The call of the wild
We arrived in Quito the capital of Ecuador in the middle of the afternoon after 2 flights from leaving Cusco in Peru.
as another experience which we are getting used to with LAN. An emergency aborted landing - a little disconcerting when the plane rapidly pulls upward just as you thought you were landing however after what seemed an eternity in a completely silent plane we were finally told there had been too much turbulence and we would have another go from a different approach. We were glad to finally have the wheels on the ground as were the other passengers who let out an enthusiastic applause - not the first time we've heard this though .
The drive to our hotel also sped up the heart rate. Our driver drove her car to its limit (and well over the speed limit!) We must have passed 100 plus cars on our journey - and it was a lady!
Our first night in Quito was at the Swiss Hotel courtesy of the Amazon stay we had booked. One night in a luxury hotel was exciting prospect after the last 2 weeks sleeping arrangements. Everything was going to plan until just after 9.30 when a 5.9 earthquake stuck the coast of Ecuador. We all scrambled to the doorways and waited out the rolling and swaying on the 4th floor of the hotel. When it finished we had a quick chat to the kids and settled them back to bed. However 11mins after the first a bigger 6.4 earthquake struck. This was frightening. While Rach got the kids jerseys I grabbed the passports and some US$ we. We left the hotel via the stairs (some guests where getting in the lifts!)
In the lobby we were ushered to a meeting point outside in an abandoned lot. There we were briefed on what was happening and also filmed by a local TV crew. We did chuckle at the hotel manager saying it was okay he felt it was only around a 6! I rang Mum to try get some info and she was great letting me know what and where it was all happening. There was no further shakes that night but it didn't set us up for much sleep. Staying in a flash hotel hadn't worked out for us!
My favourite moment of the night was from Bella. After the second quake had stopped and we where getting the kids clothes to leave the hotel she looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said "I'm to young to die I have too much to live for" She was so matter of fact it was Bella to a T. Toby on the other hand was fizzing and eager to get on google straight away to find out all the details.
The next morning we were picked up and taken to the airport for a short 40min flight to the small town of Coca - a very run down little town which is the gateway to the Amazon from Ecuador. We were then driven to the docks where we travelled in a motorised canoe (longboat) for 2 hours. A short walk across the land in between the river and the lake and then a paddle canoe to the lodge. Our faces must have been a picture - here we were paddling down a narrow stream lined with lush tropical vegetation and filled with the sounds of the wild. Within minutes we spotted two small black monkeys swinging in the trees - we were in awe.
The girls enjoying the ride
Loved the Howler monkeys
Rach -We were staying at Le Selva Lodge on Garzacocha lake off the Napo river. It is situated on the edge of the lake and is a beautiful open air design. Our rooms are luxurious the beds draped with mosquito nets and the windows are just net. So you lie there at night listening to the "calls of the wild". We have two units as once again our family of "five doesn't fit". So there was girls camp and boys camp. Our wake up call is 6 am each morning where one of the staff wandered around the bungalows to wake us in preparation for the mornings activities. Bella was beside herself when the chap came to her window on the first morning and said "Bella, Bella - it's time to wake up" Bella in turn wandered round and woke the rest of us up. She sure was pretty pleased with herself. Later on speaking to the Bolithos we learnt their lodge had no external walls just a floor a roof and you netted bed - eek I'd have been dreaming of creepy crawlies all night!
The Lodge by night
Our daily activities have were a mixture of bush walks, kayak trips and telescope viewing from the observation deck at 40m - above the canopy. A visit to a community to see the school and learn about their way of life including harvesting of the main crops of coffee and cocoa. Each day we left at 7am and return between 11-12. Then after lunch it was free time until 4.30 when we head out until 7. Dinners at 7.30 so we are having long days with the kids. But its worth it to be out with a guide for 7 hours each day. Meals were 5 star fine dining - something very different for our kids. Some very fancy food and the confusion of which cutlery to use when.
We managed to see loads of species of birds and many monkeys. The highlights being Toucan and McCaw, listening to the Howler Monkeys growl (the loudest animal in the Amazon) watching 50+ parrots feed on the clay bank which is an adaptation to neutralise the toxins they ingest eating unripe fruits. They began eating unripe fruit to minimise competition for food - amazing survival tactics.
The parrots feeding on the clay
We had a go at Piranha fishing - and caught two! And last but by no means least an up close encounter with a Tarantula. We all even managed a swim in the lake. Normally not a very exciting event but we were about 100m from where we caught the Piranhas! Would you believe though - they don't eat people - I'm sure some cartoons I watched in my youth indicated to the contrary
All in for a dip
Although the Amazon Rainforest stay was only 3 days it was a fantastic experience. There is such excitement seeing animals in there natural environment. Just the lush surrounds and the noises had our imaginations running overtime - especially on our twilight walks. The kids were amazing I know it was no mean feat for them to stay quiet for hours on end so as not to scare any potential sightings. That coupled with not being able to touch a thing for fear of some creepy crawly or bullet ant attaching themselves to you. Bullet ants can kill monkeys! With that name we weren't keen to experience their bite. It was super humid - we had to store our electronics in a dry box and I had my sweaty face on most of the time. By the time we left the Amazon we felt like every article of clothing was damp - so it was a major wash dry and sort on our one night in Quito.
A cute fluffy TRANTULA!
Squirrel Monkeys - super cute
La Selva is an eco lodge meaning they aim for minimal impact on the environment and have strict rules that they do not feed or otherwise encourage any of the wildlife. So everything we saw was an observation in their natural habitat. They also had a great agreement with the local village where they paid for school materials, a teacher, a water system and allowed them to use their boats twice a week. It was nice to see this cooperative understanding. Our visit to the village was fascinating. There were no kids in school but it was fascinating for our kids to see the conditions these kids work in. We were also taken to the communal area and given some food which included a rather large grub. We all managed to eat it - poor Holly struggling the most as she wretched and eyes watered but she couldn't be the only one not to do it. That's not the Watson way! Tobs and I discovered we were ace with the blow gun. A handy skill to have when we return to the streets of Richmond.
local fare - grub included - it tasted like pork crackling!
Bats in Camouflage
Turtles keeping warm