Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jungle time
After arranging the trip to the jungle from Tena, we rode on to Coca, a town based around the oil industry so pretty it ain´t. We get set up in a hotel with secure parking for the bikes for a few days while we´re away in the jungle. The hotel has a big garden area which is occupied by a variety of parrots, monkeys, a toucan and some things that look like overgrown rats without tails.
At 4.00am the next morning, we´re up and eventually get a taxi (no thanks to the hotel) to the bus station where we are to meet Orlando, our guide for the next few days, on the overnight bus from Tena. The bus station is a bit like a muggers paridise but thankfully the bus arrives on time and thankfully he´s on it and we´re on our way to Limoncocha, about 3 hours away. From there, its a 20 min boat ride to where our jungle accommodationis situated. And its basic. For our $120 each, we get a mattress on the floor of a timber hut with a mosquito net. All meals will be provided by Orlando for the next 3 days so no cooking for us.

River taxi
All the mod cons

Yes, that is an ant. A large one

Day one- We go for a walk into secondary jungle for a few hours and get introduced to a variety of plants and animals. Its actually quite interesting and Michelle even gets a face paint and jungle princess head-dress made out of leaves. After a bit of lunch, we´re off fishing for pirhana in the river. Now I´m a little apprehensive about this and my fears are increased when we see the boat, a very narrow timber affair with a rather large hole and an impressive amount of woodrot. We´re given timber paddles and a wooden fishing rod and we´re off up the river. After rowing for a while, we stop at a likely spot and cast our lines. Orlando is a bit of a natural at this and starts landing some of the sharp-toothed buggers fairly quickly. Unbelieveably, I manage to catch a big red pirhana, a real bastard by all accounts. It drops off the line and falls into the boat, snapping away, narrowly missing Michelles behind. After a few hours of this, we head back to the ´accommodation´ and Orlando starts preparing our dinner of, you guessed it, pirhana.

My catch!

Day two- More walking, this time into some primary rainforest. This looks much like the secondary stuff but there´s more stuff growing all over the place. Its not a very easy walk though as a lot of its in boggy ground and our guide doesn´t seem to arsed about explaining about the plants and animals today. We get back to the camp and get some lunch. It in the afternoon, we had been told we´d be going to meet some indiginous tribe or something. It turned out we got to wander about the camp area where Orlando explained a few things about plants, how they are used for medicinal purposes and which are the best ones to get you off your tits. He also made some real string from a long leaf which was actually pretty cool to watch. The meeting the indiginous peoples consisted of wandering up to where the man and wife who live at the camp were harvesting corn, and I had to help carry it back to the house, fantastic.

The evenings entertainment was again giving some cause for concern. We were going looking for caimen, a slightly smaller aligator, in the river. In the dark. And in a leaking boat. We set off about 7.30pm in the dark but we were accompanied by Mr Caimen himself, the owner of the place. He apparently has the uncanny skill to spot caimen and to imitate their mating call or something. It turns out to spot a caimen, you shine a torch about the water and the light reflects off their eyes, just like cats eyes, so not that hard really. And the mating call sounds a bit like Mr Caimen clearing his throat. My head torch was picking up shedloads of the things but they all seem to disapear whenever we rowed close. Eventually, one caimen about 2m long, was kind enough to hang about to get his photo taken. It was a very unusual experience as the jungle makes a very different noise at night. During the day, its mostly birds doing nifty impersonations of car alarms going off with some monkeys thrown in for good measure however at night, the air comes alive with the sound of frogs on the riverside. And even better, there are tiny little insect things that sit on leaves and glow in the dark, fantastic. What I didn´t really like was rowing through what initially looked like a light river mist but was in fact mosquito larvae hatching. Certainly makes you paddle a bit faster.

Mosquito larvae, nice

Who´s a pretty boy then

Day three- The took another leaky timber boat with marginaly less wet rot of to another part of the reserve where we took another walk. This one was spiced up slightly by seeing a 3m long black and yellow snake. It certainly spooked our guide who hadn´t noticed it and nearly stood on it. Again, more stuff on plants and their uses to the people who live here then back to camp via the river again.

You REALLY don´t want to be in this water

Our taxiboat (with a motor!) was coming at 5.30pm to take us back to catch the bus so the afternoon was spent in the hammocks doing bugger all as the humidity is so high, you just sweat all the time. I was actually pretty thankfull to be out of there though, it´s a nice place to visit but I wouldn´t want to live there. When we got back to our hotel in Coca later that night, the beer has never tasted better!

Good entertainment back at the hotel

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