Liana Lodge and the Undisputable Beauty of the Amazon

Where: Rio Arajuno, Amazon Region, Ecuador
When: December 2008

On this most recent visit to Ecuador, the highlight was most definitely my first visit to the Amazon jungle. The colors, plants, animals, and of course, the rivers were amazing.

But let's start with our near-epic, 8-hour journey there from Quito first...

Catching a bus from Quito's Terminal Terrestre toward Tena, I was blown away by the lush mountain scenery we encountered only a couple hours after leaving Quito. Waterfalls, raging rivers, placid rivers, thick jungle, mist and occasional views of big mountain peaks. And then, a landslide washed out the road we were on!


While we sat for over an hour waiting for a road crew to clear the mud, debris and huge boulders from the road, we enjoyed views of three stunning waterfalls tumbling down the jungly mountain across the river.
Tres waterfalls

When they finally cleared the road, the obnoxious and somewhat insane bus driver decided to make up for our lost time by dealing with the mountain hairpin turns on the wet road at maximum speed.

After arriving alive in the sweltering landscape that is Tena, Ecuador, we were glad to get on another bus that would take us another couple hours into the jungle. And then, we were dropped off on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The river was nearby.
Rio Arajuno

Having arranged to be picked up at the river's edge by a canoe, we soon headed down-river a mile or two to the banks of Liana Lodge, a wonderful place run by a Swiss woman who controls an animal rescue center in the jungle nearby. It was paradise. No electricity, dinner by candlelight, no windows, the sounds of the jungle lulling one to sleep each night. I was eager to be spending a few days here.

Rising the next morning, the Lodge offered us a native guide to take us on a walk through the jungle. Even with his poor (read: non-existent) English, we were able to learn lots about the local flora and fauna.

How 'bout some pictures from our walk?
A 5-foot tall termite nest

Occasionally the jungle broke long enough for us to see the nearby Rio Napo

A peace(ful) frog

A friendly grasshopper

We even found time to play around...
Tarzan Mac

We saw lots of small critters.

The massive web of a colony of spiders

Butterflies abound in the Amazon

Then we were shown a really cool tree. The guide called it a 'walking tree', explaining that the tree had shallow roots that it readily regenerated each time the ground around it was run dry of nutrients. The new roots then shoot further out to seek "fresh" ground. The rest of the tree then shifts to its new location by "walking". Cool stuff, eh?
A walking tree

We were famished after walking several hours through the jungle, so we stopped at a wonderful beach on the banks of the Rio Rodriguez and were treated to a native lunch out of large tree leaves and then an hour swim in the clear river.

Time to leave our swimming hole...

Continuing on, we eventually arrived at AmaZOOnica, the rescue center run by the Swiss owner of Liana Lodge. The center, which was set up to rehabilitate jungle animals that folks had tried to smuggle out of the country and/or sell on the black market, was chock full of wild critters. Although many of the animals were uncaged, such as most of the monkeys, many were kept in captivity for their own protection, as they were either too aggressive to be released or too dependent on humans, or they'd lost their instincts to survive on their own. The monkeys are mostly there for the free food, daily migrating through the jungle in search of insects and fruit.

Again, take a look...
A coati...with babies!

One of many wild and unfearful spider monkeys

A spider monkey

There was even a 'trumpeter bird', which was a rescued bird that was so tame (though a wild animal) that he roamed free through the rescue center. As a matter of fact, he was so tame that he would follow us around and even allow people to pet him!
The trumpeter bird

I forget what it's called, but the world's largest variety of rodent

A cayman

A squirrel monkey and her baby

A titi monkey, caged for his aggressiveness toward the other animals

Some sort of feral pig

This curious macaw liked me so much that he reached through the cage and grabbed at me!

An ocelot in a tree

When it was finally time to leave the rescue center, we ran into a minor problem...there was a spider monkey hanging out on our boat, and refusing to get off! Now that's good stuff!

So Andy and I jumped at the opportunity to go tubing down the river! Sweet!!!
Joy on Rio Arajuno

Next day, we headed off into the jungle to visit a Ceibo tree, which is the largest variety of tree that grows in South America. Indeed, it was nearly as tall as a redwood and big around as a sequoia!
DB at the Ceibo tree

Some crazy lizard on the Ceibo tree

Some insect's cast-away shell on the Ceibo

Climbing one of the Ceibo's buttress roots didn't work so well... Andy tries a different approach.

Eventually leaving the noble tree, we set back through the jungle for the Lodge. It was time for a nap in one of the hammocks!
Hiking through the dense jungle

Andy pauses for another act of ridiculousness

After some rest at the Lodge and then another run down the river in our tubes, it was time to snap another shot or two of the monkeys in the canopy above and jungle around us.

All too soon, it was time to come to terms with the inevitable: the 8-hour long death-cheating thrill ride back to Quito at the hands of some psychotic bus driver slashing through winding mountain roads at 80 miles an hour.