As part of our Ecuadorian adventure, we decided to visit the lowlands of Ecuador and go to the rainforest, a distant part of the rainforest that eventually leads into the famous Amazon. We decided on a short adventure that was three days and two nights. Ever since my children were toddlers, they have loved reading and learning about the Amazon rainforest, so traveling to the upper Amazon was very exciting for them. We decided to visit the Huasquila Amazon Lodge for a couple of reasons. One, we could get there exclusively by car, which was far more convenient and cheaper than having to drive to the Quito airport and take a small plane further into the rainforest. And two, it was a more reasonably-priced lodge than some of the others I had found.
Huasquila Amazon Lodge is an eco-lodge, meaning they strive to leave a small footprint on the planet by making better choices about how they use power and get rid of waste. We were picked up from the Hacienda la Alegria in Aloag by someone from the lodge. Originally, they recommended that we use public transportation to get to the lodge, but we were not comfortable with that so we paid for someone to pick us up from the Hacienda and return us afterwards. It was well worth the money because the man that drove us spoke English and Spanish and was very knowledgeable about everything we saw along the way on this six-hour trip. It was a beautiful drive!
The reason the drive was six hours is because of the condition of part of the road that went through the cloud forest. The drive to the lodge was very scenic, but at the higher elevation, through a part of the cloud forest, there is so much water that the road had either crumbled or washed away completely in several sections. As a result, one long section of the road to Huasquila was closed all day except for two hours – one hour in the middle of the day, and one hour in the evening. If you were not in the line, ready to go when the road opened up to allow travel, then you were not going to get through. And traveling that road was a bit frightening. Water ran across the road at several points, temporary bridges were set up to allow travel across some of the swiftest waters, and on the return trip, we saw another part of the road had washed away that three days before had been there. It really looks like a losing battle for the road workers.
Upon our safe arrival to the lodge, they fed us a very delicious dinner and then acclimated us with our surroundings. The lodge and the cabins were nestled into the surrounding forest and everywhere we looked, there were butterflies, birds, and beautiful flowers. We met our guide, a young guy named Sabino. He was an incredible guide. He spoke perfect English, was great with our children, and he was extremely knowledgeable about much of the flora and fauna that we saw during our hikes. He made the whole experience even better. Our kids, and my husband and I, were completely captivated during our hikes. There was never a dull moment, and even when the hiking became strenuous, it was so exciting, that we barely noticed.
Our first evening at the Huasquila Lodge, we visited a small community of Quechua (Kichwa) people. They demonstrated some of their daily activities, explained some of their culture and traditions, allowed us to taste some of their food, and danced with us. We purchased some of the artisanal items they had for sale to thank them for their hospitality.
Afterwards, we went on a night hike with Sabino and saw a wide variety of animals. Unfortunately, my camera does not work well in the dark, but Sabino was kind enough to let me use his photos here to show off some of the cool creatures that we saw.
Our only full day at the lodge was spent exploring the rainforest on a morning and an afternoon hike. Both of these hikes lasted around 4 hours, maybe a little longer. They do not have to be that long, but because my family loved to explore everything, our amazing guide took the time to explain and show us everything he could. We hiked through the river into a cave and saw whip scorpions, some of which were enormous.
We spent some time getting an invigorating massage from a powerful and cold waterfall as we stood under it.
We tasted lemon ants (chew quickly because they will bite your tongue if you do not).
We looked for fossils in the river, struggled through deep mud, and had our faces painted with natural plant dye.
At the end of our day of hiking, we made chocolate from cocoa beans and fried up some palm grubs to eat. Interestingly enough, they did not taste bad. Sadly, my children were not adventurous enough to eat the grubs. But the rest of the food at the lodge was a big hit for them and very healthy for us as well.
We were very sad to leave the next morning. I cannot put into words how incredibly amazing and magical this trip was. The things we learned about and the adventure that we shared is something that will stay with us for many years to come.
Things we wish we had known before going to the rainforest:
- Take rubber boots for the hikes! The lodge provides some to you if you do not have them but they may not have a size that will fit you.
- There is a lot of water. The air is saturated with it. Your clothes and shoes will get wet during the hikes and they will not dry until after you leave, even if you hang them up, so you may want to take extra clothing or take clothing that is designed to dry more rapidly.
- Our cabin was at the edge of the lodge property and we were woken up the first night by something massive pounding on our door. It turned out to be someone’s horse scratching her butt on the door, but it scared us half to death at 3 AM. The horse and her baby visited again the following morning, but at a more reasonable 6:30 AM. I’m not sure if we were the only people with that experience, but I suspect those horses freely wander as they please throughout the area, so be aware.
- Headlamps would be very useful during the hike through the cave. We used our phone flashlights while we hiked but that was extremely risky because we were hiking through swift water over rocks and the footing was not very stable. Losing a phone would have been very easy.
- It is best to have plenty of small bills on hand so that if you want to purchase something from the Kichwa, they do not have to struggle to make change (US currency is used in Ecuador).
If you are interested in reading about more of our Ecuador adventures, click on one of the following links: