After a satisfying breakfast at the buffet, we began our full day trip by van to the Amazon, leaving at about 8:45. It was amazing to climb up to 4400 m at the highest point, with full views of some of the surrounding volcanos including the snow covered peak of Cotopaxi. Our driver stopped so we could take the requisite photos, and pointed out the smoke coming out of the top. It is recently active over the past fifteen months but hasn’t erupted in about 300 years
Then we slowly descended first to the cloud forest and gradually into the Amazon rainforest.
It was really interesting noticing the change in both vegetation and climate as we continued our journey. In the Quito area it is quite dry, and somewhat temperate, the cloud forest was still a bit cool, and as we got closer to the Amazon, the humidity rose. We opted not to use the air conditioning in the van, so we could open the windows. A few hours into our journey, we starting feeling cool drips of water on our heads. This was from the condensation forming on the ceiling of the van from the air conditioning.
We stopped for a very early lunch, as we made much better time than expected. We ate at Kopal Pizzeria in a town called Baese. It is owned by a Dutch ex-pat, and had truly delicious thin crust pizza and salads.
We travelled some of the time on beautifully paved roads, and other times on dirt roads full of puddles and holes. Our driver expertly navigated all of the obstacles. We arrived in excellent time to the shores of the Napo river, where we boarded a long canoe (including seats and a canopy overhead) with an outboard motor. After a beautiful 20 minute ride, we arrived around 4pm at Minga Lodge – a slice of paradise in the rainforest. We were welcomed with a snack of plantain chips with salsa and cool Guayusa Tea served in handmade ceramic cups. Women in the village wake up at 2am to start brewing the caffeinated tea so it can be served before work, to give the family energy and focus for the day.
We watched the sunset from a deck high above the Napa River, looking out over the Amazon and the sacred mountains in the distance, while we got to know some of the others in our group. We also met a hilarious photographer named Tony who is on assignment here. He will be hanging out with our group for part of our time here as well.
We had a wonderful dinner, some great conversations, and got to encounter the resident parrot named Yolanda. The boys were captivated by 3 large hairy spiders crawling on the rafters of the dining area, just a sample of some of the many creatures we will discover while we are here.
While unpacking, we heard a large crash on our roof, caused by a seed pod falling from the giant Ficus trees above our cabin. It sounds like a gunshot or a door slamming. And when they fall onto the ground, it sounds like an animal scurrying about. We hope that not too many fall in the night, or at least that no one wakes scared from the noises.
As expected, it is extremely humid. We will have to adjust to being wet the entire week we are here. Sitting in our room, surrounded by the orchestral sounds of the rainforest, we feel surprisingly at home, and are looking forward to travelling to our first community in the morning. We will be working on a build site for a computer lab/library project in a community about 45 minutes upstream.