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NAVC Amazon Expedition Day #3

One Of The Dozens Of Small Tree Frogs We Came Across In The Jungle!
June 13, 2011

I was up early and a couple of hotel workers generously provided me with some fresh brewed Café Americano about 5 AM. It was great! I worked on the computer a while until Di got up about 6:30. We packed, had breakfast with some of the group, and are now ready to head for the Quito Airport and then on to Coca.

We flew TAME Air from Quito to Coca on a full plane that held about 100 people. Diane and I sat in Row 4 (courtesy of Kathy since we weren’t originally seated together) and had an awesome view of the Andes during the 27-minute uneventful flight.

Upon landing in Coca we quickly boarded two buses and drove through the town of 20,000 to the Sacha lodge staging area where we were served a box-style lunch, met our guides, received instructions from head guide “Armadillo,” sorted out or luggage to be transported separately the 80 km to the Sacha Lodge down the Napo River, and donned over-sized life jackets. After a 2-block walk we waited, and soon boarded, our “canoes,” which turned out to be outboard (nice Honda twin 75’s) long boats that each held about 30 people. While waiting to board we were entertained by a playful monkey, ants, termite nests, and a few bird sightings.

The 2-hour speedy drive down the Napo was amazing! It's a huge, wide, “white water” (which means not black water—no rapids where we were) river with plenty of commercial and human transport boat traffic. We even saw a boat with two large cows zoom by the other way! About 90 minutes into the trip we donned our Sacha issued ponchos, and just in time, as a 15 minute deluge would have completely soaked us, even with the canopy! The other boat’s occupant weren’t so luck, as we had their ponchos on board! They found us and retrieved their ponchos, but in most cases it appeared too late.

About 3:30 we arrived at the Sacha Lodge “port” and disembarked our canoes, turned in our life jackets, and rallied under an open but covered area with a bathroom. Soon we began our 40-minute jungle hike to the Lake where we would board some smaller canoes that were actually paddled by guides. The mostly board-covered walk through the jungle was fascinating. Our guides, who included Sebastian and Fausto, did a great job of answering questions and pointing out the various flora, fauna, and sites of interest. Highlights included the orange-winged Amazon parrots, squirrel monkeys, and communal hunting spiders. After boarding our canoes it was just a 15-minute or so paddle across the lake to the amazing Sacha Lodge. We were met with green fruity drinks, tasty snacks, and a 20- minute overview of the lodge and applied logistics.

We were soon escorted to our rooms, where we had some time to relax before being fitted for boots and meeting about 6 PM for our first jungle walk! Since it gets dark here about 6:30, this was a twilight walk that ended in about an hour in full darkness. Paul and Wilson, our guides for the week, are simply fantastic! As Diane says, Paul, a Quito native, and 14-year jungle guide veteran, could easily have his own television show! He’s extremely knowledgeable, articulate, and passionate. Wilson, a Napo River area native, has a local knowledge knack for finding cool stuff at every turn! He even built a functional lantern out of a seed pod, banana leaf, stick, and some vine! On our walk we saw plenty of frogs, invertebrates, and a very cool cat-eyed snake!
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