbies”—had a briefing in the main lodge. We were told the food was all safe (meaning we could actually eat salad), there would be morning wake-up calls (knocks on our doors), always be careful where you put your hands (I didn’t want to know) and then I asked my question:
“Uh, what’s the password to the wi-fi?”
The guide giving the briefing chuckled and said, “You’re in the Amazon. There is no wi-fi here. But there is a shared computer where you can pay $5 for 30 minutes, but I think you’ll be fine without the Internet.”
No wi-fi? What is this? The jungle?
At least we have toilets.
Oooh! Some bonus video here:
To give you an idea of how large the Napo River is, here’s a very short clip of our ride. You’ll notice that it’s about as wide as the Mississippi River (well, for those of you who know all about the Mississippi River).
This next video shows our arrival at Sacha Lodge on the non motorized canoe. You can hear our guide, Marcelo talking to Steve and asking him if he’d ever seen a Hoatzin (that’s a very strange bird).