After a few days in the Galapagos (described here and here, and here), our group of three dozen friends headed slowly back towards Quito and, for some, the Amazon. Our days of wet and dry landings, staying up all night singing karaoke in the yacht’s bar (I’m looking at YOU, Mark and Irena), alternately wading through creeks, walking over bare lava fields, or trudging through knee-high grass, replete with fire ants and tortoise poop, had come to an end. (Note: When I say “three dozen friends”, I really mean it. There were four people I had never met before. Of the others, I have traveled with all but five of them but know them from conventions and such.)
We spent a great deal of time on buses this day. A local bus took us from our final landing point near the town of Santa Cruz, to the airport on the island. We flew from the island to Quito, with a short stop in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil (recommendation of our tour guide: don’t go there. Not safe, and nothing to see), and then on to Quito and another bus. Here, we parted company. Many people were headed home to Canada, the States, Chile, or London. Another 90-minute bus ride back into town, as no one has yet built a hotel near the new airport. Or much of a road, for that matter. Several of us had very early outbound flights the next morning, so we gathered in the hotel restaurant for a parting dinner (it was awful but the company was great).
Early the next morning, and once again a bus ride to the airport, although the smaller group of one dozen meant a smaller bus that could navigate side streets and avoid the horrible traffic of the unfinished highway. I love watching street scenes in places I’ve never been (more after these pictures):
Quito sits in a bowl of the Andes at 2800 meters above sea level, so days are frequently overcast. The morning we left for the Amazon was no different. We spent quite a while at the airport, and then in the plane, waiting for the fog to lift. During the 30-minute flight over the Andes , the cloud cover didn’t allow for viewing the mountains, but I recalled my friend telling me she didn’t want to read about me a la Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors.
Coca, Ecuador, is at the confluence of two large Amazonian Rivers, the Coca and the Napo. The small town is pretty much known only as a departure point for eco-tours in the rainforest. Lonely Planet has almost nothing to see about it, either. But while waiting in the small bus that took us from the tiny airport to the rendezvous with our river boat, I immediately determined what the other main function of this town was:
I would have enjoyed having a few hours to look around downtown Coca (population 30,000) but we we whisked off to our boats quickly. Our Quito guide did not like this area. According to him, this is where all the Colombians come into the country to sell drugs (Colombians being the source of all crime in the country, according to him), which is why we would see more policemen here, as well as locals and foreigners who come to the city to work in the oil fields. Even the Lonely Planet guidebooks are pretty reticent on the town, merely mentioning a few different river guides that can help you get out of town. I took a few pictures of Coca. Unless you are going to travel up the Napo River, you’ll probably never have a reason to be here.
- Ecuador oil spill pollutes Amazon tributary (fuelfix.com)