0:28.21S 76:58.50W To the Panacocha River estuary.

Wed 20 Apr 2016 21:21
16th April Terremoto Day, Earthquake Day

The rumbling thunder of the night before continued in the distance beyond the trees as we sped down river towards the mouth of another Amazon tributary, the Panache. A community centre on the left bank comprised school rooms, a community hall, teachers homes and some native Kichwa homes.

A marked line separated the pale brown, silty Napo river water from the clear and dark brown brackish water of the smaller Panacocha, full of tannins.

Within minutes Raoul had spotted a two fingered male sloth with an orange dot on his back, high in a fig tree. They eat only leaves, and as there is little nourishment in leaves they move very slowly. They are predated by the harpy eagle. On route we spotted weaver birds and their purse like nests hanging from the trees like drop earrings, kingfishers twice the size we are used to, toucans in flight and different types of herons.

Howler monkeys complained vehemently about the rain and vibrant blue male Morpho butterflies flew low over the water on both sides of us. The dull coloured females fly over the males to check out who is perfect in wing and body before deciding on their mate. 

The form was set,  as soon as we heard a sound we looked to Raoul for an explanation and his knowledge was thorough.

The river fish live on the numerous types of fruit that fall into the river. Rob noticed some long nosed bats clinging onto a fallen branch in the river. They flew off as we had strayed into their comfort zone. Bats and stingless bees are essential in the forest as they fertilise the plants and trees.

Birds play their part too. When they poo in the trees seeds become lodged and in the moist warm atmosphere cannot help but grow. An example is the philodendrone which sends long soft roots called leanas to the forest floor to ensure a water supply. Other ground placed plants then send their aerial roots up the soft lanes and eventually harden.

As we entered Piranha Lake thunder was still rumbling around the trees and the ground was muddy for the walk up to Dolphin Lodge which would be our home for the next few hours. The crew from the Manatee disappeared in to the kitchen to prepare lunch while we went for a stroll in the forest.

We found a fresh tapir footprint, and Raoul explained that bats bite in a straight line across the veins of a wide green leaf so it bends double and they can hang underneath out of the rain.

I wondered what happened to the little leaf carrying ants when it rains. Well they run home as quick as they can and never pick up the same leaf fragment again as it is dirty. Tiny ants on their backs check the quality of the leaf before the journey home starts.

Raoul showed us many plants that are used for medicine, building materials, weaving twine and fruits that once the pulp is eaten are hardened in the fire and used as cups and bowls.

The holy men of the forest, Sharmans, are now viritually extinct but they used to accurately diagnose illness using leaves and guinea pigs and then prescribe treatment. The natives still grow and use medicinal plants although the Ecuador government has provided medical centres for me serious illnesses.

We were hot and sticky on our return to the lodge and when Raoul said "Anyone for a swim?" We couldn't resist. We changed and slid down the path to the canoe. Splashing about in the middle of a lake of piranhas, the thunder rumbling, howler monkeys complaining, red bellied macaws flying overhead and black vultures watching us from the tree tops had a certain jungle magic to it.

We were ready for the delicious lunch dished up by Pepe at the long table beneath the bamboo and palm leaf roof. Soft sweet palm hearts, baked potatoes, bbqed veg pasta and fish was followed by home cooked doughnuts in caramel sauce and water melon.

We were still wet from the rain on our cool return in the canoe, passing the bats that must have been fast asleep as they didn't budge. Long tailed black birds with a blue fluorescence like our starlings, Anhingas flew away from us and multi colored, crested Hwatzin displayed to each other. 

Back on board a young lady greeted us with a mug of delicious chocolate with cinnamon and tiny buns with banana centres.

As we sat together over a supper of yucca chips, fish or beef and lentils followed by local strawberries and cream we were more than satisfied with our day of adventuring.

We knew nothing of the earthquake that was to cause such tragedy and devastation and happened in the coastal lowlands to the west.