About halfway through our trip, we finally got the part I was most excited about – the Amazon River. Up until this point, we had spent most of time in the mountains, full of cool, dry air. But today we would experience something completely different.
After a few hours on the bus, descending down mountains for most of the time, we turned off on a small dirt road and drove through greens grown higher than the bus. And suddenly right in front of us was the Amazon! I was expecting a river wider than I could see across. But this just looked like a large creek to me, smaller than the Mississippi River. I later learned this was because we were at the basin of the river, just the beginning and that miles down, countries later, the river was at it’s widest. But I didn’t care. I was thrilled to be there!
The resort we were staying at that night was on an island in the river. We would be taking canoes to the island. But, in order to get to the canoe, there was a steep, steep incline of small rocks going down to the water. We could see this through the window of the bus and started coming up with a game plan. Since our luggage would go on a separate canoe, we decided to use the same method that we had done in the rain forest – Matt would piggyback me, Mike would help him with balance, and Julie would take care of getting the wheelchair on board.
As soon as we stepped off of the bus, the humidity hit us like a brick wall. It was thick. The air was wet and we felt like we were breathing water. Before we knew it, we all had small beads of sweat forming on our faces. We knew this would be the climate for the next few days; there really was no point in complaining. We chalked it up as part of the experience and made our way to the canoes.
Once we were onboard with about four other guests, our driver (I can’t remember his name) started a very small engine at the back of the boat and we started taking off. I was sitting next to Julie and quietly grabbed her hand. The boat was small and narrow and it felt like we were going very fast. We could see our resort in the distance, up on the top of a hill, nothing else but a few buildings and green trees on this island. About 20 minutes later, we docked on a sand beach that led up to a very, very steep path through overgrown plants. It appeared to just be a tunnel of green leading to nowhere. We proceeded with the same method we had been doing to get me to the top. This time, though, with the air so thick and warm, we stopped halfway for a quick break and some water.
Once we arrived at the top, we were more than pleasantly surprised with the accommodations. There was a gorgeous view of the Amazon, beautiful dining areas, and a large swimming pool all at the center of the resort. We would have two cabins for the four of us. And in each cabin were four beds. We had an amazing porch with a hammock overlooking the river, and our rooms had giant screens the size of the wall that we would use for ventilation. I was so excited to lay in bed that night and just listen to the quietness of the Amazon – no city cars, no trains, no random lights flashing – just pure sereneness. And that it truly was.
After settling into our rooms, we headed back to the main lodging area for a quick meeting with Antonio. He had informed us that the next activity was a log ride down the river followed by an hour-long hike and then zip lining. Every part of this sounded like so much fun. But I also knew it would be a lot of work for everyone with me, and Antonio had recommended that I not participate in this one, mostly due to the long hike. I had agreed to stay back and just enjoy the resort. Julie was feeling a bit tired as well and said she would stay with me. I question if she was really tired or felt bad leaving me behind, but I’ll never know and we had a pleasant afternoon by the pool either way. Once Matt and Mike returned from the excursion, they both said it would have been a rough time for me, and I was glad I opted to stay where I was.
We gathered for dinner and while chatting with Antonio and Carlos, they suggested we go to a local karaoke bar outside of the resort later that night. I was intrigued as I thought the resort was the only thing on this small little island. We all agreed, along with about four others, that this sounded fun.
Later that night, Antonio led us to the back of the resort and through a secured gate. We entered onto a dark street, made up of about half dirt and half old cobblestone. The noticeable difference of what was on the two sides of that gate took me by surprise. And it saddened me a little to think that I was on the more “fortunate” side. We took an immediate right out of the gate and started down a small hill. Matt was behind me helping me along since the street was very bumpy and hard to maneuver. There were old buildings full of retail stores and small restaurants, all closed for the night, on each side of us. The most interesting sight to me was the basketball court off in the distance, extremely well lit with an active game going on. I could hear the cheers and laughter from afar.
After about a 10-minute walk, we took a left, a right, and another left. The streets were dark and I started to wonder where Antonio and Carlos were taking us. And then Antonio opened a door to a small building that was old with low ceilings and had a musty smell inside of it. Inside the door, we were greeted with a small bar in front of us and three tables off to our right. A small TV hung on the wall that would be used for karaoke. Just one other person was inside the dimly lit room. He was the owner and stood behind the bar. We discovered later in the trip that Antonio had called the owner and asked him to open the karaoke bar just for us.
We quickly lined up and all ordered a Pilsner and put our names on the list to sing. Since it was such a small group – the four of us, about four other tourists, Antonio, and Carlos – we were all able to sing several times. And we all did! I don’t normally karaoke, but how could I say no in Ecuador…
The half liter bottles of Pilsner were going down like water, with the hot temperatures just begging us to drink more. We were even able to get Carlos to have some tequila with us. He wasn’t normally able to drink since he was driving the bus everyday, but since we were staying at this resort for two days, he wouldn’t be driving and was able to have some fun with us. Before we knew it, hours had passed and it was getting later into the night. We were having so much fun singing and dancing and laughing and getting to know Antonio and Carlos. But all good things must come to an end, and thus we began our trek back to our resort. We headed back through the secured gate and were all parting ways when Antonio leaned over to us – “Psst, let’s go skinny dipping!”
We knew he was joking about the skinny dipping part, but we were certainly up for a late night swim in the pool. Early in the evening we had decided we wanted to go skinny dipping in the Amazon – mostly to say, “We went skinny dipping in the Amazon.” But after we brought this idea up to Antonio, we decided against it. At the first mention of piranhas, I had made up my mind that it wasn’t a good idea. But swimming in the pool at the resort after hours, which we knew was against the rules, sounded just like our cup of tea.
Julie and I headed back to our cabin to grab our swimsuits and the boys just jumped in in their underwear…well most of them did. I can safely say there was some skinny dipping going on.
We stayed in the pool for hours, pushing each other in from the side, splashing each other, and being overly rowdy. I’m not sure how anyone was able to sleep through our mini pool party. In the early hours of the morning we decided it would be best for us to get a few hours of sleep before our next day’s adventure. We thanked Antonio and Carlos for a wonderful evening and all headed our separate ways.
Just a few short hours later, we gathered at breakfast, overlooking the pool we had been in just a few hours earlier. We exchanged glances and winks with Antonio and Carlos, and knew that the rest of the tour group surrounding us had no idea how much fun we had the night before. In all my travels, that night is on the top of my most memorable and most exciting experiences.