Here are some final, random thoughts on the Ecuadorian Amazon and our stay at Niki Lodge.  We loved it and would do it again in a second.  The Amazon was totally unexpected for us.  We hadn’t planned on doing a 4 night 5 day  adventure, but the opportunity presented itself  and we were off.   We really had total misconceptions about the Amazon.  Our biggest concern was the mosquitos and that turned out to be a non issue.  Ants are what you have to watch out for, especially the Bullet ant, a huge black ant with a bite worse than a wasp sting. 

Bullet Ant

The indigenous tribes have so many legends about ants.  For example, the Indians would have their children hold their hands in a biting ant nest for as long as they could.  This was supposed to make them good fisherman and bring them luck.

If a dog refused to hunt, the  Indians would tie  it between two trees, near an ant mound.  The biting ants would “encourage” the dog to be a hunter. 

We loved staying in the rustic cabins (after we figured out the mosquito netting).  The lack of electricity was not a problem.  We played games by candlellight. Maria showed the staff, including the cook, Alex our boat captain, Paula and Claudio how to play Blackjack.  We had a great game going, including the kids, using macaroni for money.  All by candlelight. 

What surprised me the most about the Amazon was the will to live.  The plants in the Amazon are really into self preservation.  The trees fight for space.  Paula showed us one tree, all by itself.  I can’t remember its name, but it emits a poison that kills all other trees and plants around it, giving itself plenty of space to grow.  Another tree, the tree that Claudio cut the thorns from, uses the thorns for self preservation.  The tree reproduces from its fruit.  Animals eat the fruit, pass along the seed and the tree grows.  The problem with this tree was that the animals were picking the fruit before it was ripe.  When they bit into the fruit and didn’t like the taste, they dropped the fruit, wasting it as the seed wasn’t ready.  The tree grew the thorns to prevent the animals from climbing the tree and wasting the unripe fruit.  Now when the fruit is ripe, it falls to the jungle floor where it can be eaten.  Pretty smart, huh? 

Along with the will to live, there is a strong sense of working together to survive. Symbiotic relationships are extremely important in the Amazon. We noticed several trees with bulges or lumps on their branches.  Inside the lumps were ants.  At first I thought the ants were killing  the tree.  Not so.  Catepillars kill the trees.  The tree and the ants work together.  The tree provides a home for the ants and the ants kill/keep away the catepillars before they can damage the tree.  It boggles my mind to think how that got started. 

Inside the rainforest lives one of the strangest animals we have ever seen.  We weren’t lucky enough to see it for ourselves, as it is nocturnal, but we did see its tracks.  The Tapir has a face only a mother could love.  At the zoo in Banos they run free, that’s right, they have full run of the zoo.  No cages for them.  At the zoo we were able to get as close as we wanted  (dared) to two that were sleeping.  Tapirs weigh around 700 pounds, are 7 feet long, stand over 3 feet at the shoulder and are equally  at home in the water orland.  They are considered endangered or vulnerable in South America.  Yet there we were, in the zoo in Banos literally a foot away.  But that’s another story.

Finally, the cost of 5 days, 4 nights in the AMAZON, transportation from Lago Agrio and back, transportation down the river and back, 3 really really good meals a day and drinks, cost us $250 per adult and around $200 for Tessa.  Tickets ONLY to Walt Disney World for 5 days, ar0und $250.  That doesn’t include food or lodging.  So please tell me why there aren’t more families in the Amazon?  Think about it.  Taking your kids to Disney World and having them see an artificial replica of the Amazon when it’s cheaper to just go there is crazy.  I know taking your kids out of the USA is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but I just ask those parents out there to one time, just consider an alternative.  You’d be amazed how easy it is.