A Ten-Lane Highway Through the Amazon (Ants Only)

Wednesday, February 26

Our last day at the hot, sticky, rainy, wonderful Limoncocha! For breakfast we got a new dish made of verde, green plantain. The dish is called majado in Spanish, or techudo in Kichwa. Even though any Ecuadorian would have considered this recipe ridiculously easy, I am challenged in the kitchen, so I took step-by-step notes.

We boated to the trailhead for Sendero del Caiman, Path of the Caiman.
The view from our "front porch." Fausto said the lake was open water here a few years ago. Now, the boat has a hard time navigating, and the outpost farther along the lake had to be abandoned. It's the opposite problem from Louisiana's, where marshland is giving way to open water at an alarming rate.

Motorized canoeing.

The perfect liana bench!

The GIANT ceibo tree!

The tree that sheds its skin "like a burned gringo."

The clearing where the local family is erecting a new set of tourist cabins.

A tall ficus which is completely hollow, yet still living. Where do the xylem and the phloem flow, I wonder?

This time, my camera was charged, so I could photograph a few bug photos for Dad.

One-legged grasshopper.

Funny-headed walking stick.

Having six legs has gone out of style, apparently. So 2013. 


Worm on a seed pod.


A city of leaf-cutter ants. I was so impressed by how these industrious little insects managed to keep a clearing in a forest where space is so aggressively sought. 

A leaf-cutter highway. The trails really were like interstates -- ten lanes wide and cleared of all detritus. This one even when into a tunnel!

We took some timer selfies after the trail, already getting nostalgic for our time in the jungle.

Sascha, Nadine, Fausto, and yours truly.

Fausto, our trusty captain, cook, and guide.

Fausto let me drive the canoe back to the station. You steer left to go right and vice versa, a skill which I far from mastered.

Driving the boat through Limoncocha, dodging snags, and pausing for a 12 foot caiman to swim in front... Pure nirvana.
After lunch we set out for the afternoon bus back to Coca, and on to Tena. (We sacrificed another afternoon tour to avoid the night bus back.) I found a couple last birds while we waited for the bus to stop by.

I also made a lot of friends with the school kids who straggled by. The girls’ uniforms of white shirts, blue skirts, white knee socks, and black Mary Janes seemed particularly ill suited to the rutted, muddy roads and the hot, humid Amazonian weather.

The bus ride was spectacular. I hung my head out the open window like a dog as we passed oil company checkpoints, bustling towns, sleepy villages, and palm plantations. When I road trip through the United States, I always dread having to shut my window against the 70mph winds and the monotonous concrete sound walls and flashy billboards. I revel in those few miles on either side of the lunch stop or gas station, when we are forced to slow down and actually observe an American town. I love this about Ecuador – there are no interstates, just small roads and the occasional two-lane highway. When I ride the bus here, I feel like I’m gliding through a personal countryside tour on a magic carpet.