Cuyabeno Reserve, Jamu Lodge

After arriving back to Coca from Shiripuno, we have the weekend to decide where we wanna go next. Since last year we haven’t visited the Cuyabeno Reserve, that is what we settle on. After contacting a few lodges in the area, we have to realize, that most places only offer “packaged tours” which means a strict schedule and the usual tourist programs…seems like we won’t be able to wander off on our own, as we usually do. We choose Jamu lodge, mostly because they are the ones that call us back…They have a group going down on the 20th, so Sunday we take a bus to Lago Agrio (the ride is only 2 and a half hours / a piece of cake!) where our guide will meet us on Monday morning. Now, most of the guidebooks warn, that Lago Agrio is not the safest place on the planet…(the Colombian border is only 21 kilometers away) and even a few years ago there were some cases when tourists were kidnapped. So, upon arriving to Lago Agrio, what do we do after getting off the bus? Taking a safe taxi to the hotel? NO. We choose a little bicycle-taxi, so we can push our 7 bags and expensive camera equipment in plain view all through the busy main street…I can almost see ourselves being gunned down, as some Colombian guerillas take off with our luggage…but we arrive at the hotel without as much as a gunshot.

The rest of the day, we stay close to the hotel, but the city actually do not look that scary…At night, there is a huge thunderstorm (now, this is SCARY), and the lightning is so close, the whole building shakes with the thunder…

The next morning we meet our group and the guide. We all pile in into the ranchero (an open truck) and start down the road toward the reserve. We have an older, Canadian couple with us, two younger girls (one from Switzerland, one from Sweden) and another girl, who is American, but lives in Quito and works as a photographer. It is amazing, how many people we meet, that spend quite a few months away from home. The Swedish girl is on a year-long trip, the other one is on a 6-month trip, and the Canadian couple is spending 2 or 3 months in South America. It is really fascinating..although the Swedish girl admitted, the she is losing steam, (she has been away 7 months) and misses the simple day-to-day life of home…And I remember that English couple that we met in Shiripuno – they both have quit their jobs, so they can go to Africa for nine months…Is this becoming a trend? People going on for year-long trips around to world? and what does it mean? Do we become more open, more understanding, more tolerant, after spending so much time in cultures so different from ours? De we become more environmentally conscious if we see the direct and indirect effects of our actions in far-away places and realize the borders of countries are really just imaginary and we are all in this together? If the rainforests of Ecuador disappear, it is not just the loss of the Ecuadorians, but mine also.

Along the road the usual pipelines…The area is “famous” for the damage that Texaco (now Chevron) inflicted upon it…(please check out http://www.texacotoxico.com for some very disturbing facts about the oilspills in the region!) It is estimated that some 18 billion (!!) gallons of toxic waste has been dumped into the area. On behalf of the indigenous people who live here, a lawsuit was filed against Chevron in 1993 and again in 2003, which is still haven’t been closed :

Quito, Ecuador (DEC 01, 2008) – An increase in Chevron’s potential environmental liability in Ecuador’s Amazon to $27 billion is “reasonable” given new scientific data about groundwater contamination and hundreds of additional cancer deaths due to oil contamination, according to a team of scientists who have reviewed the latest report by the court-appointed expert.

(from http://www.texacotoxico.com)

At the river we have a quick lunch and from the restaurant this is what we see:ecuador2-030-kis-kep

The boat ride is like four hours, but the forest next to the river is beautiful – a lot different than what we have seen going down on the Shiripuno river…The lodge is like 15 minutes downstream from Laguna Grande. The entrance is through a huge, beautiful mangrove tree -very impressive.

The entrance to Jamu Lodge

The entrance to Jamu Lodge

We only have a few minutes to settle in, and than it is time to go to the Laguna, to watch the sunset…I do not bring my camera (for some unknown reason) and it is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUNSET EVER!! The macrolobia trees, that are standing in the water, almost lit up with the golden sunlight…But somehow all I can think of: WHY ON EARTH DIDN’T I BRING MY CAMERA?! it is weird, how attached I got to the notion that I have to take pictures of everything…days go by, and I still beat myself up, because this one time I did not have my camera with me. What is this about?? Trying to capture the fleeting moments, like that way we could hang onto them…and in the meantime we draw ourselves out of the direct experience, because we are busy clicking away…

(anyway, no picture of that sunset..but trust me, it was beautiful)

The next morning we go on a trail…lots of caterpillars! here is one:

caterpillar with waterdrop on its back

caterpillar with waterdrop on its back

We take a different route from the group (they do the usual touristy things, like eating lemon ants etc.), and end up in a beautiful swampy area…ecuador2-082-kis-kep

After the walk we take a canoe back to the camp…However fast we row, we cannot outrow the storm that hits us full force on the river. In the evening it is time for the “mandatory” piranha fishing (another cannot miss touristy experience…) Fortunately we also see a pink dolphin surfacing not far from us..such a gentle, amazing creature. Instead of fishing I try to take a few pictures (hey, at least I am not killing anybody..)

macroloba tree in the water

macroloba tree in the water

ecuador2-069-kis-kep

The macroloba trees are really unique, since they spend most of the year halfway under water and still survive.

an unlucky piranha

The girls catch one or two piranhas, which they can eat for dinner…

On the way back, another mandatory tourist attraction: looking for caymans in the dark, with a flashlight. As we talk about it with Ralf, it is such a shame that a beautiful reserve like this (and all the others) are usually reduced to these few things: piranhas, caymans, lemon-ants…

There is so much more to see, so much more to discuss, to talk about then these clichés…

The lodge even has a small platform, which the employees use as a make-shift gym. This little mantis was posing on the fence of the gym:

ecuador-2008-047-2

And this fuzzy little caterpillar lived right behind our cabana: ecuador2-188-photo

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jill Panitch said,

    Fascinating blog and fantastic photographs!!
    ~Jill

  2. 2

    DragonChaser said,

    Lovely collections of photos from Jamu Lodge. I enjoyed my stay there, too!

  3. 3

    beautiful pics…and i appreciate your reading “are we a virus” continue….

    • 4

      whereeveryougo said,

      thanks for checking it out! and while the question that you posed (Are we a virus?) is definately not new (see: Agent Smith in Matrix, for example) or was asked in very similar form in countless of blogs and articles (Is humanity the cancer of the Earth?)I still liked your thoughts on it. The way we go about destroying our environment (on which our life is based on) definiately warrants the comparison.


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