We finished up our last kayaking trip in mid-February but we’re far from being done here in Ecuador. We’ve extended our intended departure date by a couple of weeks allowing us extra time to travel, visit friends and boat. After bidding farewell to our last group in Quito we returned east to Borja in the Quijos river valley. That evening we ran into our friends Ken and Juliet and Dan Dixon and his family where they told us they had just come from the Cuevas de los Tayos (cave of the oil bird) and told us what an amazing place it is. We’ve passed by the sign for it a number of times on our way back from running the lower Quijos and had added it to our long list of “things to do in the Quijos valley when we have the time”. After hearing their description we made a point to go out the next day.
Forty five minutes drive downstream along the main road near the small cluster of homes known as Tres Cruces is the trailhead. After paying our admission, Mary, our good friend Kike and I walked past the home of the family that owns the property and immediately began dropping down a path that must have taken years to put in.
The trail weaves through a lush forest that is cut by seeps of water and road noise slowly gives way to the sound of flowing water. Arriving at the confluence of two small streams that intersect at almost perpendicular angles you can see the trail continuing up on the far side. Right now the waters are low and clear but given the narrow canyons that feed them you can see the importance of not being here when it is raining.
After wading across the confluence we followied the trail for another 15 minutes to a place where the already narrow canyon walls close in and are pinched off at the top forming a sort of cave. All around is thick, lush vegetation and the eerie sound of the Tayo birds in the cave. At first we think there are one or two birds but as we stand at the mouth of the cave and watch them flutter past, the light filtering in at the far end, we begin to realize there are closer to fifty. We later learn these birds only venture out to feed at night.
Moving into the cave we wade into the waist- deep water working our way upstream against a gentle flow of current. Once inside you can see that the cave opens at the other end just a couple of hundred feet beyond.
The birds, what you can see of them, are either in flight circling the cave or roosting on horizontal ledges above our heads. After a visit of about an hour, in and around the cave, we work our way back to the confluence and up the trail to the main road. I didn’t get any decent photographs of the birds that day but I know this won;t be my last visit either.
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