top of page

Canoa to Cuyabeno Calamity: Part One

By Peter Stromberg

So there I was…

We started out great, right on schedule. Left Canoa at a reasonable hour in the morning and twisted our way up the Andes to the capital of Quito. There we met up with the other part of our crew, two local chaps that were going to join us on our adventure into the Amazon. Maija and I jumped into Rodrigo’s fancy new Land Rover in Quito and we started making our descent down the pass and towards our final destination of Cuyabeno, deep in the Amazon basin. About two hours out of Quito the check engine light started rearing its ugly head and there was definitely something going wrong with the engine…no oil pressure. We stopped at a mechanic in Baeza and determined that this car was going to need some special love back in Quito. In the spirit of progress we decided to catch a cab back to Quito to grab my truck and meet the group back in Baeza, get some good rest and continue in the early morning. Right on schedule.

After making the journey from Quito and back we were mounting our new steed in the pouring rain the following morning. Jungle rain…a deluge. The good thing about my truck being on the beach so long is that the salt air has taken the liberty of creating speed holes in the roof. It makes a cool whistling sound as you fly down the curvy roads. However, the speed holes do not work as well in the rain. In fact one could argue that the perforations actually help the rain get inside the truck, but mostly on the passenger side of things so it’s not that bad….for the driver. In addition to our leaky ride, we’ve been informed that the short four hour route is closed and that we must take another road to get to where we’re going, which takes seven hours. We set off with slightly soggy intentions and smiles as we kept making progress toward our final destination, deep in the Amazon.

The sun had risen but you could barely tell because the rain clouds were so dark. It was 7:30am and it was about “11:00pm light” and dumping rain. Inside and out. Rain always seems to add to the feeling of adventure and trepidation. As my mind was trying to guess how much rain was actually falling I slammed us into a good sized pot hole, a deep angry one. Bam! About a half a kilometer later the check engine light comes on and the gas pedal makes the RPM’s go up but the engine won’t respond. We come to a stop at a long bridge in the middle of nowhere. We are an hour out of the town we passed and an hour to the next town, right in the middle. Beautiful though, right on schedule I thought.

After flagging down a semi-truck driver we stuffed Rodrigo in the cab and sent him off to get us a tow-truck to haul us to the mechanics shop in the lovely town of Loreto. Trying to make the best of the free time we broke out the binoculars and did some solid bird watching. After about three hours Rodrigo came back in a yellow taxi cab. My heart sank. It wasn’t an ideal tow truck. Rodi jumped out of the car with a mechanic, a fuel pump in his hand and a smile from ear to ear; in the pouring, POURING down rain. Well to say that he put all of our eggs in one basket wasn’t going to move anything forward, so right there on that bridge in the middle of the damn Amazon we dropped the fuel tank in a tropical downpour and replaced the fuel pump. Everyone that didn’t have a hand on a wrench was holding a tarp to try and keep the water out of the muddy fuel tank. We did it and I’d have to say that the mechanic was a bit of a hero that day and the days that followed. Right on schedule.

So you’re probably thinking about now that it worked, changing the fuel pump worked and we’d be charging down the road. Yay, Rodi is our hero! Well you’d be wrong. It did not work, the same problem continued and as hard as we’d tried we couldn’t get ‘er to go. So, now we were much closer to dark, still in the middle of nowhere, and we had to make the three hour round trip to find a (fu@#$%) truck that could pull us back to the mechanic.

We waited with the hobbled vehicle to be rescued. Every headlight that passed would get the extra peer through the window to see if it was “our” truck. Time slowed right down. Just when the snoring was about to reach its crescendo our saviors arrived. There was only one problem. The towing apparatus was a chain the size of my bike lock. The good thing was that the chain was just long enough that if it snapped in just the right spot it would shatter my windshield. We pushed on through the night. Winding through the slippery roads in the pouring rain. One of the delights of driving at night in South America is that you don’t have to be bothered flicking your high-beam headlights on and off. You just leave them on and so does mostly everyone else. We were cruising along at a good speed when we encountered a speed bump, while flying through the air I heard the chain snap in an awful “Twink” sound. Luckily there was enough left of the chain after it snapped to still be of some use. We carried on through the dark night, making our way to town and bringing the truck to the shop. Back at the hotel we arranged a taxi to pick us up in the morning so that we could continue on our mission of making it to Cuyabeno, leaving the broken down trunk in the hands of the mechanic to fix in the four days we’d be gone. Sounds like a good plan, right?

To be continued…..

[Gabriela al final hay que agregar una página que diga:



13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page