At this point, we had woken up before the sun has even risen and it was for a good reason too. We were going on a canoe ride to try and see what interesting animals we could see this time. Since we started our journey, everyone was anxious to see some charismatic mammals. On this canoe trip, we got lucky and ended up not seeing one or two, but 3 different species of monkeys: Wolly, Tamarin and Spider monkeys. They were scattered in different parts of the trees and provided us with more than enough entertainment. We also saw an interesting bird known as the Watseen which is a toothed bird and has red eyes. I have to admit though, it was really the monkeys that received all of our attention this time.
With the canoe trip ending, and us having ate breakfast, we had a hiking trip planned for us to a enchanting waterfall that our guide had found not too long ago. The plan was to find the waterfall then go swimming, which was interesting for me considering I never really learned how to swim. Nonetheless, I was still pretty excited to go. We had to take canoes down through the Napo river and stopped at a location where we had to jump out of the canoe and walk up to our first rest stop. We decided to leave our bags there and continue our hike, but since we are in the rainforest however, my other classmates discovered something… a Whiptail Scorpion. Being terrified of spiders, I simply provided moral support (once again) for the others while they fiddled with the thing. From there, the hike continued and we did not reach our destination until about an hour and 30 minutes later. At this point, we were all tired and sweating, but one could not deny that the hike was worth for the waterfall was definitely one for the books. Despite not knowing how to swim, I placed my life vest on and decided to join them and “swim” (or better yet float in my case). Thirty minutes later, we were out of the water and continued on or journey back down the trail and into our canoe.
(Waterfall pic left to right: Lauren Lairson, Eric Ostrander, Emily McCue, Brandon Pollard, Gabrielle Muntean, Nandini Mishra, Collin McManus, Isis Zhang)
Now normally we would take the canoe down the Napo to reach the dock close to our hotel, put boy were we in for a surprise. Instead of taking the canoe all the way back, we were given the opportunity to get out of the canoe and go tubbing the rest of the way down. For me this seemed a bit alarming because guess what, I can not swim. But then it hit me, “Brandon Pollard, you are in Ecuador right now and this is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY!” Realizing this, I had to risk it all and decided to go tubbing. Thankfully I survived and this moment easily became my favorite from the whole trip.
As if this day could not get any better, we later got to visit a local tribe known as the Napo Rumi. While the area we met them was more of a tourist attraction than their actual village,u it was still nice to see what their main activities were. The women were often in charge of cooking and preparing meals, so when most of the village was done collecting gold (one of the main things they do to receive profit), they would often have a drink prepared known as chicha de yuca prepared to celebrate the hard work that was done. Finally they showed us how they created their pottery by hand, which I found especially impressive. In order to test our skills, we were given the chance to use the blow dart that most of the natives used for hunting. I am proud to say that I was the only one to hit the target tucan on my first try and it felt amazing. Even more fascinating that, our tour guide caught our attention and we were able to see a tarantula and devil horse wasp battle to the death. In a matter of seconds, the battle was decided sadly though and the wasp was triumphant. We witness the wasp stun the spider then carry it away like it was nothing, it was a frightening but interesting cite for sure.
To top it all off, one of our teachers fellow students that studied bats caught some when we arrived back at Cotococha. We were lucky for one of the catches and got to see what a pregnant bat looked like in the flesh. With back to back adventures, this was undeniably the busiest day of my life.