I'm not a big fan of early starts to the day, so having to wake at 4am on my last day in the jungle wasn't something I was really looking forward to. In fact it was quite an easy accomplishment and in a way I was actually quite excited about returning back to civilisation mainly for the very sad and pathetic reason of checking my emails. It's strange when you are so far away from home, how much you rely on the Internet and email. So much so that I had been having a recurring dream for the past few nights about sitting in front of a computer checking the copious amounts of emails I had received. It's a sad state of affairs when your life becomes this!
Our guide seemed in buoyant mood as we skipped through the black waters of the Cuyabeno River, the red eyes of the cayman crocodiles all around us. I had a feeling that the previous night the guide was a little disappointed with the tips some of the tour members had given. My girlfriend and I both tipped $10 each for the 6 day jungle tour. The German couple that were with us only tipped $10 between both of them, which seems a little stingy considering they are millionaires, travel the world on their own private luxury yacht and spent over $60 on alcoholic beverages during the time spent at the lodge.
Normally when I have a full days travelling ahead of me I try to cut down on the amount of liquids I take on board, as having a bladder the size of a walnut doesn't bode too well on long distance road trips. Even so, I was still highly surprised that one cup of coffee with my breakfast could have resulted in us having to stop five times, specifically for me to use the toilet during the journey back to Lago Agrio. The tour members who had a flight to catch were becoming quite restless at my antics as it was touch and go whether they would make it back to Lago Agrio in time for their flight. In my eyes letting them miss their flight was certainly a small price to pay for not wetting myself.
In the end we arrived into Lago Agrio with plenty of time to spare, mainly due to the non existent military checkpoints that had greeted us on the way to Reserve Faunistica Cuyabeno. Like in other countries I have visited that have similar checkpoints, I put their no show completely down to the weather. It always seems that during times of heavy rain checkpoints disappear. If I was smuggling drugs I know exactly when I would try and get past them!
On my return back to Lago Agrio, I realised compared to other jungle towns such as Puyo and Macas, what an uninspiring dull place it is. On the way to the 'terminal terrestre' bus station after passing a street cordoned off by around 50 policemen in full riot gear, people seemed to disappear from the streets and the town resembled more of a ghost town from a Wild West movie. Even the bus station was vacant of people as the sparsely populated Transportes Baños bus pulled out on the nice 8 hour journey back to Quito.
The pages on Lago Agrio I had read in my Rough Guides Ecuador guidebook mentioned that the road from Quito to Lago Agrio is one of the most scenic and breathtaking in all of Ecuador. They certainly weren't lying and I am very glad I had the chance of getting up at a ridiculous hour of the morning to have the chance to do it. Not only do you pass over numerous death defying rickety old bridges, watching the raging white froth of the rivers force from the window below and also see enough cascading waterfalls from the surrounding hillsides to last you a lifetime, but you get to take in the majority of the landscapes that Ecuador has to offer all in just one journey. Starting off from the jungle, you rise up into the cloud forests, rising even higher into the paramo, shrouded in mist and cloud. After passing the highest point of 4100 metres, which is sometimes covered in snow you see the sprawling urban mass of Quito and the Cumbaya Valley in the distance.
Upon arriving into Quito I was met with a couple of surprises. Firstly my one time favourite hostel in all of Ecuador, New Bask Hostel who we had made a reservation through had decided to cancel our reservation, not once but twice leaving us without a room. If we had arrived in the early hours of the morning like we had expected to, then this would have put us in a tricky spot having to find alternative accommodation in the middle of the night. Luckily we were able to find a much smarter room for my girlfriend and I around the corner at La Galleria, and seeing the extra value you get for just a couple of dollars extra per person per night gets you, I don't think I will be venturing back to New Bask Hostel in a hurry.
I was also flummoxed at seeing many people standing on street corners selling flowers and virtually every women walking around holding flowers also. After hearing a radio broadcast I soon realised what they were all about - International Women's Day. This international event certainly isn't celebrated on this scale back home in England. The radio broadcast was slightly disturbing, stating that 70% of the female population of Ecuador are physically, sexually or psychologically abused. That’s seven in every ten women. With such high rates I can see why it is such a big event here, although on my return back to the Ecuadorian Sierra, where I still have another 5 months to work and live, I doubt very much such publicity will have any effects on such abuses, which is seen by many women as a typical situation of every day life.