The Mighty Jungle: Trekking in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Though now I sit in a hostel in the very Metropolitan capitol city of Quito, 5 days ago I was trekking in primary rainforest in the mighty Ecuadorian Amazon.
Strangely the decision took a long time. We couldn’t decide which part of the Jungle we wanted to visit, which tour agency to book with or which city to begin our trek. First, we travelled to the city of Tena, with no luck. For whatever reason, none of the tours seemed appealing. Shortly after arriving in Misahaulli, and once we walked into Teorami Tours, our decision was made. The tour guide happened to be someone Janek (our young German travel buddy), had heard about from friends he made on his Galapagos trip.
You have to follow the coincidences.
Moments later we were being whisked away in a pickup truck to an Ecolodge in the secondary jungle, near an indigenous community. Surrounded by palms, banana trees, and plant varieties I’ve never seen before, the lodge was made from bamboo, with dirt floors and no electricity, WIFI or general contact with the outside world.
After a night of sleep, we awoke for our first day in the jungle. This involved 7 hours of trekking in the primary (untouched) jungle- myself, anna, and Janek, our local private bilingual guide and two of his apprentices.
As we trekked, we stopped now and then so our guide could teach us about medicinal plants, insects, flowers etc. Janek and I even tried the sinus remedy, which involved our guide grinding up a plant, mixing it with water and pooring it down our nostrils. Crazy painful, but definitely cleared the sinuses. Our guide used a flower which contained a vibrant red natural paint to turn us into jungle warriors…
We stopped for a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches on plates of palm leaves, and swam at a series of waterfalls. Then 3 more hours of trekking- we ended at another more secluded ecolodge- fell asleep to the sound of the jungle…
Second day we woke up and after breakfest hopped on a riverboat and went bird watching on a river that if followed would eventually merge into the Amazon River… we then went to a musuem where we learned about the indigenous people- including how they trap their animals and how they give birth. This invovled a rope attached to the ceiling which the woman holds on to and squats. According to our guide it was not uncommon for the woman birth alone.
At lunch we got to play with a strange monkey-ant-eater-like animal (forgot the name of it). with a long wet snout, that let us pick it up and then crawled all of our back and head!
Next it was to an animal preserve with all sorts of exotic animals that were rescued from the surrounding jungle- tons of beautiful birds, monkeys, strange cats Ive never seen before.
After a longer boat ride we arrived back at the first ecolodge, and after dinner we did a night walk. Since most insects in the jungle are nocturnal we saw many… tons of giant spiders, huge killer ants, beauitful butterflies and a caiman (a small crocodile)….
There was also several tarantulas- one of which we were all able to hold and let crawl on our face … Tarantula facial?
Third day was spent with some woman from an indiginous native community… we went out into the jungle fields with her to learn about planting/harvesting. We picked plants, tea leaves, and fruit (one of which was one of the best grape fruit Ive ever had), then we walked back to the village to help wrap talapia freshly caught in the river nearby in banana leaves then put on the fire to be slow smoked. While the fish cooked we went to make chocolate from the bean… roasted, shelled, then grinded, and mixed with milk and sugar.
It was quite interesting, during lunch in the hut where we were eating there was a a war going on between ants and cockroaches. The hut had hundreds of cockroaches living in the walls (an issue our first night at dinner, there were literally roaches crawling on the dinner table) so apparently the natural way to exterminate the roaches is to let a massive army of ants invade the hut. The ants actually eat the roaches. So they come into the hut in swarms, surround the roaches and eat them until there is nothing left of the roach corpse… quite a spectacle to watch! I am no longer afraid of roaches, haha!
We had a lunch of river talapia (absolutely amazing), yucca, rice and an onion/tomato salad. For dessert it was fresh papaya with the chocolate sauce we made..
Next we made jewelry using jungle materials, seeds, etc. After that we panned gold in the river. We only found a few tiny specs.
Finally we took a river taxi back to Misahaulli and waited for our bus to arrive. With quite possibly the best entertainment we could have asked for the monkeys which invade the plaza every afternoon to pester passerbies and steal from unsuspecting tourists- gave us a show. One monkey stole a bottle of bug spray from a German couple, then proceeded to apply the repellent to himself and his friends. Another monkey climbed Janek, unsuccesfully attempting to steal his grapes.