I woke up at 7am. Looks like I had gotten used to the routine on the yacht. I quickly put on my jacket and thought, “Brr, it’s cold.” But it was nice to sit in our private little courtyard and read in the quietness of the morning until KKH woke up.
We went for breakfast at 8am. We had the continental breakfast which was inclusive of our hotel stay. If we wanted anything fancier, we would have to pay extra. KKH and I still had not regain our appetite so the simple continental breakfast was good enough for us. I had two slices of bread while KKH had three. This could be the only time that KKH actually ate more than me. Must mark this date down on the calendar.
The car came to pick me up at 9:40am and drove me to the airport where I was met by the Adventure Life representative from yesterday. He introduced me to the Sacha Lodge representative who helped to check in my luggage and and passed me some forms and brochures. I was told that I would be met by someone called Lucy when the plane landed. I was given a pen tied to a string which I had to wear around my neck so that Lucy would recognize me.
It was a short 25-30 mins flight to Coca. The airport was so small that there was no conveyor belt for the luggage. All our luggage were delivered by a truck to the building and a staff member manually carried the luggage one by one and placed them on the concrete counter for us to collect.
While waiting for our luggage to arrive, I met a Sacha Lodge staff who arrived on the same flight as me. I forgot what was her name so let’s just call her “Maria” cos she looked like “Maria” to me. Maria was shorter than me and had brown skin and black hair. She spoke fluent English. Maria told me that she was based in Quito and was in charge of the coordinating with the international travel agencies. She was travelling to Sacha Lodge to participate in a safety workshop. I found out that I was the only person arriving today.
After I collected my luggage, I was met Lucy outside the airport and got into her pickup. Lucy was a bespectacled middle age woman who was based in Coca. She did not seem to speak much English.
Lucy drove us to a house by the river which was owned by Sacha Lodge. Lucy stayed in the house and it also acted as a rest stop for visitors. There were drinks and snacks provided and I could go to the washroom. I wasn’t very hungry so I just ate a banana.
Then it was two hours motorized boat ride along Napo River to the lodge. The boat was long and narrow with wooden planks placed at intervals to act as seats. My luggage was placed in a waterproof bag and would be delivered to my room when I reached Sacha Lodge.
The boat went very fast and the driver stopped periodically to check for obstacles and sandbars. Along the way, I saw some villages and also some commercial operations. I saw some big ships used to ferry big trucks and machinery as there was no road through the jungle.
Finally we landed at Sacha Lodge’s property. Sacha Lodge owned 5,000 acres of land which they bought from landowners to be used as a nature reserve. This was the only way in and out of Sacha Lodge.
It was another 20 mins walk through the jungle. Most parts of the path was covered in wooden planks which were then covered with a rubber grid mat. I was told to walk on the rubber mat as it was less slippery. About halfway along the path, there was no wooden boards and the ground ranged from firm to muddy with puddles. Towards the end of the path where the ground was underwater, there were wooden planks leading to the boathouse.
We got into a long canoe and two staff members paddled us down the narrow waterway leading into Pilchicocha Lake where the lodge was situated. I looked at the palm trees that towered over us and everything felt so different from the Galapagos Islands. I had seen places like this from the documentaries that were shown on TV. It felt a bit surreal to see it with my own eyes.
Far away in the distance, peeking out among the trees was the first sight of Sacha Lodge. However it was only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the lodge was deeper inside and hidden by the trees. The brown building was actually the outdoor dining area and jetty where the visitors could fish or swim. On certain nights, a barbecue dinner was held there.
I was greeted by the staff and introduced to my guide, Gustavo, but all of us called him “Gus”. Gus brought me to the bar above the dining room where I was served a welcome drink and some finger food. He briefed me on the rules and the facilities available. The guests were divided into groups of no more than six and each group had two guides. There was a native guide who was a local and a naturalist guide who could speak English. Gus was the naturalist guide and Siconda was my native guide. I was told that I would be joining a group of four who had arrived yesterday. Once the briefing was done, we went to get a pair of rubber boots for my stay. Gus saw that I had difficulty putting on the boots so he folded them down and it made them much easier to put on.
Then I was shown to my cabin, cabin 6, which was one of the cabins closest to the dining hall. My cabin was very big and had a huge bed. The cabin had a rustic feel as it was built using the wood from the jungle but it had all the modern conveniences like a sink, toilet bowl and shower. The windows were covered with netting and I was told to keep my door closed so that no insects would fly in. There was no lock on the door and it just had a wooden bar to keep it in place. There was a digital safe to keep the valuables and a dry box to keep electronic items dry.
My luggage was delivered soon after and I sent the afternoon unpacking my stuff. Since I was the only one staying in the cabin, I could be really messy. I left my things all over the room.
I stood in my cabin and looked around me. I could only hear the sounds of the insects and I could not hear anybody. It was as if I was alone in the jungle. I suddenly felt lonely and I missed KKH’s company. The Amazon rainforest felt a little intimidating and I wondered if I had made the wrong choice to come to Sacha Lodge alone. But I’m here now and there was no way out. So I gave myself a mental shake and resolved to make the best of the next few days.
I stayed in my cabin until it was time to meet Gus at 4:30pm. I wondered about the group I would be joining and I hoped that they would be friendly people. Gus introduced me to the other members of my group. They were Australians; an eldery couple and a father and his son. All of them knew each other back in Australia and would be travelling to the Galapagos Islands after Sacha Lodge.
Once the introductions were done, Gus brought us to the butterfly farm which looked like a big greenhouse.. He told us that Sacha Lodge breed butterflies which were then exported for educational purposes. Their main export seemed to be the Owl Eye butterfly as Gus talked mostly about it.
Gus showed us the cocoons which looked like dried leaves or twigs or dung…
There were also other types of butterflies in the building. They were lethargic as it was evening and the sky was covered with rain clouds.
Gus told us that adult butterflies do not need a lot of food. A little bit of sugar, a little bit of potassium and that’s all.
Then we went for a hike in the rainforest. The paths were narrow and we walked in a single file with Gus and Siconda leading the way. At around 5pm, it started raining. Siconda brought out the ponchos from his bag and gave one to each of us. They were made of thick blue rubber and was large enough for me to wear it over my haversack. They kept the rain out but they were not breathable so they also trapped the humidity and perspiration. By the end of the hike, my clothes felt damp although I do not know if it was from the rain or the sweat.
We continued walking in the rain and Gus showed us a tall kapok tree. It was so big that we could walk under its buttress roots without needing to duck our heads. We walked to Lagartococha which was a pond. We went for a canoe ride in the rain. There wasn’t much to see as I suspect the animals were seeking shelter from the pouring rain.
After the canoe ride, we walked back to the way we came. It was turning dark quickly because of the rain and the dense jungle also helped to block out the light. I kept close to Gus as I did not bring a flashlight with me and I did not want to lose my way in the jungle.
It was hard walking in the heavy rain. My spectacles were covered with rainwater and it was also fogged up. The ground was turning really muddy and I was glad that I had rubber boots on. My boots sank into the soft mud and sometimes we had to use extra effort to pull them out as the mud seemed to suck them down. Soon all I could make out were shapes of gray. Finally we made it back to the lodge a little after 6:30pm.
Gus asked me what I thought about my first day.
“It rained a lot,” I said and everybody laughed.
“Yes,” Gus laughed. “Sometimes it rained in the rainforest.”
We were dismissed and I went back to my cabin to bathe and changed into clean clothes. Gus had told me during the orientation briefing to use the soaps provided in the bathroom as they were biodegradable. I did and it have a rather nice scent. Anyway, I did not bring any shampoo or soap with me so I had to use what was given.
I tried washing some clothes and even though I rolled them up in a towel to get them as dry as possible, it still took them 4 days to dry.
Dinner was at 7:30pm. There were several long tables in the dining hall and each table had the name of a guide so all the people from the same group would sit together. There was a large variety of dishes, much more than what was on the yacht. There were usually one or two soups, around six to eight mains, three or four salads/sides and three desserts.
Gus ate with us but Siconda did not. I usually skipped the soups and went straight to the mains. I still had a bit of gastric flu so I tried not to overeat and took a little from each dish. Because the Australians knew each other, they were quite chatty and often made fun of each other. I was quite happy to listen to their banter as it was funny. Sometimes they also tried to talk to me and include me in their conversation.
After dinner I went back to my cabin and read until it was 10pm. The night was so cold that I did not bother to turn on my ceiling fan and I had to sleep under the blanket.