Sunday, June 29, 2008

Into the Amazon... at Sani Lodge

So last you heard from us we were debating a trip into the Amazon to carry out our wound care project... the next morning we were on a plane to the amazon region! It was pretty last minute due to lack of response from our sponsoring amazon lodge (Sani Lodge), but it worked out wonderfully.

During the flight (we quickly ascended into clouds due to Quito's high altitude) we were able to view some of the breath-taking mountains of the Andes- huge portions of the mountains were above the clouds! However, when we landed we were in the middle of Coca, a city built with oil money and at a pretty low elevation (it was much more humid and hot than Quito).

It's definitely got the makings of a ramshack rapidly growing town. It's a bit grungy and muddy. We were transported by lodge staff to a motorized river boat and traveled 2.5 hours on the large Napo River. It is rainy season in the Amazon and the river is very full and fast flowing. Half way there we lost a motor on the boat, we hit a floating trunk or something, and though it didn't affect our travels, the lodge staff were very upset over the loss (motors cost several tens of thousands).

We switched boats - to a small dugout canoe and entered a smaller river that weaved throught the jungle and within 25 minutes we were at a peaceful lagoon where our lodge was located. Sani Lodge has a very intersting history. It is a lodge owned entirely by the indigenous Indian (Sani Isla) population after they bartered with an oil company. The oil company wanted to just survey their land for oil and in exchange they had to build the lodge and other amenities for the community. Oil companies are the big bad wolf here as they cause much environmental harm but often many indigneous communities are lured by the money and allow the destruction of their environment. So it's really neat that something eco friendly and sustainable came about the deal, the lodge employs a great amount of the community members and all the profits go back to them.

Sani Lodge, and the pond/lagoon entering it.

To our surprise, we need a canoe to get to our campsite from the main lodge (where rich tourists stay in cabins). Since it's rainy season the dock to the campsite is completely submerged and the canoes have to just line up right with the submerged walkway. Sani Lodge took really good care of us and loaned us heavy duty ponchoes and galoshes, which are definetly in need as we're always sloshing through water, mud, and rain. Our campsite lodgings were really nice, we're in these huge palm covered tents with mini tents and matresses inside. The bathroom however is located about 30 seconds from the campsite and we often got lost going there with our weak flashlight.

The other tourists (there are about 6 of them) are really intersting and from diverse backgrounds. We met californians, canadians, british, and australians. Many were traveling alone and they ranged from mid 20's to a grandma! We talked a lot at every meal (they blow a horn to signal lunch and dinner). The meals at the lodge were fabulous and we were definitely spoiled. We had three courses at each meal and always got fresh juices and veggies. I got to try exotic things like a tomatoe fruit, yucca, and other meat-eaters tested staff-caught piranhas and a local pig-sized rodent, pacca. Meals are in this open air dining room thatched in traditoinal palms and at night we ate by candel light since electricyt is only used when necessary.

The weather was often super rainy, 5-6 downpours a day, but when it was cloudy or sunny we enjoyed the lush green scenery. Birds and wildlife were spotted by our guides at all times of the day and we'd be treated with glimpses of parrots and monkeys through their expert eyes and telescopes. Our first night there we met with the native Quichua guides (who speak great English) and organized our visits with the Sani Quichua community we wanted to work with for our wound care project.

Picture of the jungle.

No comments: