Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Into the rainforest

Finally able to access my blog and add to the Ecuador saga for those who are interested (others have had emails keepin them up to date, whether they wanted them or not!) -

We left our mountain retreat at Papallacta and descended 10,000 feet to the rainforest on 14th Nov. As I think I mentioned before, our transport is the public buses. The journey took 5 hours to Baeza where we picked up three small trucks which took us another hour to our camp with a family of the Cichua people. We were given wooden huts on stilts, with palm leaf roofs - none too solid. You could see the ground through the bamboo slatted floorboards. Everything was very simple: no electricity but running water from a standpipe and no furniture in the huts beyond the bed, which was comfortable enough. When anyone moved during the night the shaking of the floorboards woke neighbours in adjoining huts. There were dogs everywhere, which never seemed to stop barking, and several roosters to wake us at dawn. Very enjoyable though, with lots of birds: vultures, eagles, etc.

There are 14 of us (I miscounted the first time) - 2 Americans, 7 Canadians, 3 Brits and 2 Danes. Four are under 25 years of age, the rest over 55 years of age - no inbetweeners. We spent the two days there trekking through the jungle, learning forest lore. We were bitten to hell, despite using deet and one or two had stomach troubles. The family who owned the huts were excellent - no English but lots of sign language. Some of them did not even speak Spanish - only Cichua. We also learned to make chocolate from the basic plant, which was backbreaking work, grinding the cocoa pods.

From there another 5 hour bus ride to Tena and into the rainforest again on the banks of the Rio Napo, a headwater of the Rio Amazon. Better accommodation - electricity and showers - and the river itself was magnificent. Our neighbour, an Ecuadorian woman, had a tarantula in her room as big as my hand. Very hairy. She said she did not mind it being there as it was hiding from the female who lived in the nest in rafters. That night we did a forest walk in the dark photographing spiders and other insects that only come out after sundown. Saw a couple more tarantulas. Getting very friendly with them. We also saw the largest rodent in the world, a rat as big as a large pig, called a capybara. We were accompanied by a guide with a machette who was supposed to take care of any snakes- oh, and because of the snakes we wore welly boots. Did not see any.
Next day we took a long lean motorised canoe trip down the Napo river and back. The Napo at that point is about quarter of a mile across with a fierce flow. Visited a Cichua village where they made rough pottery from the river clay and showed us how to use a blowpipe.

Today we came to the town of Banos, again 4 hours by public bus,which is overlooked by an active volcano. It erupted (only a bit, we are told) just ten days ago. Tonight we are climbing the foothills to get a look at the crater in the sunset. Sorry this is so stilted but I am doing it on my Kindle Fire and there does not seem to be a key for apostrophe S, hence everything is laboured.

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