Up and on the road the next morning we quickly approached the Ecuadorian side of the border, turned in our paperwork, got our passports stamped out and jumped back in the truck. A few miles further the large Peruvian tourism logo greeted us. Welcome to PERU! Country #12.
While we were camped out in the jungle, our guide Diego was reveling us with stories of Ecuador’s coast. Hearing tales of the Ruta Del Sol (Route of the Sun), Galapagos Islands, and fresh ceviche was enough to have us change our destination from mountains back to the coastline.
Headed out of the jungle we picked up a flat-tire, we easily tracked down a vulcanizadora in a nearby town. A 14-year old boy and his 8-year old brother came out to greet us. As they were removing the tire I realized it was a Tuesday and asked the kids if they should be in school. They both looked at me confused and said “This is our school”. I felt guilty as I spent most of my 14-year old childhood doing my best to make my teachers lives a living hell. I think they should send little jerks like me to fix tires out in the jungle for a few months. I would be begging to come home and study. Perspective.
15 minutes and $2 later the tire was patched, filled, and we were back on the road.
Getting out to deep amazon jungle on your own is a bit difficult. The primary form of travel in the Amazon is via the millions of rivers and water ways that wind through the rainforest. There are very few roads and access via automobile is rare so most people in this region use motorbikes, so motorcycle gloves are quite popular. We always regret not installing deploy-able Pontoons on the 4runner in situations like this…
I looked at our map of Ecuador and found the Cuyabeno National Park which appeared to be the most remote Amazon jungle area that we could actually drive to. Well you could not really drive INTO the park but you could get damn close. At the end of the road we would have to hitch a ride in a motorized canoe to actually make inside the parks boundary.
We hooked up with a cheap jungle lodge company in Quito that would agree to let us drive to the jungle ourselves. We had less than 24 hours to make it all the way across Ecuador to a random bridge in the jungle where there would (hopefully) be a canoe waiting to pick us up.
No big deal.
We hauled ass from Quito that afternoon. We crossed up and over the Andes mountains into a thick fog. We broke through the fog to see the low-lying Amazon jungle below us as far as the eye could see.