The Amazon – Getting to the Jungle

I spent three nights, four days in the Amazon jungle in Northeast Ecuador (near the border of Colombia). Pretty intense – I’ve never done anything like it.

My brother and I arrived at Quito airport early in the morning for our flight to Lago Agria, the city closest to the part of the Amazon we were staying in. Our flight was scheduled for 10:00 AM. We checked in and were handed a boarding pass that said our flight was at 9:15 AM. The TV monitors in the airport listed NO flight to Lago Agria. As we sat in the terminal trying to figure out which gate was ours, I saw a bunch of people scurrying through what appeared to be a gate out into the runway. There was no sign or monitor. My brother ran over and, indeed, that was our 30 min flight to Lago Agria. At 8:40 AM.

Lago Agria is a dangerous city. Its proximity to Colombia (the Colombian militia stations itself on the border with Ecuador) means that as a gringo you don’t want to be wandering around at night. Or, in my view, during day. When you get off or board the plane in Lago Agria and walk the 1.5 minutes to the terminal on the runway, there are two military guys holding long, automatic rifles guarding your path to the terminal.

Safe and sound in the Lago Agria airport, we waited for our tour company to pick us up. Through Samona Expeditions, we paid $180 for three nights lodging, transit to and from the jungle from Lago Agria, all meals, guides. Ecuador is SO cheap. Almost ridiculously cheap. Almost so cheap that you wonder about the credibility of the company. (In the end, these fears were unfounded.)

We waited and waited, no one came to pick us up. Being phoneless, I made my way over to a gate agent and convinced him – in Spanish – to call our tour company. A few phone calls later and our tour company dispatched a taxi to the airport to pick us up. Some mix-up prevented the normal van/bus. The taxi came, a rep from the tour company in tow, and he told us the taxi would take us to the Cuyabeno bridge where we would board the canoe.

So off we went in the taxi. It’s a 2.5 hour drive. Within 20 minutes we started seeing green forest – all different types of trees. Lush forest. Every 10 minutes we passed through shanty towns and every minute or so there’d be another shack. I expected the poverty in this part of rural Ecuador but still, it can be moving. Literally dusty pieces-of-shit huts surrounded by abandonment and rubble.

The second half of the drive to Cuyabeno is not paved. It’s on a pothole rich rock road. Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Our taxi driver almost fell asleep. My brother smartly asked him to stop and splash water on his face.

We also suspected our driver was drunk. This being January 1st, most of the people we encountered in the service industry were drunk.

We finally pulled up to Cuyabeno, where travelers board canoes and enter the jungle.

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