Mariscal Sucre Aeropuerto, Quito, Ecuador
Hostal Venus de Valdivia, Yaruqui, Ecuador
Sunday, March 15, 2020
We are very fatigued. We have been up since 5:00, travelled the Napo River in reverse, caught a forty minute flight from Coca to Quito, wasted time at the airport, found lodging for tonight. We did not sleep well last night even though we had the best suite of this trip with a large king size bed with mosquito netting surround (and no mosquitoes), large overhead ceiling fan, largest bathroom with twin stone sinks. Who could ask for more? Well, it would have been nice to stay until Wednesday as we had booked. Sigh!
Air Canada finally sent us a message at 14:21 today that our flight on Thursday was cancelled. We were unable to get on a stand-by list or talk to a human about Monday morning’s overbooked flight. We spent the past four hours searching for a flight from Quito to Toronto. And now we have two flights….one with JetBlue from Quito to Fort Lauderdale leaving Monday at 11:50 PM, arriving in Florida at 5:00 AM Tuesday. Then we have an Air Canada flight around 8 AM that gets us into Toronto around 11AM. I have the details but am feeling a little numb.
We went for a walk around this community of Yaruqui which is part of greater Quito, just a fifteen minute taxi ride from the airport. We were too late to see inside the white and yellow painted church with twin square bell towers. But I said a prayer as we walked around the garden in front of the church. There was a large indigenous female statue with two sheep and a large concrete cast hummingbird. There were many colourful painted murals. Around our red painted walled Hostal were several walled vegetable farms with broken class atop the walls. It would appear that vegetables might be objects of thievery.
Sunday is roast chicken day in Ecuador. We stopped into the corner chicken restaurant and had their eighth of a chicken supper including, rice, fries, salad, consommé and soda for $3.75. This was the cheap part of our day. Our flight costs made this our most expensive trip to date. We hope Air Canada will donate something to the cause.
About yesterday….the great part. We took a long open motorized riverboat (seated 27, there were fourteen of us plus four staff) with canopy down river for just over two hours covering some seventy kilometres. It was a faster ride than I anticipated. The breeze and spray alongside the boat created by the fast ride sliced through the humid heat and felt great. The locals found it to be cold and donned rain jackets and capes. We Canadians and the Americans from northern states were happy in t-shirts.
The Napo River, 1075 kilometres long, is a tributary of the Amazon. It was a kilometre and more wide but was lower than normal. Our boat pilot was very good at reading the river and we zigzagged from shore to shore. The guides who were with us pointed out and named birds (terns, snowy egret, great egret, roseate spoonbill, hawks, vultures)and trees as we breezes along. It was beautiful with pretty clouds framing the river. We saw small Quechua settlements then evidence of the larger impact of oil companies with barges carriying trucks and large equipment.
After we docked and used the facilities we walked for ten minutes then got into two long canoes and staff paddled us silently down a magical river with branches and vines hanging close to us. The guides pointed out spiders, turtles, squirrel monkeys and so many birds: various tanagers, the hoatzin (a teenager with attitude!), snakebird cormorants, white winged swallows).
We then crossed the lake to the beautiful La Selva (meaning jungle) Lodge. We were greeted with a drink and what hikes, yoga, swimming and activities would be available to us. I was beaming with excitement. We were shown to our fabulous room and Brian and I totally unpacked our bags for the first time in a week. We donned bathing suits and had a glorious swim off the dock. Never mind that someone had caught a piranha off the dock hours before or that we saw the shining eyes of a caiman when we were paddles around the lake in the dusky twilight. Later that night we heard big slaps on the water. These were from the three metre long big fish that reside in the lake.
Brian and I had our personal guide, Rodrigo, and his assistant, Henri, who carried a large spotting scope carried so that when we went on our hike to the top of the 208 step observation tower we would be able to view so many marvelous birds in the top of the canopy: woodpeckers, blue dacnis, green and gold tanager, slender-footed tyrannulet, oropendola). The metal tower was built into the three hundred year old kapok tree which was about sixty metres tall and very wide.
As we walked through the primary forest, we saw titi monkeys and their babies swing from branch to branch. We stepped carefully over busy armies of leaf-cutter ants. Our guide knew all of the addresses of tiny frogs and baby ant birds in nests in tree hollows, lizards and forest chickens, even in the dark. We walked with flashlights spying on nature. From the canoe as the sun set behind the lodge we heard and saw owls (the pooto ), sand-coloured night hawks, herons and squirrel monkeys.
It was amazing! Unforgettable!
The food at the lodge was also terrific: quinoa salad, grilled shrimp and vegetables and delicious cheesecake. Great omelette at 5:30.
All good things must come to pass….I blinked away tears as we paddled from the dock this morning.