Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador

A four-day journey into the rainforest of El Oriente, Upper Amazon Basin, Ecuador, 2003-4. We took a bus from Quito to the tiny town and jungle outpost of Tena, where we hired a taxi and went further east to a point along Rio Napo called Puerto Barantilla, where we took a boat to our jungle lodge near the mouth of Rio Arajuno. Over the next three days, we explored the region with local guides, including a memorable all-day hike through primordial forest, buzzing with streams and massive diversity of life. We also went river rafting one day after assembling a raft out of logs with our guide's help, and hiked to amaZOOnico, an animal rescue and rehabilitation center run by local and overseas volunteers. Here we saw some of the great variety of Amazonian wildlife, including macaws, toucans, trumpet birds, tortoise, many kinds of monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, peccaries, tapirs, capybaras, agoutis, etc. The lodge served all of our meals. Dinner staple was fish with vegetables, rice, yucca or plantain, and tropical fruit, served by candlelight (the lodge had no electricity). The mosquitoes were large and vicious. The forest comes alive at night with the sound of a gazillion crickets.