Written Deceber 8, 2011
Our last morning at the Sani Lodge we breakfasted at 6AM to be ready with our bags packed by 6:30am. At 6:31 we boarded the paddle canoe to head back to the Napo River.
Normally this should be an easy cruise downriver but torrential rains upstream had turned our calm little stream of black water into a muddy force flowing in the opposite directions. The two row men, one on each end of the canoe, had to work hard, even with keeping the canoe in the calmer channels, to inch the boat what was now upstream. By 7:15 we had gathered our luggage, crossed through the jungle on the wooden boardwalk to the dock on the Napo River, and boarded the motorized canoe that would take us back to Coca. There seemed to be some difficulties with the motor that were not explained to us, nevertheless, we left the dock without too much delay taking some comfort in the fact that we had the mechanic and his family on board with us.
We started the journey at a pretty good clip. The river was noticeably higher that it had been the day before with the muddy waters obviously churned up. About an hour into the journey they started slowing down the engine from time to time to pull the propeller out of the water, put it back down again and continue on. As the journey progressed, they repeated this process more and more frequently, losing a little more speed each time. We were now only traveling about half as fast as we had been when we left the dock. At first we weren’t too worried. We had left in plenty of time to make our 11:30 flight. But as we continued to stop more and more frequently, our speed dropping even further, and the minutes ticking by, I was starting to get a little anxious. It was now 10:20 and we still had a ways to go. “The Coca airport is tiny. It’ll take no time to check-in.” I tell myself. About this time they slow down for another boat full of passengers sitting at the bank waving at us. We recognize Jessica, the volunteer from the Sani community. They had run out of gas and our driver stopped to give them some, filling their can with a plastic jug.
Finally at 10:40 we arrived at the dock in Coca. We needed to hurry but we had enough time to make it. Freddy called Alfonzo to get the taxi. We quickly said our goodbyes and hurriedly loaded our stuff into the taxi. Thankfully it is only a few minutes to the airport. We arrived at airport and Alfonzo ran our bags into the airport. He had already checked us in and had our boarding passes waiting for us. We thanked him, went through security and were at the gate just before 11AM. Immediately they announced that the flight was boarding. Just what time was this flight supposed to leave? Turns out 11:15, not 11:30. We had just minutes to spare not the 20 minutes we thought we had. By the time it had sunk in just how close we had come to missing our flight, we were already landing in Quito.