Day 3 of the Nicky Lodge 4-day tour
In the early morning canoe excursion, new stuff we saw included a tiger heron (so called because the juveniles look like tigers!).
We saw also a tiny hawk and some fishing bats. Bats always scare me, not least because I’m worried about rabies.
After breakfast, we visited an indigenous Siona community about 10 minutes downriver.
They traditionally use this for hunting – you blow an arrow out of the pipe. Trickier than it looks!
I recognized some of their crops – yuca, corn and papaya.
The yuca grown here is much bigger than the yuca that grows in Rosario though. I was astounded at how big these yucas were! Our guide said that these were normal-sized, and could get even bigger.
We made pan de yuca (yuca bread), which basically involved:
- peeling and washing the yuca
- grating the yuca (extremely labour-intensive)
- squeezing the water out of it until it’s 90% dry
- sifting the grated yuca
- cooking it over a fire.
100% yuca – no other ingredients!
The taste and texture was similar to rice cake. It doesn’t have much taste on its own, but we ate it with salad, jam, chocolate sauce, etc. I bet it could be done in Rosario as well but I don’t know how to squeeze the water out of the yuca without this apparatus.
The villagers also have some handcrafted bracelets for sale at $2 or $3 each (the beads are seeds of plants grown here and the string is made from a plant as well). I bought a couple – would probably have bought more but didn’t bring enough cash!
In the afternoon, we went on another canoe excursion to a lagoon to watch the sunset.
We also saw some freshwater dolphins, but all you see is basically a small hump rising out of the water for less than a second. It was impossible to get a photo of them, and it wouldn’t have looked like much anyway. How I longed for some diving (or even snorkeling) gear at that moment! But visibility would’ve been lousy, anyway.
The water was relatively warm but shallow (less than 1m deep), since we were in the dry season. So we didn’t go swimming, which was completely fine by me as I’d left my swimsuit in Intag.
That sunset was gorgeous.
Definitely one of my favourite parts of this trip.
After that, we cruised back down the river to the lodge in the dark and did a little caiman spotting. Caimans are part of the alligator and crocodile family, but distinct from both. I forgot to bring my headlamp, but luckily enough people did so that I still managed to see a few in the water. You can mostly just see their heads, though. We even spotted a small boa.
We got back rather late – at about 8pm – and had another delicious dinner with a bonus: cake for dessert! I can never say no to cake.
I thought that would be it for the day, but after dinner we went for another night walk. This time round, only about half the group turned up. The rest were either tired or had had enough of spiders.
Personally, I don’t love them but I can put up with them because they eat flies. Spiders in webs are fine – it’s the hunting ones that scare me more. But big worms definitely creep me out more! We saw some, and even though I didn’t take any pictures, I think they’re seared in my memory forever.
Leaf-cutter ants carrying their leaf bits to their nest:
We spent some time star-gazing again and were rewarded with not one, but two shooting stars!
In our last early morning canoe excursion, we saw two new species of monkeys (whose names I unfortunately can’t remember).
Breakfast was extra delicious with some kind of empanada de yuca – I only recognized it as yuca because of the fibres sticking out of it. It tasted quite buttery and had cheese inside. I indulged a little in the sliced bread, knowing that I wouldn’t have any more for a while. There was even yoghurt and granola. All things I like!
We bade a sad goodbye to the lodge after breakfast.
It was another 3-hour canoe ride to the Cuyabeno Bridge, where we’d have lunch and take the bus to Lago Agrio.
I dozed off at times but Linda was on full alert and spotted some monkeys! They were a group of squirrel and capuchin monkeys and I got some of my best monkey pictures.
The canoe got stuck a few times due to the low water level (less than 50cm deep!) and one of the guys helped to paddle a bit. I was just glad we didn’t have to get out and push it!
Journey back to Quito
In Lago Agrio, we caught the private bus back to Quito, but there was a hiccup because the bus was overbooked. I’m still not really sure how that happened but I guess the takeaway is: even if you have a ticket, it still pays to hustle onto the bus. I’ve taken plenty of public buses though along the Rosario – Otavalo and Otavalo – Quito route, and have never had this problem.
The ride back took about 6 hours and involved hairpin turns along the sides of the mountains. The bus driver took those turns so fast that I could feel 2 of the 4 wheels lifting off the ground for a few seconds each time. I genuinely feared for our lives a couple of times. It didn’t help that we passed a pretty bad road accident along the way. Linda, on the other hand, slept like a baby through all of this. Lucky girl!
And thus ended our trip to the Amazon – a very memorable trip that was well worth the $280.