We were up before dawn for birdwatching, but none of our group was all that interested in birds and Diego had announced on our first day that he was not 'into' birds at all. We took the canoes upriver, the water higher than ever after so much rain. We saw the usual birds, the blue/ black greater ani, the 'stinky turkey' (hoatzin) drying off on low branches along the riverbanks, yellow headed vultures, a red headed cardinal, along with some squirrel monkeys and black mantled tamarinds. There are eleven species of monkeys that are seen in the Cuyabeno area, and we saw perhaps five of them. We encountered a family of three pink dolphins playing in the river, evading our cameras again, appearing up and down river back and forth, finally disappearing after a motorboat rushed by. It appeared that today was the day the lodges were disgorging their clients and sending them upriver, so several passed us by as we paddled back to our lodge. Again I was amazed at how many lodges and tourists appeared. I had imagined that this pristine wilderness was just for us!
Black Mantled Tamarinds
The bat from yesterday was back above my bed, peeking at me as I organized our bags. The whole camp was dismantled and packed up, so we left the place entirely empty. It looked as if no one had been there when we left. I was relieved to see that the garbage was being packed out as well.
Lodge all Cleaned Up
We motored upriver. Nothing looked familiar, as the water had risen substantially. I did not recognize where we had paddled. Diego was jumping up and down with joy and amazement when he saw a manatee. Maya and I were at the back of the canoe and saw only the movement of the water. Manatees hide and are rarely observed, so seeing the back and tail of one was a significant event. River dolphins made an appearance again. Gerd was frustrated that he had not yet seen an anaconda, but was relieved when Diego saw one sunning itself on a huge bush near the water. A gorgeous 'emerald boa' hung out over the river, perfect for photo opportunities, and the usual monkeys and birds accompanied us up the river.
We reached the bridge and had an uneventful bus ride back to Lago Agrio. I was hopeful that we would find a seat on the only flight back to Quito that afternoon, but all seats were taken, so we took the seven hour ride back through the jungle and the mountains to Quito. There was a stop along the way to show passports to military personnel and have our bags checked for contraband or drugs, and then on through the dark. Whenever I looked out of the window, I saw steep cliffs down to the depths below off the side of the road, so it was better not to look. My head was hurting, made worse by the showing of the 'Passion of Christ' on television, in Aramaic with English subtitles and Spanish narration. The sight and sounds of Jesus being beaten to a bloody pulp and then crucified was hardly bearable, but I was focused on shielding Maya from the horror, so that kept me busy. I wished Eric had a phone, because we passed near Yanayacu on the way. In truth, the bus ride was not intolerable, and we disembarked in Cumbaya. There were taxis waiting for us, all charging ten dollars for a ride to Quito. I found another on the road who quoted six dollars only, so we sped home, which is minutes away through the tunnels.
The Easter Bunny had visited in our absence, so Maya had a list of eggs and toys to search for in the middle of the night. She was not satisfied until she found every item, and we gorged ourselves on chocolate for dinner and were happy to crawl into a real bed for the first time in days. I kept feeling the movement of the water as I was rocked to sleep, safe and sound after our great Cuyabeno adventure.