I’m now doubting myself… Did I understand Miguel correctly? Did he say to be ready at 12:00 noon in the lobby to go on the boat to the lodge? My Spanish is so rusty. And I’m a little nervous about the journey. I don’t want to be left behind! But I know there is zero chance of that happening. This team is highly competent.
I am traveling though the vast Yasuni National Park to Sani Lodge, an eco-lodge run by the indigenous Sani Warmi community. To get there, I will travel though the Amazonian rainforest, 400 kilometers from El Coca (officially named Puerto Francisco de Orellana), and board a boat for a two-hour trip up Napo River. We will then hike a couple of miles through the jungle, and embark on a second ride in a canoe across the lake to the lodge. We are going deep into the jungle, and I know the journey will take most of the afternoon.
Miguel, one of the many Sani Lodge guides who is indigenous Kichwa, said I will be joining a group of 8 adventure travelers also from the United States. I know he said “12:00 noon, mañana.” He even wrote it down on a slip of paper in perfect English, which I find tucked in my pants pocket. Just to be safe, I’ll be ready and waiting for him in the lobby at 11:30 am. It’s a nice lobby at the Hotel Auca, and I can watch the people on the street while I wait. I’m glad I packed light – just a backpack with a smaller, detachable daypack. I feel self-contained. I want to be able to carry my own bag, if necessary.
There is Miguel! I glance at my phone. It’s 12:01 pm. Right on time. He’s smiling like a Cheshire cat. Why? Maybe he knows that it’s going to be an exciting day. We head to the boat launch, not far from the hotel. It’s a beautiful, sunny day – perfect for being on the water.
We leave the city behind
The boat launch is a busy place, bustling with shops selling local crafts, cafes, bodegas, and locals carrying bags, with their sweet, small children in tow. I look down the river and see several large canoes with canopies. Two are loaded with supplies, while the others are set up for passengers. I see the Sani Lodge canoe. It has been recently painted in grey, green and blue. The seats are covered in burgundy, water-proof material with the Sani Lodge logo on the backs. Even the ropes look brand new. Life-preservers are neatly attached to each seat, 28 in all, with the captain’s station rising at the back of the boat.
I’m escorted on board, the first to arrive. As we wait for my fellow travelers, José gestures to me, waving a big plastic bag. He wants to take my pack. I watch as he deftly wraps my pack in the bag, air tight, perfectly tied and sealed. It seems like an unnecessary service, but how nice. They are so careful with the bags.
The USA group arrives with no bags at all. Then I realize the lodge team has already pre-loaded, plastic-wrapped and neatly stacked their luggage in the back of the canoe. This is a hardy group. They look more like research scientists than tourists. I get the sense from their calm demeanor and outdoor gear, they are experienced travelers. Or, maybe they are just better at hiding their excitement than I am.
As part of our continuing work with the indigenous Amazonian community of Sani Isla in Ecuador, Deborah Tompkins is sharing a travelogue of her experiences as an American in the Amazon. Deb’s company, Sage Point, works with NGOs in Africa, Asia and now Latin America to develop and execute marketing and communication strategies. She is donating her time and expertise to support RP and the Sani Warmi community. We invite you to join Deb as she introduces you to the people, the community, their Amazon ecolodge, and their forest home.
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