Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Amazon Rainforest

Tallest tree in the Amazon Rainforest (Ecuadorian part)
It's 60 meters or 198 ft.
After the Galapagos, I made my way to the Amazon Rainforest, where I saw birds of paradise and a 198 feet or 60 meters or 15 stories. After landing on the mainland of Ecuador, I made my way up the west coast and took a flight to Coca, the capital city of the Orenella province, where the Amazon Rainforest is. (I didn't know the Amazon extended all the way into Peru and Ecuador; I always thought it was just in Brazil.)

Coca has to be the ugliest city I've ever been to in all of my travels. The Lonely Planet, a famous travel publishing company, called it "uncharming." It's ugly.

It reminded me a lot of my city, Baldwin Park, without the new development. The North of Baldwin Park, which is full of machine shops and chemical plants, is a lot like Coca - concrete and oil and grease. Also, Coca, as Baldwin Park, has a lot of people spitting on the streets and teenage mothers with babies crying. You also get the sense of a lot of drugs (like Baldwin Park) and prostitution (like Baldwin Park) in the City. Get this, it also has the same official population of over 70,000 people. It's not a nice city, but you have to cross into it to get to the rainforest.

Why is Coca such an ugly city? Well, there's a lot of oil in the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon. And, let me tell you, (and I used to work on an oil rig), oil booms attract generally poorer people and ex-convicts. Those are the only people willing to suffer the work of being exposed to pollution and the dangers of losing your limbs on an oil field. So, it's the same in Coca, though their saving grace is that they have good food.

(A brief aside. There's a famous case, in which the Amazonian Indians sued Chevron and won a multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron for contaminating their water and poisoning them. Although the judgment is final, Chevron refuses to pay the judgment because they're arguing it was fraudulently obtained. Case is pending, even now.)

I had to book a tour to see the Amazon, and it wasn't cheap. I talked down the agent to get me a better price because it was the last part of my trip, and I didn't have more money to spend. He gave in, and gave me a discounted price.
Three Hoatzins

The reason that you generally need a guide is that this part of the Amazon is so wild, meaning tourists don't frequent it. The roads are unpaved. There isn't running hot water around the Amazon. And the internet doesn't give you good information on the Ecuadorian part of it. Surprising enough, though, the village had WiFi.

So without knowing where to go and how to get there and limited time, you have to hire a guide. (Though, in the next post, I'll tell you how to do the Amazon cheaper than I did it, and hopefully, the internet can show others.)

Upon going to the Amazon, my guide, a local in the village of 1,000 people, took me on a canoe on a Lake Limoncocha, during sunset. Limoncocha is said to be the only "green" water lake. There's no real such thing as a green water lake though. It's really a black water lake.

Black caiman
What is black water? I happen to know actually a lot about Amazonian water because I have an Amazonian aquarium back home, and have had one for nearly 10 years or more. Black water just likes tea water, and it's brown in color, versus clear water. It gets it's color from the tannins, which leach out of the wood and plants that drop into the water, as tea leaches in hot water. The plant debris or the black water create a water that is low pH, making it acidic, and the water is soft, which would be ideal to take a bath or shower in because the soap washes smoothly from the skin. So, I was kind of excited to be in a black water lake. Why is it called "lime" lake, which has "green water"? For some reason, probably because of the algae, something my guide couldn't explain, the lake has a greener tint than the rest of the Amazonian black water.

A Piraña
At the lake, I saw monkeys, kites (a type of raptor), a hawk, parrots, and other birds of paradise. They were beautiful. I even saw a black caiman, which is the Amazon's variety of an alligator or crocodile. Apparently, they're the most aggressive.

Even though there are pirañas in the water, I still jumped out of my boat and swam in the black water. It was lukewarm. I jumped back into the canoe. Didn't want to stay in too long. I actually did have a cut on my arm and remembered.

A fisherman gave me two of his cichilds (a type of fish) for my aquarium back home. They ended up dying overnight though, so I couldn't bring them back home. Next time, though.

Then, on the lake, we just watched as day turned into night. The Amazon changes into a different beast with the passing of light. The night animals come out. You see the birds rushing to roost. And instead of flock of birds flying overhead, a cloud bats fly over you. The caimans and their eerie green eyes could be seen, floating on top of the water. And, the water lights up, with little blue sparkling lights, which look like a constellation of stars. They're glowworms.

I found my peace at that lake. I felt at pace in that lake.

All in all, I'm glad I took the trip to see the Amazon. The tour wasn't worth paying for. In the future, I have to see more of the Amazon, and do it more properly. I think it'll take three weeks. I knew the time was coming for me to return home.

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