November 5, 2005

jungle notes

where do I start? I was traveling with the Colonel (long story but a liason helping me with all the amazonian research and yes, an ex-army big wig) on monday when we found out (his cell phone) that 22 tourists were assaulted on an Amazonian river to the north, where his jungle lodge is located.

The river Cuyabeno is a narrow and winding river in remote parts near the colombian border. Tourists go into their various lodges via a 2 hr. motorized canoe trip. Well, in the middle of it a group of masked men armed with oozies and sawed off shotguns decided to detain them. Then they detained each successive boat. They had time to drink a few beers from one of the canoe´s coolers but they graciously put down plastic so their victims wouldn´t muddy. Everyone came out ok but without cash and cameras and Gore-tex. One guy lost a pair of Hawaiian surf shorts (the authorities will be looking for them!)

I arrived in the area 4 days later with the colonel. Interesting to see firsthand the military mobilization of another country. These guys are assumed not to be Colombian guerrillas (even though the border is an hour away and full of cocaine crops) because it is against guerilla politics to cause trouble in Ecuador and troublemakers get assasinated by the organization (oh didn´t you know? there´s rules). so it´s probably just the locals who couldn´t resist the draw of surf shorts. But not all the locals, since the only income in the area is hiring out your canoe to lodges.

In spite of everything, the Cuyabeno Reserve is a marvellous place of tepid black water lagoons filled with caiman, monkeys, tapirs, 3 meter long fish, etc. I spent a couple days there and now am in Lago Agrio, staying on the military base at the invitation of a major´s family I met on the all-military vacation, another new one for me!

Before that I did half the Napo River with the colonel, whose connections are indespensable even if his company isn´t always. What can I say? It´s a job. On the bright side, I´ve held monkeys, seen about a dozen wild ones from two species, some very unusual looking birds and remote river villages where the natives wear ball caps.

More later. I am left with another river trip to Peru´s border, many bus rides and concrete jungle villages ahead.

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