After weeks of planning and agonizing over this trip the day for my departure into the elusive jungle has finally arrived. Since one of my days off had been reassigned to participate in an all day team building retreat for the hospital and I´d been feeling a bit under the weather (I imagine from weeks of consuming Ecuadorian street food without conscious or caution) I decided to play it safe and stay closer to home rather than making the 11 hour bus ride into the Cuyabeno Reserve like I had wanted. After a good deal of research I picked La Casa del Suizo and set off on my journey. I might not get to see any pink river dolphins but their website had tempted me with words like riverside, kayaking, and primary forest.
As I board the bus by chance it´s the same bus two of the missionary families from the compound are also taking to Tena where we will part ways for the night. As we arrive at the terminal and say our goodbyes one of the wives inquires after my plans. ¨Oh, I´ll probably find the nearest Internet cafe to book a hostel and then catch a cab and stay here for the night,¨ I reply. ¨Well, it sounds like you know what you´re doing¨ she responded in a tone that implied she really hoped I knew what I was doing. I do too.
I wake up after spending a quiet night in watching a Disney movie in Spanish at Hostal Los Yutzos (which now that I´m seeing in the daylight is quite lovely). After a continental breakfast overlooking the not-so-scenic Pano River I get directions for the bus terminal and ride another hour to Punta Ahuano which ends on the bank of the Napo River. From there I take a motorized canoe down the river to the resort. As we come around the bend I see the Swiss and Ecuadorian flags waving together in the wind and my excitement starts to build, it looks incredible.
I check in and wait for lunch which my eyes can hardly believe when I see. A whole table full of just vegetables. I fill my plate and eat more greens in one sitting than I probably have all month. My table even has my name on it. I´m impressed. (The table full of sweet cakes doesn´t hurt, either). After lunch I walk to reception and ask about activities for the day. There´s a tour to see a butterfly house at 3:30. So I go back to my room to read in my hammock on my balcony that overlooks the river (this is bliss). At 3:15 I head back to the front desk. It turns out the ¨tour¨ is just me and an escort from the resort. We pass through the gate and take a short walk through the small pueblo to an enclosed area brimming with butterflies. I am in love. I watch as 13 types of winged beauties flutter about snacking on pieces of banana and and resting on flower petals. I snap at least a hundred photos. (More on that later). I spend about an hour there and when we return back to the hotel I ask about other things to do. ¨There is nothing else today,¨ I´m told. It is only 4:30pm. ¨What about tonight?¨ I ask. ¨No, nada. Only the bar and the pool.¨ I´m crestfallen. But what about the nocturnal walks looking for reptiles, or the after dark boat rides searching for piranhas and crocodiles that I had read about? Disappointed I return to my room and decide to change and take a dip in the pool (I know this is a resort but 4:30 still seems a bit early to start drinking).
I am bored out of my mind. I start to loathe the woman I see in the upstairs restaurant holding up her cellphone searching for service. I want to yell at the cute couple walking around with their iphones, ignoring the view. A noisy jet passes overhead and I catch myself glaring. I start to feel guilty for making fun of my ¨resort only¨ friends when I realize I am trapped here and I´m the only one to blame. ¨Get a grip,¨ I tell myself. ¨Relax.¨ I am a hypocrite. I begin to fear that perhaps I have become a conquest seeking traveler. Unsatisfied unless I am actively seeking some off-the-beaten-path adventure or staying in some remote secluded location, turning up my nose at the less ¨authentic¨ experiences. Or maybe this has more to do with my love/hate relationship with technology and globalization. Perhaps it´s my North American need to be constantly stimulated or entertained. Or maybe it´s my tendency for discontentment bubbling to the surface again. I try giving myself a reality check. ¨Listen, you´re in Ecuador on a beautiful resort overlooking a tributary to the Amazon River in the heart of the Oriente. Breathe. Most people would take your place in a second. Smile. Relax.¨ And so I do.
To be Continued…
*Note, due to a technical error (ie human error) the photos in this post are from google images and not ones I have taken from my own camera. Please forgive the unoriginality. I promise not to let it happen very often.