In the jungle at night is like being a “Rock Star” with all eyes on you!
Tonight we crawled into one of the indigenous hand carved canoes at La Selva and began to paddle across Lake Garzacocha. Our mission tonight was to call the Cayman and search for nocturnal jungle life. Armed with only flashlights and two paddles plus two guides we slowly made our way across the lake. At first, the only sounds we heard came from the slicing of water as the paddles moved us forward atop the dark waters. We scanned the water’s surface looking for the glow of red eyes and called out to the cayman in a series of low grunts and growls. An eerie silence seemed to resonate across the amazon, then as we paddled deeper into the tributaries, the jungle began to come alive in a symphony of nature.
The night skies glistened with stars and galaxies that lit up the heavens and soon, paddling in the amazon in the darkness of the night became an amazing experience that would almost overwhelm the senses.
Kinkajous huddled in tree tops, squirrel monkeys jumped from limb to limb and cayman would slowly follow the canoe. For every paddle to the right our guides made would equal a lean to the left for me in hopes of balancing the wobbly canoe. Loaded down with camera gear, I kept thinking if we flip this canoe, not only is this gear gone but the flotation device provided was so small that my butt cheeks exceeded the size of the float. In other words, forget having any form of life saving flotation device. As the guides continued to paddle, I found myself steadily maintaining a white knuckle grip on the canoe.
Then the next thought occurred to me. If we did flip out of the canoe, we would be bobbing in black waters that were piranha filled and not only would the feisty fish have a frenzy, remember, we have been calling the cayman for the last hour. Needless to say, I gripped the canoe even tighter.
Now of course by now, my two steps ahead of possibilities outdoor educator training was in full force. If we flipped the canoe and we were able to swim to the river banks, we did not have machetes to clear a trail in the dense jungle nor did we know at this point which direction the lodge was in. Now take all this thought process of a non water loving individual and try to continue to enjoy the night time experience in the Amazon. Deep breath, tighter grip and onward we go into the tributaries of the Amazon.
Finally, after several more hours a faint glow of a lantern is seen at the dock’s end and our guide says in broken english to me, “quick, get ready….when I say stand up, stand up and you will have nation-o-ge-o-graphic picture…” Our guide had been exceptional these past few days, so naturally I was ready to take that “national geographic” picture. I stood up on command as the canoe wobbled, our guides braces us against the dock. I looked into the camera’s eye piece, the flash fired…. and within the scope of the telephoto lens was nothing but an up close and very personal experience with a tree boa, in other words, I was literally eye to eye with a snake!
Faced now with my two greatest dislikes: water, which is murky black and piranha filled (also with cayman), so if I react…. I am swimming. And my second dislike, the snake. If I move to fast, so will the snake. So my options are left to either jump on the dock with the snake or swim with the piranha. Neither of which are an appealing option to me at this point. But on this day…I chose the snake.
-Signing off tonight, “good and dry” from the Napo Region of the Eastern Ecuadorian Amazon