Sunday, May 7, 2017



The Ecuadorian Amazon - Siona Lodge

One of the things we came away with from our Amazon adventure is a deeper understanding of interconnectivity that exists in nature. To realize that each plant and each animal pointed out to us by Luis, our naturalist guide, is part of a finely tuned balance act in nature. Everything is connected in one way or another. A tree that plays host to several other plant species or provides food or shelter to animals and insects; a bird species that helps propagate plants by eating the fruit and later spreading the seeds elsewhere; a tree that is being destroyed by the voracious leaf-cutter ants that will begin signal trees of the same specie downwind giving them time to start producing an enzyme not conducive to the ants and so on. Nature is truly amazing.

It seems that mankind is the only part of nature that does not participate in this delicate balancing act choosing instead to play the part of the bully, the disrupter. But how long will that role last?

We saw countless types of birds and mammals. Our naturalist guide could name the type of bird a quarter of mile away by seeing its silhouette, hearing its call or upon seeing it fly. He could spot a bird or animal among dense vegetation while the boat was moving at 15 knots. It would take us another five minutes to locate it with him pointing directly at the animal.

For me this was a monkey in a tree. The guide, however, told us the type of monkey in Spanish, English and Latin and what its habits are like.

                                                    A sloth.

                    Making our way down the river. The boat driver can be seen in the back.

                      This is called a "Stinky bird". Beautiful feathers but awkward flyer.


Typically we'd board our canoe-like boats and meander through these types of never ending waterways with numerous forks. Somehow, they always knew where we were heading without a GPS. I would have been lost after the first right turn!

    This is a good shot of "Pancho", our lodge's mascot. He's a beefy Cayman that can get to be 18 feet long.

                                          Another sloth looking down on us.


We took a tour of one of the local villages and were greeted by Gardenia, a 28 year old woman with four children. She was married at 15, a typical age of marriage in the village, to a young man from another tribe 60 miles away. The tribes only meet for short times, so the courting for young couples takes only hours. It's like "Hello - you like me? I like you. Let's get together." However, after that, the man comes to the woman's village and has to be approved to live there - and receiving that approval can take up to three years.

  Here, Gardenia shows us how to dig for and peel the yucca plant. This is their main starch food.

After washing the yucca, Gardenia then grates into a fine state. Not shown in the photos, she also takes the resulting shredded yucca and squeezes out the moisture and runs it through a bamboo sifter.

 She then places the powdery yucca on a ceramic plate that's been heating on a fire. The end product was a delightful tortilla-like fluffy pancake. If not all eaten, they can be kept for several days.


After having lunch, we took a short boat ride to where met the local shaman. We all introduced ourselves to him and through a translator, we learned about how he studied to be a shaman. He began his studies when he was 15 years old and "graduated" to be a shaman at 30. The photo above, shows him demonstrating a ritual on Tom and Diane. 

The shaman has a family. Since he doesn't charge for his services he also has to be a provider. He does this by hunting. He showed us his skill at using a blow gun. He easily hit a small target with his six foot blow gun. Afterwards, we all took a shot at the target. 


Although we had no internet and no phones at the lodge, cameras had to be charged. This set up was available through their solar system that also powered our lights in the evening.


        The flora and fauna was beautiful. In the dry season, much of this water recedes.

         Tom, Cathy and I got a tour of their solar system. Nine solar panels and six batteries.

In the late part of the day, many boats congregate in the "Lagoa Grande" where we had a chance to jump in the water and swim. We hoped that the Cayman and piranhas where elsewhere.

After saying our parting good-byes, we headed back to Quito - a two hour canoe trip on the river in driving rain, then a two hour ride to the main bus terminal, then a seven hour bus ride over the Andes into Quito. Along the bus ride in the Andes, we spotted Reventador, one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador.