Today, we undertook the great journey from Coca, Ecuador to the remote Napo Wildlife Center, deep in the Amazon jungle. The first leg of our journey involved a motorized canoe ride down the Rio Napo, the biggest jungle river in Ecuador. This river feeds into the Amazon and eventually flows into the Atlantic Ocean. After about two hours, we turned up the small Anangu tributary paddling upstream from the Napo. This small river we paddled up until we came to the lodge. During the trip, I learned and saw many interesting things.
On board the motor canoe, one of my favorite stories was how the Amazon got it’s name. In 1540, a Spanish explorer named Francisco de Orellana was sent to South America to look for the rumored city of gold, El Dorado. It turned out that the city was only a myth, but the journey undertaken by Francisco was not easy. While his ships sailed smoothly down the Napo river, he was attacked by naked, long haired, indigenous people. This may sound funny to you, but it was not to Francisco. In Spain, there was a Greek legend about a tribe called the Amazons. They were said to be only women with extreme hatred towards men. In order for them to shoot a bow better, they supposedly cut off their right breasts. In Greek, the word Amazon means “without breast.” When Orellana saw these long haired warriors, they reminded him of the Amazons and therefore named the vast jungle and its people accordingly. I thought this funny, because I had never really wondered about the origin of the name Amazon!
During the boat ride, I saw a sight that saddened and angered me. On the bank of the huge Napo river were oil refineries surrounded by cleared land without life. I asked Patricia, our guide, about the huge flames on top of the chimney pipes. She said that instead of using the natural gas that is extracted along with the oil, the companies just let it burn. She said that not only is drilling for oil bad for the trees, but millions of insects are attracted to the fire and they burn and die in the flames. She also said that the Ecuadoreans are in no position to stop drilling because, right now, 60% of their budget comes from oil. Also, floating down the river were large barges carrying trucks, cars, and oil industry equipment. This was much different from the Kapawi lodge, that we had visited earlier in the remote, undeveloped jungle.
Once we turned up the Anangu, all industry and human evidence went away. We had entered the Yasuni National Park. The small tributary was about five to fifteen feet wide, and dark brown. As our guide paddled us gently up stream, we saw many amazing animals. The most pervasive animals we saw were the monkeys. During the ride, we saw two kinds of beautiful monkeys. One, the squirrel monkey, was small and grey with a white face. They jumped from branch to branch in large groups. The howler monkey, on the other hand was big, red, and loud. These loquacious monkeys produced howling and reverberating sounds, that were intimidating and a little bit scary! We also saw a baby boa constrictor curled in a tree. I could not get a photo of it; I could hardly see it with my naked eye. I did, however, get an amazing photo of an cayman by the boat. I also loved staring at a large lizard laying on a wet log. He was a little bit bigger than foot and we heard that he was just a baby. The big adults can sometimes become a meter long! Wow!
We are now relaxing in our nice jungle lodge over looking a lagoon accessed by the Anangu. Tomorrow we have a full day of activities and I can hardly wait!
The Florida Marlins just moved to a new stadium in Miami and have become the Miami Marlins.
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