lately, I’ve been trying really hard to stop looking forward to things. this sounds absolutely ridiculous, so let me break it down for you. ever tried to live ‘in the moment’? in my mind, this means actively appreciating the experience of the now instead of dwelling on the exciting times to come.
if you KNOW that something super exciting is happening in 3 days, how much time do you spend thinking and talking about the anticipation of it? sometimes, its half the fun, right? the issue i have with the verbal and mental anticipation is that it draws you away from the appreciation of the now.
the problem is though (ESPECIALLY when you’re traveling) that everything seems so goddam exciting that even though you’re totally ‘living in the moment’ you are also totally ‘living for the future.’
why do i bring this up? well, i spent about 5 days in quito last week, and every 12 minutes or so, i just kept thinking about how excited i was to head into the amazon. oh, yeah about that. i just went to the AMAZON. parrots-tapirs-jungle-spiders- wild fruits-anaconda territory- indigenous peoples- bloody amazon!!!
we did a 4 day trip to the Guacamayo lodge in the Cuyabeno reserve in Ecuador. it was definitely an experience, thats for sure. so what was the jungle like? pretty much exactly what you dream the jungle will be like.
here’s where we stayed:
here’s what we travelled around the Cuyabeno reserve in:
side note about this guy- Naiser has been a guide in the amazon for the last 25 years. there were countless times in the 4 days we spent with him in which all of a sudden he would put his finger to his lips and scan the jungle for something, and immediately set up his giant telescope-y thing (<-technical term). little did we know, there were an entire pod of monkeys just over yonder, or a bird perched on a tree about 100 yards away. the guy had vampire senses, i swear.
so what did we do in the amazon?
the entire 4 days was an exercise in observation and alertness- animals are freaking FAST and usually don’t stick around when they hear the sound of a motor coming towards them. the key is to keep scanning- you never know when a cayman will poke its head out of the water, or a bunch of monkeys will start swinging around in a tree, or a giant (no joke, 4 inches long) spider will just be hangin out right above your head.
our lodge was located about 2 hours down the river in a canoe (with motor, no paddling required), and each daily excursion required us to leave the lodge and head in one direction or another down the river. the amazon basin is basically a web of tributaries running through south eastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador and a lot of western Brazil, and the people that live there are somehow able to navigate this web flawlessly. to give you an idea- the entire amazon basin is about 7 MILLION square kilometers. thats a lot of space to potentially get lost in.
luckily, we did not get lost, but we did break down one day! one of the days of our trip, we spent time with a woman from one of the indigenous communities in the amazon basin, and then went down the river to meet a jungle shaman and learn a little about his rituals and daily life. about 5 minutes after leaving the shaman’s house, we hit something in the water, and our motor died. turns out, it wasn’t such an easy fix, but since we were only 100 meters down the river from our shaman buddy Tomas we just headed right back to his dock and loaded 17 people into a canoe (our 11 plus 6 of Tomas’s family) to head back down the river to our lodge… which was when we saw DOLPHINS. yes, the legendary pink dolphin of the amazon!!!
due to the low water levels, our guide had told us not to get our hopes up for a dolphin sighting, as most of them had headed to deeper water for the season. apparently, the universe rewarded all of us for keeping it together when our motor broke down (in the rain, did i mention that?) and we got to see a mama and baby dolphin!
we also got the chance to experience a tropical rainstorm- those guys mean business. it really makes you appreciate the value of a good poncho.
i know there are some of you out there that want every little detail about everything we did while we were there, but here are the highlights:
-anaconda hunting through a swamp. seen the never-ending story? ever wanted to go traipsing around in the swamp of despair? i did. and we didn’t lose a horse. or meet a giant turtle. but we DID find a 4 meter anaconda in a pond!
-heading into the indigenous community to learn how to make yucca bread. yucca is a staple of the amazon diet, can be grown with very little tending, and has the capacity to be made into anything from bread (only ingredient needed- shredded and drained yucca) to soup to chicha (fermented alcoholic drink)
-hiking through the mud learning about jungle plants and animals- the amazon jungle is home to more species of flora and fauna than any other habitat in the world. did you know there is a type of ant that you can use as sutures for a wound? or that termites actually poop out cardboard? or that wild pigs leave behind pheromones that humans can actually smell hours later?
and what did i learn about life on this little excursion?
-i can fall asleep anywhere. seriously, i might have narcolepsy. i fell asleep wearing a poncho, holding my backpack on my lap, in a canoe speeding through the river basin, in a tropical rainstorm. booyah, babies everywhere. beat that.
-always check your boots. we went on a 4 hour hike into the jungle, through swamps, climbing over and under trees, avoiding spiders and poisonous ants.. and the minute i get back to the lodge and take my gum boots off a FROG jumps out of my left boot. i thought it felt a little funny.. poor little guy. at least i was wearing clean socks.
-a tropical rainstorm is no joke. were talking probably 3 inches of rain an hour. and thats in the dry season!
after a day in lago agrio and a night on a bus, i am here in baños ready to do some more outdoor adventuring! my plan tomorrow is to head up to la casa del arbol to check out a swing that apparently makes you feel like you’re swinging off a cliff!