Thursday, March 3
Today was our travel day to Sacha Lodge, so we could actually sleep in. At 8 am we got up, organized our packs, then went downstairs for breakfast. As usual it was eggs, this time fried, with buns, juice, and tea. We went to the office and paid our bill, both for last night and also for the time last week when we left during the power outage. We also ordered a taxi to pick us up at 9:20 am, then packed the rest of our bags and proceeded to wait.
Finally the taxi arrived at 9:30 and we set off for the airport. Traffic in the old town was very busy, and both of us were wondering whether we would make it to the airport by 10 am. But once we merged onto the freeway, our driver took off like a rocket. We were hitting nearly 120 km/h and without seat belts, it was a bit unnerving. However soon we left the freeway and wound our way down the hill to the airport, arriving there at exactly 10 am.
We went to the TAME counter and were met by Maribel from the Sacha Lodge. After a few formalities our bags were checked in, we went through security, and then waited for our flight to be called. Shortly after we arrived, four more people came in bearing the Sacha Lodge tags, so we went and sat with them. It turned out that we would be teamed up with them for the duration of our stay at the lodge.
The flight to Coca lasted only 25 minutes, and we had some fairly good views of Volcan Cayambe shortly after take-off. Once in Coca we were met by Lucy and Tino from the lodge. It was 36° Celsius in Coca, which was quite a change from the cool air of Quito. Lucy was the local greeter and Tino, it turned out, would be the guide for the six of us for the next five days. We were transported by taxi to the local Sacha house to have lunch, then headed out onto the Napo River. Our motorized canoe luckily had a cover, so we were protected from the sun. The boat ride took just over two hours and along the way we passed a few small villages, an oil well, and a few boats including a “ship” of the Ecuadorian navy. Our route along the river was mostly straight, but occasionally we would veer off towards the bank to avoid shallow stretches.
When we arrived at the Sacha Lodge dock we then had to walk along a boardwalk for about 20 minutes before we reached a channel that would lead us to Pilchicocha Lake. Once at the channel we boarded a big canoe and were paddled across the lake to the lodge, where Tino gave us a briefing to explain the activities and also to hand out room assignments. We were given cabin number 10, which was at the end of one group of cabins with a long, long, walkway leading to it. The cabin was large and beautiful with a king-sized bed and a huge bathroom. It also had a deck with chairs and a hammock. As it was in an igapo (seasonally flooded) forest, it stood on stilts in a puddle.
After settling in we met Tino to get our official rubber boots. But even before this we saw our first mammals, a family of Black-naped Tamarins. Then we went back to our cabins to drop off the boots before meeting up again for a visit to the Butterfly House. Here they breed various species of butterfly, all very beautiful, and we could see not only the adult insects but also the larvae and the pupae, which were stored in an ant-proof box. We now had some free time, so we went back to our cabin to relax and enjoy the rainforest sounds.
Meeting again at 5:30 pm, this time at the dock, we birded for a while and then were given a briefing of tomorrow’s activities. Dinner was at 7:30 pm and was fantastic. It was a buffet where we had choices of numerous salads, consommé, beef, chicken, and pork plus veggies. There were also three different desserts plus fruit.
On the way back to our cabin it was dark, of course, so we found a praying mantis and some large moths. Back at our room we looked in the bird book to figure out the owl we heard (which we later found out was actually howler monkeys) and were in bed by 10 pm. The forest sounds were very loud but were definitely interesting to listen to.