Travels with V

Peru & Ecuador

Into the heart of the jungle

La Selva part one

And so the terribly early morning is here and we are picked up by a mini-bus for a drive out to the airport. It’s pitch black, but the bus is on time and that’s promising. But it isn’t, not by far. We’re collecting fellow travelers at two other locations, but the driver can’t find them. We criss-cross the city, drive into cul-de-sacs and have to reverse out, almost hit parked vehicles. The driver tries to find someone to ask for directions, but the streets are empty.

He is using his mobile phone’s GPS, but doesn’t seem to understand its given dicrections. The voice says “Turn left” and he drives straight on. As by accident we finally find the other passengers, but by then we fear we’ll miss the plane.

But we don’t and after a very short flight we’re in Coca, a rough oiler’s town on the outskirts of the big jungle, complete with shady bars, drugs and prostitution. We are led down to the harbour where a long and narrow motor-canoe will take us along the wide Rio Napa to La Selva Jungle Lodge & Spa.

MARKET IN COCA
IN THE CANOE WITH LIFE VEST ON

We’re buzzing and zig-zagging down the muddy river, avoiding the long sandbanks stretching out everywhere. The town quickly disappears behind us and on both sides of the Napa there’s only jungle, the classic one, only hear and there cleared for a small house, or a landing for oil trucks.

We meet several barges with trucks and the traffic is often a bit intense with fast passenger transports and slower local motor-canoes.

After two hours on the river we step ashore, but we’re not quite there yet. A short walk into the forest to another waterway, this time much smaller, where a fittingly smaller canoe awaits us. This one has no motor, it’s driven by strong arms and paddles. So we silently float along through the intensely green jungle with mangrove, palms and a hundred other species that we don’t know the names of.

After a while the water widens, and we’re on a small lake. On the opposite side we see the roofs of the La Selva Lodge. Sunbathing turtles on low hanging tree branches plop down into the lake as we pass them. Everything is stillness and happiness.

La Selva was built in the 1980’s by a man with a German name who had been searching the jungle for years for the perfect spot. After some 20 years he sold it to a Norwegian shipowner who renovated and modernized it. And also made it more eco friendly.

Now there are jetties where people fish for pirañas, canoes are for hire, there’s even a a yoga studio on the lake.

There’s a big central building with a restaurant and some rooms, and there’s also cabanas further behind. A short walk into the jungle leads to a massage room, but going there you have to watch out for the leaf-cutter ants, their motorway cuts right across the path. All day long an endless line of ants run along, emptyhanded one way and carrying bits of leaf in the other direction. And they continue into the night.

What is life in La Selva like? Join us in the next chapter to find out. We indulge in indian food and drink, and learn how to use a blowpipe.

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