The Amazon of Ecuador is the Amazon of dreams, filled with uncounted and uncountable numbers of species. This is the attraction, the unknown, the continual sense of surprise at the unfolding of each wonder.
The flight into Coca, one of several towns that serve the Amazon or Oriente (east) as jumping off places for travelers, locals and oil field workers was a short 30 minutes. Rain is falling and misty clouds rise from the almost unbroken rainforest canopy. Small rivers, brown with sediment, writhe snake-like across the landscape, as if a medusa was hidden under the canopy. A view of potential and adventure.
Our contact from the Napo Wildlife Center informed us that luggage weight limits were strictly enforced on the flight from Quito to Coca, smaller plane flying over the Andes and all. Both carry on and checked bags had to be much lighter than we were used to. So, much work and not a little expense went into whittling down the amount we normally traveled with. Now this was (is) a good thing, makes you decide what is important or needed as opposed to what you may want to haul around. Camera equipment got some upgrades with an eye on weight and space savings. Most gear, lenses, camera bodies, chargers and such were non-negotiable but we found a really great weight reducing head for all lenses. Acratech makes a superb light weight piece of equipment called a Long Lens Support Head. A 200-400f4 and a 500f4 are our “big glass” and this head works as a gimbal for them as well as a smaller lens head and it does both well.
If you fly a lot and gnash your teeth every time you’re on a smaller plane (commuter) and have to gate check your camera pack, check out Gura Gear. Their Bataflae 26L is tough, light and handles our 500f4 lens and a bunch of other lenses and still fits in the overhead, with no hassles. Our experience (so far) is that no one checks the weight of the 2nd personal bag so it gets a lens or two as well. We use and like Think Tank cases but they are too large for commuter overheads so they get gate checked and we cross our fingers. Decided on one flash each which turned out to be a bad idea. Had my hand on two back-up flashes when packing but, having been seized with no extra weight dementia they stayed home.
Got to the Quito airport and discovered that the airline we were to fly on was painting their planes or something so we were shunted to another carrier. A nice big Airbus whatever, you know, 6 seats across. People boarding had “carry on” luggage that could be used to smuggle another person on board. So much for weight restrictions.
The rain had stopped for a bit when we landed, steam rose from the tarmac as we headed down the steps from the plane to retrieve our stuff at the airport, which was a small, open building where the baggage handlers pulled bags off a pickup and handed them through an opening in the wall. The humidity was a palpable, almost living thing that made me feel like I’d been doused with a hose after every small exertion, like tying my shoes. Thanks to the cloud cover it wasn’t hot and the trip down the Napo river into Yasuni National Park was comfortably cool.
Turtles with their attendant brilliantly orange Julia butterflies sun on a log. Smooth Billed Anis forage in the Heliconia as Leafcutter ants parade along their highway, carrying huge amounts of plant material over their backs. Loads that are sometimes 6 times the size of the ant carrying it. Striping plants of their leaves to feed an underground metropolis of millions. The Black Caiman floats quietly in the Laguna Anangucocha’s shallows. Eden surrounds us.
Now we are here, what’s next?