Kapoors Year 7: Europe/Ecuador/Peru travel blog

We Set Off By Bus, Through The Avenue Of Volcanos, This One...

Here Two High Mountain Streams Combine To Form The Pastaza River, A...

At The Private Airport At Shell, We Are Each Weighed, Along With...

Our Group Of Eight Is Crammed In With The Pilot And Our...

We Have Lift-Off, And Before We've Travelled Any Distance At All, We're...

We Reach Cruising Altitude Above The Rain Forest, But Here And There...

The Trip Was Uneventful And Before We Know It We're Almost Touching...

Somehow I Was Surprised To Land On A Dirt Runway, But It...

We Managed To Scramble Out Of The 10-Seater Plane, No Limbs Numb...

We Were Asked Not To Take Photos Of Any Of The Buildings,...

On Our Short Walk To Our Boat, Our Guide Omar Spotted A...

We Donned Life Jackets And Settled In For The One-Hour Journey To...

Along The Way We Spotted An Area Being Cleared For Cultivation By...

At Last We Had Arrived At Our Final Destination, Our Home For...

The Traditional Buildings Are Set Around A Secluded Lagoon, Raised On Stilts...

We Were Assigned Hut #3, It Looked Pretty Small From The Outside

But Was Surprisingly Spacious And Roomy On The Inside, With An Attached...

After Settling In We Headed Towards The Common Area, Here Is The...

We Walked Out On The Boardwalk Over The Lagoon For A View...

The Lodge Is Big Enough To Accommodate 35 Guests, But There Were...

That's Our Little Home Away From Home On The Left, It Was...

When We Arrived One Of The Kitchen Staff Was Just Unloading Yucca,...

After A Brief Rest, We Set Out To A Muddy Island In...

It Was Great To Walk In The Warm Mud, No Rubber Boots...

 

After Dinner, Our Guide Omar Showed Us This Map And Explained That...

Our Local Achuar Guide Celestine Wore A Traditional Headdress Made Of Toucan...


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BACKGROUND

No sense in re-inventing the wheel. I’ll take some of the information about the Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve from the Digital Magazine they sent us when we booked our tour:

Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve is one of the most remote, ecologically responsible, and culturally sensible ecolodges in the world. Your visit helps the Achuar in their job of preserving 700,000 hectares of pristine forest in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

An Achuar is a living encyclopedia that can recognize each bird and other animals with which they share the forest. From each plant and from every tree, they can explain its benefits and medical applications they have learned from their grandparents. According to them, every plant and animal also has its own soul and life.

A native Achuar guide and a formally trained naturalist guide will accompany you on your exploration of the Amazonian jungle.

Kapawi Ecolodge sits deep in Ecuador’s southeastern part of the Amazon Basin, near the Peruvian border. Just a few miles from the Pastaza River, one of the major tributaries of the Amazon, the lodge was built in Achuar territory in 1993. It is a remote region, untouched by logging, mining or petroleum extraction. The closest road is a ten-day walk from the lodge. Kapawi itself is only accessible by air.

Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve offers you the unique opportunity to visit the Achuar community and feel the experience of interacting with a culture that was isolated from the outside world until the end of the 20th century.

The Lodge was built by a team of native craftsmen who used traditional materials and techniques to incorporate more eco-friendly and low impact technologies, making it a unique Ecolodge working with sustainable principles. Since January 1, 2008, the Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve is a legally constituted company fully owned by the Achuar and has the backing of the NAE (Achuar Nationality of Ecuador) for all its activities. More than ninety percent of the Lodge staff is composed of natives from the area with training in each work position.

The application of good practices, our policies of sustainability and quality of service has been recognized by organizations such as National Geographic Adventure as of the Top 50 Ecolodges in the World, the United Nations also granted us the Equatorial Prize 2010 as of one of the best Projects at the World Level for our work in environmental preservation and social development.

KAPOORS ON THE ROAD

I am delighted to report that Anil wrote his first-ever journal entry in the form of an email sent to our close family and friends, shortly after our return from Kapawi. I was feeling the effects of the return to high altitude and Anil knew it would be some time before I would get around to writing an entry myself. We completely switched roles on this one – I got to act as Editor and was even allowed to enter an ‘Editor’s Note’.

14-Day Walk

We were picked up at our apartment on Monday at 5:30 am for our five-day excursion into the Amazon jungle. There were eight of us, all from Canada. We drove down the Pan-American highway called the 'Avenue of Volcanoes' hoping to get a glimpse of the two highest volcanoes here - Cotopaxi and Chimborazo - both over 20,000 ft. No clear glimpse of them as the clouds hung low.

Five hours later we arrived at a town where we got into a small plane and flew towards the southeast corner of Ecuador, close to the border of Peru. The hour-long plane ride was thrilling and it got us to the headwaters of the Amazon River. The runway was hard packed dirt and the little children come running every time a plane lands. No buildings of any kind in sight. It was a scene out of the movies except there were no drug runners!

Then we piled into a small boat and headed down the Pastaza River. It took another thirty minutes to get to the Kapawi lodge, our home for the week. We were welcomed with the line: " It is a 14-day walk to the nearest civilization". We were truly in the Amazon jungle.

Our typical day was to be awakened at 6:00 am, a quick cup of coffee, and it was off in the boat to look at the birds. Our guide would spot unusual birds and tell us a bit about their habits. There were parrots, toucans, hawks, ospreys and a host of other birds. We even got to see pink river dolphins.

Back to the lodge for breakfast at eight and then we went for a hike in the jungle. Rubber boots were mandatory as we often slogged through muddy trails. In the jungle hike we had a native guide who pointed out unusual plants and animals. We saw pocket monkeys (cute), bullet ants (stay clear), and were lucky enough to spot a Giant Anteater. We were asked to bring a clean pair of socks for each day as nothing gets a chance to dry. Loved the boots!

Editor’s Note: Anil claims he’s never worn rubber boots before, and it was obviously true as he had no idea how to take them off without getting his hands muddy. I had gone straight to the shower and called instructions to him while I rinsed the shampoo out of my hair. By the time I had finished my shower and toweled off, he had managed to get one boot off and his hands were still clean!

Lunch at 1:00 followed by a short rest and then we went kayaking in the river. They hauled our kayaks upriver so the current helped us as we paddled back to the lodge. Then a swim in the river and it was time to head to our room for a shower. Plenty of cold water but on sunny days you could have a hot shower. They had a black 5-gallon bag that they left in the sun for the afternoon. By the time the sun set the water was quite warm. They would hang the bag in the bathroom and there was enough warm water for each of us to have a quick shower. One day there was no sun so we had to have ice-cold showers.

Dinner and drinks at 7:00 pm. They had a fabulous chef at the lodge and there was plenty of beer, wine, and spirits. After dinner they had an optional activity of a hike or a river cruise to see the nocturnal animals.

One afternoon we went piranha fishing. We had to fish like the natives using their bait and line but we had no luck. However, our guide and our boatman, each caught a piranha so we were able to see the sharp teeth of this fish.

On our last morning we got to try a blowgun. The natives put poisoned darts in the blowgun and they can shoot down monkeys and birds from the top of trees. The blowgun is made from plant material and is about 10-feet long. I tried, but did not have the right technique to blow hard.

On our return trip the pilot asked us if we wanted to follow the river. This seemed strange, as we had followed the Pastaza River on our inward trip. Ten minutes into the flight we reached a section of the river that was fairly straight. The pilot pointed his nose down and pretty soon we were flying over the water at tree top level. What a thrill!

It was a clear day so on the way home we were able to see snow-covered Cotopaxi and a few other volcanoes. Also, a stop at a town that is famous for their ice cream. Vicki had the coconut ice cream that was great but I decided to give the Avocado ice cream a try. It was so-so.

All in all it was a great week but now we are exhausted and need a few days to rest and adjust to the altitude. Quito is at 9,300 feet and leaves you gasping for air. Good preparation for Cusco, in April, which is even higher.

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