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Letters From The Amazon - Part One

PART ONE : Hola Quito, Life as a Ecuardorian and Journey to the Centre of The Earth

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"Hola!, I have spent my first week in the new territory of Latin America, crossing South America off my 'world's continents visited list' and it's pouring with rain here in Ecuador at the mo - which figures because it is the rainy season after all being mid October, it's rocking! - down pours happen the same time every afternoon hence being on the computer confused by the keyboards here which are kinda weird. Well they are spanish keyboards after all so I cannot do certain British symbols and things but oh well you'll get the gist of what I'm writing.

Well I arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador in the central Pichincha region last weekend having to wear a doctors surgeons facemask through the airport which was pretty weird and fortunetely finding a girl working at the airport who spoke english (Thank god) and managed to hook me up at 2am with going to stay with a nice Ecuadorian lady Rita who she knew in town. She told me she regularly took travellers into their home and showing this girl alot of gratitude and for a fee of $10 she took me across the city to Eldorado, a suburb of South Quito to Rita and her families apartment to put me up for the night in a spare room ( I was soooo beyond-a-joke tired after nine and a half hours from London to Atlanta and then five hours Atlanta to Quito flying - I was soo happy just to sleep anywhere) bless her she even came out to meet me in the street in her night wear and took me out on the balcony to show me Quito, the city at night with the lights and silohuette of the mountains in the background. As beautiful as it was, I've never craved a bed so badly before.

My first view of Quito.....at night

My first view of Quito.....at night

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Rita let me stay in her house for the week with some other volunteers who were studying spanish and volunteering down at a local childcare centre, full of hilarious stories around the dinner table. My home is a three storey apartment overlooking the Andean Mountains awaking to the sounds of the Sunday morning lady screaming the name of the local paper trying to sell it and the stray dogs that roam the streets. They actually kept a dog on the roof of the apartment and at night could hear his wimpering and pitter patter of his feet so was no ghost! Rita calls us down for breakfast and dinner shouting "Coffeeeeeeeeee!" which I guess is probably the easiest thing for her and I was pretty straight forward in telling her my vegetarian ways in my limited spanish 'no carne' she got the idea, the sweet senora.

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I have spent the first week trying to get my bearings of the city and avoid being knocked down by this CHAOTIC traffic, just like Ghana, no one uses the brakes just the horn. I have started attending Guayasamin Spanish School which is for 4 gruelling hours from 8:00 to 12:00pm a 20 minute walk from Rita's in to the Mariscul Sucre'New Town' area of Quito. Most main roads in Quito are named after important dates in Ecuardorian history like 'Ave de 6 Dicembre' not too sure what the importance is but must be something for a main road to be named after it. Spanish school is challenging, I am enjoying it but struggling a bit with the grammar, but in truth is not exactly my best area in English either but trying my best anyhow. I get homework every night ha! (have not had that in a while! but its good for me) but the school does put on some excursions and activities for us which is cool. Quito has two areas, the new town and the old town. The 'Old Town' is really the historic, cultural and colonial part of the city which I prefer and the school invited us on a tour of it to see the churches and other sights of significance. Riding the local public transport is pretty interesting but you gotta be smart to outwit the pick pocketers, but nah its not too bad. My teacher at schoo is Juan and we get on very well have a laugh during class, he even took my shoes to the tailor to get fixed for me which was mighty nice of him and to the market to practice my asking skills - I have actually managed to buy some things at least which is a major achievement when I actually got what I wanted. On one occasion around town we took a detour into a hair salon and both ended up having our hair cut ha! for like two dollars! its so cheap out here its unbelievable, only in Latin America your money goes a long way. I've been going back to the Old Town often and heading to the El Centro massive markets where I bought myself an Ecuardorian football shirt. The more I find I can go around and buy things and function normally, the more comfortable I can become. It's not very easy to live in a world where you're incompetant so I think my confidence is building up slowly. I'm trying to pay more attention in school.

In my first week, I have taken my first Salsa lesson which is alot of fun but makes you really sweaty! It's really fun to the see the guys from the school also coming along to give it a try, very entertaining! but the Latino's know how to dance. The weather shifts to and fro, its usually hot in the morning and then rains in the afternoon but thats what happens when you are nearly 3,000 km above sea level in the mountains! I have already suffered from a Altitude cold at the weekend and 'cotton mouth' where you get really dehydrated and your mouth dries up ekkkk, but its pretty normal to adjust to it.

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Last weekend me and a couple of students from school got out of the city and figured out how to take a bus where I sat on the floor because there were no free seats, up to the Northern Highlands of Ecuador into the Imbabura region to a town called Otavalo which is the bustling traditional crafts market for Ecuador to practice my bargaining skills and was a great experience mingling with the rural Ecuadorian crowds and stall vendors and I didn't too bad either, managing to buy a few things from the practice with Juan, a nice blue alpaca jumper and a pair of red andean trousers to add to my wardrobe plus a brown beaded rosemary necklace of a crucifix which I had to use body language for to explain what I wanted haha....I love markets, they're so much more fun negotiating prices and the goods are actually made by locals making them more of an unique authentic souvernir.

Octavalo Market

Octavalo Market

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Later in the day we read about a waterfall called Cascada de Peguche and was keen to set off and find it asking locals directions and being followed by a small puppy along the railway track. We eventually found a waterfall of some kind without signposts then hiked to it through the bush getting bitten by mosquitos - great. We nearly missed the bus back to Quito, failing to jump on the last bus leaving the waterfall before 5pm but with our combined bargaining skills we managed to persuade a passing taxi - very lucky! paying a whopping $2 back to Quito. One thing I've noticed here is however many hours it takes to drive somewhere on buses, that's how many dollars you pay.

Its so much better to get out of the city and see the real culture.

The real line of the Equator?

The real line of the Equator?

On Sunday, we took a trip to El Mitad de Mundo 'The Middle of The World'. Well Ecuador does mean 'Equator' right? so it would be a sin to pass up on an opportunity to go to the middle of the earth. Its a big complex on the barron highway which quite frankly looked like the world had ended itself. The park is of course a huge tourist attraction with a big tower/pillar type thing centred in the middle with a red line going through the middle 'Ecuador Latitude "0' marketed as the middle of the world but in fact if you listen to the locals the real line of the equator is a 1km walk away from the complex - nice secret, guess they got their calculations slightly off so away we went to check it out following another group of travellers. A small, more discreet exhibition than it's false neighbour, they only ask you for a small fee for you to come in a look at their education boards and exhibits. A lady was talking to a group of tourists around a sink so I stuck my head in and eavesdropped as she was showing the water flow switching from anti clockwise to clockwise on each side of the equator.....mmmmmm

The real deal....

The real deal....

And there it was the TRUE line of the equator, I had to walk along that big think red line. Was weird to feel the forces either side of you swaying you into the northern and southern hemispheres of the planet, defintely felt some tingling and magnetic forces there. The force was with me....
Another awesome thing was to prove to myself that you really can balance an egg on a nail. Surely it couldn't be done, they say, but at the Equator where forces are working with and against us its possible - amazing! I did crack it (not the egg) but the myth after my fifth attempt. Wow.

Ta dah!!! Really you can balance an egg on a nail at the equator!

Ta dah!!! Really you can balance an egg on a nail at the equator!

Sitting in a taxi back to the city, of course the afternoon rain was coming as the grey skies clouded over us and starting to stream down the window - I looked and a motorcycle caught my eye riding alongside the taxi. It was driven by a man with a slight unusualness about it. He also had his wife, son and daughter riding on the back with him plus a load of lugguge, none of them wearing helmets. There's no concept of danger out here and noticing us all looking at them, the man smiled, glinting his teeth at us before disappearing into a tunnel - MENTAL THINGS YOU SEE HERE

Next week is my last week of Spanish School and I'm moving to another host family to further my experience here. I went to see a host organisation near the school who's fixing me up with a lady named Carmen and her family in a different part of Quito near Le Parc Carolina so I can hopefully practice my spanish more. More salsa classes after school and also an Ecuadorian cooking class that should be interesting. I wanted to take a train ride next weekend to Boliche National Park where you can ride on the top of the carriages but apparently you cannot do it anymore booo!!!! but I will see what I will do for my weekend, theres a cable car you can take to the top of the volcano in Quito for an awesome view called the Teleforico, something you have to do apparently and everyone raves about Cotópaxi mountain around Quito.

I am planning to leave Quito for the Amazon rainforest on the 26th where I have to travel to a jungle town called Tena to gain access to the forest to start my conservation project so lots of prep for that and the spanish of course always needs some work. .........well thats it for my first week, thats some highlights so better be off into the South American rain and have a go at my homework he he.......

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 09:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged city south america quito andes ecuador Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Two

PART TWO: JUAN SEBASTIAN, BAD KARMA AND ADIOS QUITO!

Hola again, now news from my second week here in Ecuador. Still in Quito, my second week at Spanish school began when I packed my things and was moving on to live with another Ecuardorian family for the week. I didn't have the heart to tell Rita I was going to another family on the otherside of town and told her I was leaving for 'del selva' the forest a little bit early. Well I hope I did in my broken Spanish. Before I left though, I gave her a little something that I brought from London, a kitchen apron for her to use. Her son Christian who boasted many tennis trophies around the apartment drove me to school to spare me walking with all my lugguge (two bags maximum anyway). I'm sure I'll see them again.

When morning classes ended, I hailed a taxi and gave the driver a piece of paper with the new address on. He drove around the city for a while and I wasn't convinced he knew where he was going.

He didn't.

So...I had to call the chap at the host organisation with the mobile phone they have given me (and have no intention of giving it back either) to tell the driver where he should be going. After a long chat in spanish on the phone - we pulled up outside what looked like a complex next to La Parc Carolina and the driver was cool enough to carry my backpack in to the main desk where the security guard told me to go up to the fifth floor - a lady named Carmen was out in the halfway to greet me and welcome me into their cute small apartment overlooking the park and across the road from a football pitch. Great view from the fifth floor, the tiny cars chugging along the motorway and I could see at the traffic lights, street performers coming out to stand in front of the traffic queue freestyling footballs and juggling for change from the waiting cars.
I have my own room and my own ensuite and Carmen began to talk to me in Spanish showing me how the shower worked (I guessed she was anyway) one week at Spanish has not made me fluent!

Her son Juan Sebatian, is quite irresistable cute and a little dude. I met him for the first time when I couldn't open the door to the apartment with the key Carmen had given when he came to my rescue. I've spent most of my time with him as the rest of the family seem to come and go so I didn´t see them much or even talk to them a great deal, but when we did sit around a table eating dinner - you feel a bit of a retard like a child learning to speak again when it's pretty frustrating when you're thinking so hard on how to say 'pass the pepper'

Anyway I've spent most of my time with Juan Sebastian who helped me with my homework and had a pet chick at the apartment and would get it to talk down the phone on command (how cute!). When I took a shower, I figured out that Carmen had told me the water is only hot for 10 seconds or so before turning to cold - I found that out for sure! One time it flooded and Juan Sebastian came in with a mop and wearing huge black rubber gloves, helped me clean up. He's so sweet. We would watch Los Simpsons together (in Spanish no subtitles of course) and he loved Harry Potter but had not read the books - so after class one day Juan took me to the bookshop and I bought him a copy of one of the books to say thank you and for the fact I would be leaving for the Amazon on his birthday......ahhhh

Harry Potter...always a winner.... with Ecuadorian kids anyway.....

Harry Potter...always a winner.... with Ecuadorian kids anyway.....

I've been helping him with his English too with a Jesus poster who was making for his class, they take religion very seriously over here.

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From the apartment, I have a view aswell of the Andes and the city at night but still a 30 minute walk to school or I have to run for the 25 cent Ectoria bus if I'm late. Every morning when I do walk to the school I see two kids, a boy and a girl about 5 years old lying on the streetside - its pretty shocking and when the traffic stopped, they got up and attempt to juggle or do something in the middle of the road in the hope of just getting some dollars for themselves - its really sad to see, so I would go and buy them some bread in a nearby bakery for the day which cost like a dollar which is nothing to me. Its amazing how long it takes for people here to collect a dollar but even the elder women working on the streetside would descend upon the children to grasp a piece of bread.

Happy Quito Kids....

Happy Quito Kids....

Later on in the week, I had a very interesting experience at the British Embassy where we actually got taken behind the scenes of the embassy (wacky I know) no way anywhere else! It was kind of like that feeling of 'we shouldn't be here'. I had to go talk to them about a departure card I never recieved at the airport on a arrival and lucky for me again (really I have a guardian angel on my shoulders...so I thought anyway) a girl I go to Spanish school with used to work with all embassy stuff in Britain and wanted to go there herself - bingo! It actually turned out I didn't even need the card at all but still a sneaky peek at the British Embassy anyhow!

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I managed to venture back in to the Old Town of Quito again when were invited to go watch the Ecuador vs. Chile World Cup football qualifyer game on the TV and the city is football crazy! they lost anyhow ah! but we ended up sampling Ecuadorian cheesecake and a REALLY strong native drink which I think was ginger/cinnamon or something but it was REALLY strong. Oh my god. Really strong. We also went inside to see a really pretty church called Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, the interior made from gold - they say its one of the most beautiful churches in South America which I probably agree as its the only church in South America I´ve been inside!
I´ve also witnessed an Ecuadorian cooking class in school this week- well, mashed up the cheese to go into the soup so I suppose that´s helping I guess...mmmm was good soup though. I do like the food very much here in Ecuador and what they love to eat is´Cuy´which is a traditional dish of roasted Guinea Pig! which of course I´m politely ignoring....I had a pet guinea pig :(

Ecuador es el futbol loco!

Ecuador es el futbol loco!

BUT I had a bit of an unfortuante accident on the street this week where I cut my foot open when walking on the perilous uneven terrain which are the streets of Quito. It bled pretty badly and I mean pretty badly on the street - alot of dirt got in it so I had to cut out all the dirt and dead skin and clean it with alcohol which KILLED!!!. It was probably one of the most painful things I've ever experienced I was pretty bummed about it as I couldn´t walk on it properly for a couple of days, having to clean it in the bathroom sink all the time. No more Salsa classes for me, which doesn't help when Latino's like to just come and grab you to dance with them!! Mucho dolor! Must have been bad Karma. Of course the drama didn't stop there as after a evening spent at a popular night spot for us students at a bar near the school, I couldn't face going to do four hours of school after the cheap cocktails in the bar had made me sick. Not the best week in my trip to say the least!

When I could walk again, I've spent much of my time helping a friend from Spanish School find an apartment in Quito sticking up posters around the town and wandering into Ecuadorian Universities and helping a lady find her dog that had run off! we sure covered alot of ground around Quito. Today I had plans to go with two of the other girls from school to the Teleferiqo cable car up the volcano whilst Carmen and her family went off on a fishing day trip. We hailed a taxi to the north of the city scrambling higher through the neighbour hoods which was so traditionally South American with people milling on the street and children running in the road nearly knocking them over when our trip was cut short - Teleforiqo was closed for refurbishment noooooooooo. So another time,

But the sun as set on my time in Quito for now and tomorrow I'm venturing off into the Amazon Rainforest, the adventure I'm excited about the most and the main reason I am visiting South America. I have to leave pretty early so I'm packing up my wellies that I got on the market earlier this week and bidding farewell to Quito and the city.

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See you in the jungle

Adios

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 25.10.2009 12:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged city south america quito andes ecuador Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Three

PART THREE : INTO THE AMAZON

How about it Indy? an Amazon Adventure?

How about it Indy? an Amazon Adventure?

So speaks the voice of my inner child who in fact used to want to be the side kick of Indiana Jones on his epic adventures around the world or for him to be my idolised dad.....actually I still do in my inner child ways :)

[center]But the adventurous and mystical allurement of the Amazon Rainforest has tempted the tastebuds of adventurers and explorers for a long time and has always stayed close to my heart which is why I had to come here and actually visit it one day, in the hope to help out a little bit with the problems it is facing in this over consuming world. . But despite the fact South America blooms with modern technology in 2009, as I saw in Quito there are still civilisations out here's who's lives remain unchanged for centuries and stay loyal to their indigenous roots and customs, priorities which are important.....and are fractionally expiring. I had to go see it for myself. What can I say, my dreams tend to be larger than life

Hola! I'm in my third week here in Ecuador and the first week of life out here in the Jungle and I'm writing this with extremely itchy bites on my feet and smothered in DEET - the insect repellanty stuff. Well at the start of the week of course I left Quito very early, awakened by my mind racing, my foot throbbing and excitement and anxiety of having to get myself to the Amazon Rainforest....by myself.

From walking the streets of Quito - where you really have to watch where you are going as traffic just does not stop for you, I managed to hail and taxi at around 6:00am on the street side with the help of the apartment security guard who'd I'd seen all week and had kindly helped me with my injured foot telling the driver to head to Quitumbre bus terminal that my Spanish Teacher Juan had told me to go to for a bus to Tena - the locals know best. The journey was heading west out of the city and I remember seeing Mount Cotapaxi erected on the horizon surrounded by the morning mist and I'm contemplating coming back to Quito to visit it. Once at the amazingly brand new, bus terminal I bought a one way ticket to Tena in the Oriente Region costing a whopping $6! meaning it would be a 6 hour drive. No problem. It wasn't hard to exactly get as the guy at the multiple ticket booths was shouting 'Tena, Tena' so couldn't go wrong really. Ah ha for the moment, I couldn't go wrong.

Driving through the Cloud Forest

Driving through the Cloud Forest

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The bus was scheduled to leave at 8:00am and I fortunately was asked by a guy where I was going and ended up being the actual driver of the bus to Tena (there's that guardian angel back again) very lucky! of course Bus 13 didn't leave at 8:00 as the driver was fiddling with the engine for a while so I sat looking at the cartoons of Road Runner and Mickey Mouse painted on the inside and outside of the bus - so cute. The bus leaves when the drivers decide they're going to leave. The journey was 6 hours long with me dying to pee even though I made an effort not to eat or drink anything with a long boring movie I couldn't understand anyway. I was more taken by the amazing scenic experience driving around the canyons and into the high altitude of the cloud forest through the misty tree tops and there it was......deep into the Amazon Rainforest, like another world. Just as I'd imagined it but realised I was treading deeper into unfamiliar territory. Also interesting to see all the characters getting on and off at random bus shelters in the jungle, like in the middle of the nowhere. Awesome.

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Wow!!!

Wow!!!

The School Stop...

The School Stop...

I knew I was approaching Tena soon after 6 hours when a HUGE Billboard sign 'Bienvenido a Tena' with a picture of the town's Governor smiling with his thumb up (hilarious) and a township environment came into view passing statues of an Indigenous man holding a spear decorated with articulate pieces of stone and coloured glass.

Welcome To The Jungle Town. I had finally made it to Tena in the Oriente Region, a dusty cosy little cheerful town where two massive rivers met at it's heart with the sight of a volcano 'Volcan Sumaco' looming up out of the jungle 50km away in the distance, much less formidable than Quito. According to the ever so trusty 'Lonely Planet' literature, the capital of the Napo province has a more agricultural thing going on, abundant with cattle stations and banana plantations.

I was actually more concerned with finding a 'banos' to relieve my suffering bladder, paying a sweet and feeble old lady sitting outside them 50 cents for a piece of tissue paper. The only bugger with travelling alone is you have no one to leave your luggage with so it was funny trying to squeeze two bags into a cubicle. With the help of a friendly crippled guy in exchange for a dollar and my chocolate biscuits, he took my to see the 'ticket guy' hidden in a room among the main street market stalls for a $1 bus ticket out to the Jatun Sacha Biological Station out in the forest. Totally lost in translation with the spanish alphabet to spell out my name for him, he gave me my ticket and drew things on a piece of paper muttering and pointing outside. Not 100 % sure what he's instructions were,sitting on my backpack looking down at my ticket saying 'SARL' when the stars aligned again for me when a friendly local woman pointed me in the right direction to board the same bus as her to Ahuano down a side street. I had no reason to doubt her out here in the countryside but it kinda helps if you just say where you're going at let them take you - sometimes you just have to, I had no other choice.
I squeezed myself way onto the bus heading to Ahuano where I had to ask the driver to stop at Jatun Satcha, the rainforest conservation centre halfway while he put my bags in different parts of the bus!?!?!. I sat back absorbing the jungle town life evolving in front of me out of the window on the street as the people piled on ( I was lucky to get a seat). An Ecuardorian man came and sat next to me and started talking and discovered he was a farmer and attempted to flick through my pocket sized Spanish dictionary to find words to try and answer his questions. Ahhh

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Video Diary : Bus Ride into The Amazon Rainforest

For an hour, the bus left Tena and travelled across the Rio Napo onto the main road, jutting along the steel bridge and staring down at the gushing river that meandered into the lush greenery that was the rainforest. It was just like I imagined, my window down and breathing in the smell of humidity and natural aroma detoxifying my lungs and mind. I felt calm and had no care for Quito. A "mate" of the driver came up and down the bus and saw my ticket saying to me 'Jatun Sacha si' and nodding - phew I had a destination. The bus stopped occassionally to let people off and I could see them walking off into the forest to their communties holding bananas they had retrieved from the bus hold approaching their simple wooden shack homes elevated on stilts with a washing line full of colourful clothes. I then noticed a sign saying 'Jatun Satcha' and the farmer sitting next to me saw it too and shouted to the mate, gesturing me to the front of the bus which sped along the tarmac road laid through the jungle. As it slowed down and the doors opened, I pretty much had to throw my bags off the bus while shouting ´Gracious!´and jumping out onto the roadside in the jungle, at the same time managing to clobber the mate accidentally in the back of the head as I jumped off! Great start to my introduction to the jungle communtity.

And then I was alone. Alone on the roadside and abandoned in the Amazon.

Well....not really.... I would have been if I didn't have the sign reading 'Fundacion Jatun Sacha' high up in the tree tops in front of me which was the Jatun Sacha Biological Station. I stood in the silence, enchanted by the soft hissing and humming that was now my world, where nothing else existed. Really in the middle of nowhere - I'm here in the Amazon!!!

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Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 06:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees rainforest wildlife south america amazon ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Four

PART FOUR : THE MAGIC OF THE RAINFOREST

Hola! So this is where I am, Jatun Sacha means 'Óld Forest' in Quichua - the language spoken by the indigenous people of this region. Its about an hour away from the nearest town which is Tena, so its pretty remote but really magical and I feel the extreme change in climate from Quito being very sweaty and humid.

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Check out the map - this is where I am!

Jatun Sacha is a biological station to protect and promote the conservation of the tropical rainforest ecosystem. I´m north of the Napo River in 2,200 hectares of the Amazon Rainforest and the diversity of birds, butterfies and insects are spectacular.....except the vultures ha!

I´m living in a wooden cabana with a bed, mosquito net, shelves and a table and thats it! Other volunteers are the same and its pretty cool hearing all the sounds of the forest at night (the first night is weird, you wake up alarmed wondering what was that noise!?!?! as they are pretty strange...Darth Vadar noise is my favorite so far).

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The Simple Life.....

The Simple Life.....

It's a really chilled out environment here - the air is mega clean as all the trees and huge leaves make huge amount of oxygen, so there´s no healthier place on earth! its also mega humid and you get really sweaty out in the hot sun so theres nothing like a cold shower after a hard days work. The rangers and cooks speak Spanish at the station, so its pretty funny being lost in translation most of the time and using the art of charades or sign language.

I have to wake up at 6am every morning, one day I do kitchen duty where I have to work at the station all day cleaning with the kitchen staff shouting ´Senorita, Washy Washy!´ at me, as if I am Cindarella who shall not go to the ball - its quite funny, we always see the funny side of things in the jungle. Its hard physical labour - I have to take the compost through the jungle and dump it in the Organic Garden in the reserve where a flock of black vultures descend on me as if it were from Hitchcocks ´The Birds´ or something. Your first night in the rainforest fills you with real wonder and excitement though. I have to use a small torch so I can see my way through the jungle to your cabana otherwise you will struggle BIG TIME to get anywhere in the Jungle as its pitch black. And you go to keep an eye on your feet - you never know what you might step on! The weird thing is though, your senses are really sharpened with the weird, cool and strange noises really close to you.

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There is always danger in the Amazon Rainforest but it is rare and always not what you would think of as danger. But it is true what they say about it being the most biodiverse place on Earth. There are so many plants and vegetation and thousands of butterflies and bugs - which you get used to, not to mention all the bird calls you hear in their natural environment, even saw a cute little humming bird mmmmmmmmmm and baby tarantulas. I´ve also seen some really cute saddleback tamarin monkeys whilst having breakfast hoping to grab my banana haha! they are sooo cute though swinging around. If you like animals, this is the place to be. Seriously, it is truly amazing - its kind of weird because you are so cut off from the world and its like you´re living in a microcosm where the world´s turning without you in a way - kinda strange, but a really unique experience.

So, living in the rainforest - well when I´m not working in the kitchen or getting attacked by my vulture friends haha! we have to go work out in the Amazon Rainforest armed with machetes and gloves - so far we´ve cut bamboo to help make a bridge and we´ve also been smartening up areas and clearing them to make areas to plant more plants and the like - it is really hot and humid so you get really sweaty and dirty out here in the jungle - nice!. I ride on the back of a guy named Edison´s motorcycle through the jungle to the site Centro de Conservacion Plantas Amazonicas where we are working at. The head ranger, Sergio talks about the medicine plants we are helping to preserve which are really wacky (theres even a no pregnancy tree would you believe! and many hallucionation ´drugas´plants) so he tends to describe them using really funny sign language - also the fact he screams and runs away when he sees a bug or insect is just as hilarious! One time we had a random class of cute local school children show up and are obsessed with knowing your name - they find mine particularly hilarous as Sal means ´salt´ in spanish so they say Í will put you in my soup!´haha. I´ve also been helping to to make learning posters for the volunteers teaching in the local schools.

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Centro de Conservacion Plantas Amazonicas

An interesting thing we have done, is visit a real Amazonian Shaman. My foot was pretty bad still and any cuts and scratches take twice as long to heal out here, so we hitchiked along the road leading through the jungle to a local Shamans house. I was half expecting him to have the Papa Shango look of bones round his neck and paint marks over his face with a bubbling cauldron but he looked pretty normal with his baseball cap and Popeye T-Shirt. He lived at the Rio (river) in a wooden house on stilts with no windows or four walls. We managed to hitch on a pick up truck or anybody who would pick up some Gringos (what they call White person here) to the forest where we had to walk for quite a bit to reach his house surrounded by loads of medicine plants and his kids running around chasing their puppy shouting Sal! Sal! and then throwing themselves of the cliff edge (5 year olds have no fear). My friend who is much better at Spanish than me, asked him if he could treat my foot with any medical plants. He went off into the forest to find something and came back with a crushed stem of a plant called Úcucha Ztecta´ which stops bleeding and heals wounds so I´m giving it a try to see if this stuff really is any good - after all, the foundations of medicines of the world are all right here!

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Sangre de Drago

Today, I was out in the fields cutting down Bananas and carrying them to the roadside (which are really heavy!) in the hope we could hitchhike a ride back to the station with them. We also have had to pull out Yucca trees and cut off the roots to eat which has been hard, sweaty work especially in the hot Amazon sun. We also discovered the tree ´Sagre de Drago´ which when you cut it, it bleeds! and you can treat Tuberclosis, Bronchitis and Cancer with it, its pretty cool. Then we took an adventurous walk through the jungle up a tributory of the Napo River in knee deep water and getting my bum bitten by ants - now my bums big! Not good when you´re trying to layering Tiger Balm on your naked body when there´s wildlife photographers walking around my cabaña!

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Anyway, thats pretty much whats been happening in my first week in the Amazon - its just started to rain so I´m going to chill in a hammock and watch the Rainforest life go by.......;D

Hasta Luego! (See you later)

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 09:54 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest wildlife south america amazon ecuador medicines Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Five

PART FIVE : QUEEN OF THE SWINGERS AND DAY OF THE DEAD

Hola!

I´ve just been picked up by a police car and taken in to the local town of Tena would you believe! not for a bad reason I assure you! well, this morning I´ve been attempting to make a bracelet with Josephina who´s a Quichua Arts lady who comes to the station everyweek - of course I go and pick the most complicated braclet but pretty one to make and then can´t do more than doing 5 minutes of the thing, so I paid her $5 to finish it for me haha!.

Well Hitchhiking here has become a very normal thing. Last week I had an attempt of hitchiking on the roadside outside the station. After waiting 30 minutes in the stifling heat for a bus that was just not coming. I noticed a white pickup truck heading down the road towards me so decided to stick out my thumb and try my chances. To my surprise the truck slowed down and I approached the window to ask the chubby driver if he was going to Tena and he said yeah!. I went to jump in the back with the bananas but he shouted to me to get in the ´carro´ (car) and lifted up his little boy that looked about 4 or 5 years old, out of the passenger seat as I got in and then he sat on my lap reading a map of the world - he was so cute and Michael Jackson was blaring out of the radio which was pretty sweet!. Another couple were in the back holding a small baby as the wind sped through the window on the way to Tena through the jungle - I paid him a dollar for the ride which pretty much is the norm or sometime they don´t ask for anything. Apparently hitchiking is what you do here to get around in the Amazon. Tena´s a pretty interesting Jungle town with a huge volcanoe looming over the jungle about 50 km away. The funny thing is that there is no sense of 'Health and Safety' - they were constructing a new road but they won´t let cars go on it but will let you walk straight through the construction site around the bulldozers and builders!!?!? its crazy!!

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Freaky Manacins!!!

A Natural High - Above the Tree Tops

Quite 'Amazing' isn't it?

At the station we have an observation tower deep in the forest which is about 30 metres high above the Amazon canopy. You need a harness to climb it with two clips that you´re supposed to clip yourself to the tower as you ascend higher through the canopy. When you reach the top, theres a small platform big enough for three people - the view over the Amazon skyline is really breathtaking of the 2,200 hectares of the rainforest and the Napo River, its the peacefullness place on earth. We were really lucky to see a Many Banded Aracari Toucan and a Blue Swallow Tanager which was really cool to see in the fruiting trees - and then a bee stung my foot and I´m jumping around this tiny platform swaying 30 metres above the canopy shouting Óuch!!!!!! - there´s some right little buggers out here - the worst are the Conga Ants who are giant ants (about 6 inches long) that bite nasty if you lean against them on a tree or something, pain can last 6 hours so I'm told. Living in Amazonia certainly tunes on your awareness for your environment.

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The 2nd November was ´Dia De Los Muertos´which means ´Day of The Dead´and its a national holiday where everyone goes to the cementries to celebrate the dead and feast. It´s quite surreal, flocks of people come the cementry and decorate the wall space (the dead in Ecuador are put into the wall :/) so some of them look gorgeous. They also eat ´Pan de Wawa´ which is Quitchua for ´Bread of Baby´which is like baby shaped bread decorated with colour flavourings. Surveying the local retailers is pretty interesting, especially the manacins, they are really scary! especially the child ones - freaky!.

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I´ve also done some Yoga here in the forest (I know) with the cleaner of the station which was pretty hilarious (my juvenile sense of humour kicking in). The main project we´ve been doing is constructing a footbridge in the reserve out of Bamboo - so attempting to cut this stuff is quite a challenge (really its not that easy) we were using every sharp tool we could think of and then resorting to a machete and then jumping on it! Then I got stung by the bamboo spikes which are sooooooo painful, you have to relieve the sting by rubbing it in your hair which is weird. We then have to carry it to the river which is really hard work. Constructing the bridge is a pretty interesting task to see - you´re kind of lost in translation with all the rapid spanish bantering back and forth, but doing the best I can by pointing and saying ´Si?´everythings quite slow here and nothing is planned and always improvised most of the time. The bridge looks awesome though, at least you can walk on it. I was then invited to go and play football with a local community - being the only girl on the team. A sign of an outer influence from the isolation of the forest. I was pretty chuffed we won 4 - 1 against Latin American players and the fact that I scored a goal made it a whole lot better aswell as playing in a late afternoon lighting storm - pretty cool. Sometimes we´ll go dancing in Tena and find ourselves salsa dancing (or attempting to) with the locals who are just really good. I´m finding my way around by using a children´s colouring book I´ve been given of the area that I use to ask directions haha!

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There´s lots of animals here in Ecuador and I mean everywhere! We have a crab spider living in our bathroom at the station who we have named 'Matilda' - she only comes out at night as she´s pretty shy but she keeps loosing her antennas so we kind of feel she´s our pet. On one of my adventures into Tena, on the streetside, there is always a man selling guinea pigs, ducks and PUPPIES in cages. He tried to get me to buy all three and started pulling them out through a small hole in the cage and handed me three ADORABLE puppies. I really wanted to take them coz they were in such cruel conditions. Then I got on the bus back to Jactun Sacha after cleverly outwitting a vendor who couldn´t read the price tag on a bag I wanted and convinced them it was $10 haha! on the bus I ended up sitting next to a little girl holding another puppy! it was so cute jumping on me I had to help the little girl to stop the puppy jumping out the window!

Some of our local creepy crawlies.....no joke I used to be scared of these things as a kid....

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Our Crab Spider Matilda....she's a cutie...

Well, thats all for now, maybe i´ll go and find another police car for a ride haha!

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 14:47 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest wildlife south america amazon medicine ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Six

PART SIX: THE JEWELS OF AMAZONIA

Hola mi amigos! (Hello my friends)

This part of my adventures here in the Amazon are all about the discovering the cool medicinal plants out here and getting up close and personal to the beasts that roam the jungles of this vast country, well....not exactly roam, some sit in trees and slither around but I've discovered a few new ones to tick off in my 'I Spy Book' . :)

Not far from the reserve there is a well known Amazon Animal Rehabilatation Centre called 'AmaZOOnico' and is a 1,500 hectare reserve on the Rio Arajuno - a narrow tributary branching off the Napo River which we decided to embark on an adventure up river to check out. It cares for displaced or homeless animals who´s habitats have been destroyed or ones that have been sold for quick cash by illegal traffickers. We managed to hitchike on two vehicles from the road outside the Jatun Sacha reserve to the Porte de Ahuano where we haggled one of the boat men (not with my spanish but by a very gifted American volunteer) and convinced him for a good price to take us in a canoe half an hour down the Napo River and into the Rio Arajuno deeper into the swamps and darker jungles of the Amazon - trusting our boat man knew where he was going and wasn't going to run out of fuel leaving us stranded!

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Cruising deeper into the tanning tributuries of the Amazon....

I was told the entire Amazonia region which spreads right across South America, is the central network of more than over a thousand rivers and tributuries which contains about 20% of the planet's fresh water resource - mmm and I was cruising right along on it but precious water.
It was amazing just seeing nothing but jungle and river straight ahead..... It was also really interesting to see the riverside life of the Amazon, other boats motoring past us saluting us with a friendly wave and call, people fishing, bathing and washing their clothes - the weather is really tempramental, when we boarded the canoe it was blazing sunshine and then when we passed under a cloud it was a rain storm and then blazing sunshine again! was really cool to experience though.

The animal centre lay on a sort of island only accessible by boat and run by a Swiss couple who had a soft spot for Amazonian animals. At the beginning of the centre we had a ´briefing´about the squirrel monkeys that roam around - locking everything we had away and given instructions to how to get them off if they decide to jump on you haha! they will make off with a thing or two y´know those crazy little critters. They took us around the centre (fortunetely speaking english) and was amazing to have the opportunity to get really close to these exotic animals - the Toucans are my favourite. Some of the monkey species like the spider monkey and wooley and howler monkey are close to extinction and some of them are just too tame to be released back into the forest (we were even told about how one of the Jaguars escaped and actually came back!) its a jungle out there........but the Toucans were White Throated species and the red scarlet macaws and Amazonia parrots make a horrendous amount of noise and scream ´Hola!´ to you which is really funny. The couple actually found a baby anaconda on the road having bee injured and took it in to their centre, it was kept in a tank and are pretty much gigantic water snakes so not to sure what they're going to do when it grows up! they can each up to nine metres long!. Turtles were about too aswell as mini Jaguars called Ocelots which were dead cute and came right up to us. Its quite funny with some of them as the Álpha Male´ Collared Pig came running over to our guide and let her open its mouth to show us his teeth like he wanted us to see.....we also had a really sweet little fluffy bird called a 'Trumpa' which would run after us and stand in the middle of us for attention.

Check them out....

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After giving a donation to the reserve for all their hard work, we had to find our boat driver who thankfully had waited for us being in a really remote part of the jungle - we hopped back on the boat again and back up the Napo. Paying the driver $30 at the port, we then decided to walk towards the main road ahead of the bus on the dirt track and through the farm land which we had hitchiked down previously - knowing our luck, the bus never came by and we ended up walking nearly the entire way home, fighting our way through the dusty sand that cars going back in the other direction would leave, rubber neckin´us gringos like they´d never seen a white person here before! Eventually we made it back on to the main road and THEN we got picked up by the bus just to ride 2 minutes down the road back to the reserve where there was no electricity and in great need for it to rain so we could have water (every place in the Amazon relies heavily on the rainfall for their water supply). Thankfully we had a mama of a thunderstorm and sat on the steps of the cabañas watching the lightning storms (you can´t hear A THING when it rains as its so intense when it falls) but the forest gets watered thats for sure - so its great when it rains!

Big Amazon Leaves - great substitutes for umbrellas!

Big Amazon Leaves - great substitutes for umbrellas!


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Well I'm a sucker for animals and being in the richest biodiverse place on the planet, I took the bus into Tena later in the week and went to visit the 'La Isla Parque Amazonico' across the river on island paying a girl a whopping $2 on the bridge to enter.....

The centre was busy with construction going on for new animal housing as I walked around checking out the garden of precious medicinal plants that embed the natural pharmacy of the rainforest. All the cures for pretty much any body dysfunctions are out here.....here's some secrets

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'Ayahuasca' - a bejuco made from it's vines is the main ingredient for a potion prepared by Shaman's to go into mental trances to see the past, present and future and to detect illnesses in bodies, practiced in sacred ceremonies.

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'Cruz Caspi' - natural contreceptive, also to treat menstrual cramps and kidney and stomach problems

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'Chonta' - they call this palm tree the 'sun's fiancee' with it's red fruit producing protein and Vitamin A

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'Chugriyuyo' - it's leaves have penicilin and is used to relieve throat pain!

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'Una de Gato' - Used to fight diseases like asma, ulcers and diabetes

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'Cola de Pavo Real' - you rub these leaves on yourself to help with low energy and stomach aches, they turn to brown to show the energy is out!

'Papa Culebrina' - used as an antidote for snake bite

'Maria Panga' - Excellent to treat skin tumours

'Sarzaparrilla' - cause anti inflammatory effects and also protects the liver...

'Guayusa' - works well as a natural energiser and also prevent decay from its flourine

and that's only some of them out here..... who needs a doctor!

Then I saw a monkey bounding towards me....it was a cute little squirrel monkey!

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and some other characters too....

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Any zoologists dream!

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 13:16 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest rivers wildlife plants south america amazon medicine ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Seven

PART SEVEN : PATROLLING AT CABANA ARAJUNO

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Hola! Ok, the electricity has been off here in the forest for a looonng time,so here´s a nice big chunks of my adventures in the Amazon.....

The beginning of the week was pretty interesting. While working out in the forest a tree branch hit me and grazed my forehead - we have to clear some areas by pulling out the trees which often results in being thrown backwards when it eventually pops out! I´d been to the local market and bought a small bottle of some 'Sagre de Drago' lotion which looks like real blood which is sap from the tree's truck; you lather it on and hey presto all is healed! It's brilliant, no plasters, nothing.

This is why rainforest deforestation has gotta stop.

Coming back from work from the Centro de Conservacion Plantas Amazonica, we caught a ride from the head ranger Sergio (the guy who is scared of bugs) in his car - so 8 of us had to squeeze in his little cream Fiat Uno - S thats 15 years old - so I had to practically lean out the door window....but the drive is beautiful check out the views.....

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Squeezing in to this little beast...

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After work in the heat of the afternoon we tend to go and play in the Napo River which was a 15 minute walk through the jungle (in board shorts and flip flops by the way) and accompanied by Spike our neighbours fluffy dog that comes to visit us at the reserve. Spike leads us the whole way to the river where we were met by confused locals on the otherside who were panning for gold and washing their clothes, looking at all these 'gringos' jumping in the Napo aswell as Spike following us right into the water to come play. The current was pretty rapid and on occasions found ourselves drifting downstream - riding the river or chasing our football that had drifted away. Playing in rivers is so exhilirating!

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The Rio Napo.....

At the Centro de Conservacion Plantas Amazonica 'CCPA' at the Jatun Sacha reserve, there is quite a few medicine plants which I´m reading up on and writing about them. One night by candlelight in my cabana, I was writing up my notes when I looked down and the teeny tinest caterpillar that ever existed came crawling up my thumb and out onto my pen - the insects tend to stick on me alot here. I think the animals like me, even Spike likes to walk and hitchhike with us to the CCPA and then be a nuisance to us by lying in the plant beds that we´re trying to turn to the point where we have to shut him out and put a log across the door - he always seems to find a way back in which we can´t work out. Don't underestimate the animals out here....but that's the beauty of them.

Anyway, onto something different a change of scene....well sort of

Mid week, another volunteer and I left the reserve and trekked for 3 hours with a couple of the rangers through the jungle to 'Cabaña Arajuno´ which is in the middle of a clearing in the jungle near the river Arajuno with an organic garden. The rangers stay during the week to patrol the forest to make sure there are no naughty people illegally cutting down the forest. The amount of sweat that poured out of my skin I didn´t think was possible - something new I´ve discovered about myself....I sweat alot and what comes with sweat....it's insects! thirsty for the precious salt from my skin. Not that it wasn´t an uneventful walk - we had to climb over barbed wire quite a bit which is slightly thought provoking and gave an edgy rebelliousness to our act. The rainforest is spoilt for thrilling quanties of fungi which we stopped to look at numerous times aswell as admiring the webs and bodies of spiders in between having to bend over and mimic a tortoise every now and again to relieve myself from my heavy backpack. Funny enough when we were standing under a tree, I felt a huge thud on my head and this mother of a lemon had fallen out the tree and hit me! ahhhhh

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Once we finally emerged out of the jungle and into the clearing to the Cabaña, we went to bathe in the nearby Rio Aranjuno where we had to wade across the river to reach the sand where we swam across the river, rode logs and jumped off the big rocks into a plunge pool - which wasn´t so funny when my bikini top flew off!. We then attempted to learn Amazonian calls using our hands from Elibar one of the forest guides which was pretty cool ( I stress the word attempted but sounded more like a dying bird).

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Bathing in a Rio Amazonia.....like no other, very refreshing

Anacondas are in the Amazonia Rivers, but they are pretty rare to see, in fact even the natives rarely see them (and they can grow up to 10 metres long) and your best bet is seeing them in a zoo. The sound of thunder sparked us to start making our way back to the cabana as a storm was approaching...try this - wading through a River who´s current is rapidly increasing at a snails pace, cutting your feet on the rocks (yep second time in my trip to Ecuador) while hearing the crashes of thunder up above you - yep not easy, but made it across the river before the storm came.

You know with the amount of rainfall the Amazon gets - a river can raise 7 metres in one night!. Yow!

After I finally made it across the river, two ladies and a little girl came along - one jumped in a canoe that was tied up on the bank and canoed to the other side in like 10 seconds (damn it, I needed that 10 seconds ago!) and the other lady and little girl followed me through the jungle with their dog Minerva to the Cabaña to eat with us.....I then spent one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life frantically itching my legs covered in lumpy bites from the river flies ahhh there were so many it looked like a join-the-dots map!

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The next day at the Cabaña Arajuno and relieved by bites had soothed, we embarked on a 6 HOUR trek through the rainforest patrolling the circumrance of the area around the Rio Arajuno for illegal deforestation. We trudged through the forest floor sludge and having Elibar (or ´Gato´ as we call him which means Cat as he has cat eyes - weird ) led the way as we macheted through the thicket of the jungle and getting COVERED in irritating bites - quite an adventure. 'Gato' would stop and tell us about interesting plants, many of which are medicinal plants and if you know what they look like they are everywhere and have multiple uses in treating illnesses and conditions. Fortunetely I wasn´t totally lost in translation - a german girl with me translated a bit, so I wasn´t totally clueless. Many plant leaves are used for shaman rituals treating sores and bleeding wounds. One root 'Shia' its called is used as a remedy for gum infections when chewed and a tree 'Leche de Oyea' (Milk Tree) when you cut the bark bleeds a milk like sap to treat stomach aches and another plant 'Cola de Pato' meaning 'Tail of Duck' when crushed you can use for shampoo - very cool!

We walked along the River and met an indigenous family canoeing and gold panning (they even found some grains of gold in the river when we there). The wood they use to build canoes out of is extremely durable and can last up to 20 years on the water. We also walked along the river through a housing unit of one of the men on the river who borrowed my binoculars to spy on the people cleaning fish on the other side. It was quite funny as at the same time, this young girl with a baby wrapped on her back came running out and down the hill screaming in Quitchua and her husband and grabbed a canoe to go after him - I don´t quite know what she was screaming about but she seemes pretty mad from my point of view. Over the 6 exhausting hours, I did get to see spectacular views of the Amazon which a camera can´t ever replicate AND I got to see a teeny weeny Rainforest frog on a leaf (which are poisonous). It´s really weird walking through the Amazon coz every noise catches your attention - we even had random people running through the forest carrying fish in their shigra bags which is pretty startling when your in the forest. A popular way to fish in the Amazon is dynamite fishing where you will hear sounds of explosions every now and again of boats throwing dynamite into the river to poison the fish. Halfway through the patrol, we did find a HUGE tree which you could have got a few people around that had been illegally cut down ;( but it looked like the wood was too soft for them to use anyway so it was a absolute waste. It really is shocking to see a tree that's hundreds of years old, home to many nutrients and habitats pointlessly destroyed...it sucks.

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The main problem with rainforest deforestation is the farmers chopping down horrendous amounts of rainforest, trees and plants so they can clear it for grazing land for their cattle - but then after 3-5 years the fertility quality of the soil drops by 30% or so and then new forests are cleared for new soil. What is needed is research into finding alternative ways of farming to make it more sustainable and prevent more destruction of the rainforests

At some point we did think we heard a chainsaw but turned out it was just the motor of the boat on the river - the rangers come out to do this pretty much everyday and they live at the cabaña over night - pretty dedicated. The weather also decided to pour down with rain so we had to shelter under a fallen tree trunk - this made the ground SO sludgy and muddy and irritating as you would get stuck in the mud literally like quick sand. A exciting thing did happen though while we were crossing a fallen tree over a river - my boot slipped off the side of it while I was balancing along the trunk and my leg slid off the trunk which caused a few screams as I was half hanging off! ahhh Lara Croft eat your heart out....

But this good feeling wasn't to last as I've now tried Amazon Medicinal Plants a third time here as I awoke the next day with a headache and painful stomach cramps - Gato picked some leaves from the forest called 'Verdolago', 'Culantro' and 'Pumu Panga' and boiled them into a tea for me to drink which was pretty bitter but all the best medicines taste awful right?

Trekking back to the reserve through the forest - I even got to see some monkeys again which is pretty rare so was very lucky!!

Next blog....the Tena 15 Noviembre Fiesta

Adios!

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Posted by SalBolton82 10:01 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees rainforest rivers wildlife south america amazon ecuador logging medicines Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Eight

PART EIGHT: 15 NOVIEMBRE FIESTA AND OUR NEW PET SNAKE

Hola Mi Amigos!

Lucky to be in Tena at this time of the year! - the 12 - 15 November is pretty special. Alot of the roads here have names after certain dates and months of the year so there is some significant meaning there.

15 Noviembre is the main day of celebration in Tena as it marks the date of it's foundation - its a big party 'Fiesta' where many people from Ecuador come to the jungle town to join in with live music and community events. Of course we couldn't let the opportunity pass so we ventured into town by hitchiking from the jungle with these two nice men that we paid a dollar or two for the ride in their jeep.

The town of Tena always tends to be sooooooo much hotter than the jungle but upon arriving, we wandered around the hub of the town centre and the bustling market when we saw a poster for a bullfight (torros) happening at 3pm. I was pretty resilient to going at first as I remember back in Quito refusing an invitation to go watch a bull fight in the collesuem because of my dislike in seeing the bull being killed for entertainment. Bull fights in small towns in Ecuador are known as ´pueblo´ (small town) bullfights and a popular source of entertainment for families in South America just as much as families in the UK going to see a local football game or families in the USA going to see a local baseball game or the rodeo - this is their entertainment......I was just hoping the bull would not be killed

With this in mind, I took a chance to witness this opportunity when we asked a guy selling 5 cent yoghurts where it was and sort of understanding his directions, raced through the streets to find the arena, which was a wooden rotunda bustling with people outside. As we neared closer, they were congragated around a mobile stall selling sunglasses ha! We bought a ticket for $5 from this one lady behind a little thatched window - and it was more like pushing to get to the front first which was the ticket queue. I was a still a little curious about the bull fight though as we entered the arena. I hate the ones in Spain where they stick sharp poles in the bulls and then kill them, so I was still a little apprehensive, pleading in my mind ´Please don´t kill the bull! Please don´t kill the bull!´ as we waited for it to start. Looking around, absorbing the atmosphere as the crowds gathered in the stands, the chatter of Spanish voices drowning everything around me, the arena was totally made out of wood and iron and you had a really good view. There´s no maintenance in the bull fight arenas, all the stands are made from old wood and bound together with wire so it was quite an adventure finding a stable seat. They even had a guy balancing on the stands selling panama hats, donots and balloons!

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Of course when they say it starts at 3pm they actually mean 4.30pm in Ecuador time (after an hour and a half of a guy on the microphone doing a ´soundcheck´ of ´hola, hola, once, dos, tres, hola hola' about three trillion times) they opened up the big iron doors and let the bull out into the ring.....

Ok, bullfights are CRAZY, CRAZY, CRAZY - the local bullfighters or 'matadors' as they are correctly known as take it in turns to tempt the bull which was more of a young bull with their pink and red cloths to charge at them and try and touch it with coloured wooden pegs to score points - its pretty extreme. The crowd would gasp in thrilling excitment as the bull charged towards them and I couldn't help but feel a little pleasure, when the bull got it's own back for being tormented rapping the matadors and sometimes getting pitched in the air and trampled on by the young bull (and I probably would rap them too of I were the bull) but its quite funny when the bull chases them around the arena and the crowd just screams!. It just has that teasing edginess to it which makes it entertaining for crowd.
Mimicing the protocal of 'sports events' in the western world, they also have their half time entertainment where a girl comes in and starts to sing and salsa dance in the middle of the bull ring with all the bull poo everywhere. haha! They also have these MENTAL clowns that come in and do an act with the bull by jumping over it and all sorts, they are CRAZY and even went as far as getting booted right up the bum with its horns! You do feel for the bull after a while though as it gets really ticked off - but even random people from the audience were jumping down into the ring to provoke the bull and kids were running across it, no one cares its just mental to see! Only in South America.

Later we went to the main plaza where there was a big street party ´Fiesta´to mark 15th Noviembre. We passed the sign again for the Bull fight and piecing together the spanish words, realised it had said all along that the bull is not hurt in the event - they aren´t in ´pueblos´bullfights anyway. The fiesta was a huge gathering in the plaza with tables everwhere selling drinks, food, you name it. Colourful bunting surrounded us and drew the attention to the huge stage set up for an Ecuadorian band belting out some Ecuardorian party track, so we felt the urge to get up and dance in the square amongst all the Ecuadorians who seemed to just stare at us! We did get the attention of two old men who were really drunk by like 9pm and would copy any dance move we would do - it was hilarous but good fun. The Latinos know how to party.

Earlier in the week, I felt like I was in the Army, I had the job of sorting out all the random boots in the reserve into pairs and sizes and washing them in the river, quite a task. I was feeling maybe I will build up a phobia about Wellington Boots being surrounded by so many!
As the station is on the main road in the rainforest you get a lot of road kill. The boys were coming back from the fields and found a dead horse (full grown) on the road - it took six of them to drag it up the road until they could find a place in the forest they could leave it - its nasty, its in open view of the road side so we see it slowly decaying everyday and then you just have the black vultures feasting on it - its nasty! Within a week the horse was merely a skeleton, with not an ounce of meat left on the bones shudder.....

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Speaking of more animals, freaky thing happened the other night.....we had a power cut in the station so were hanging out in the hammocks in the pitch black underneath our thatched roof. One of the guys came over to talk with me and noticed something on the inside of the roof above my head - when he shon his torch on to it, it revealed (no joke) a metre and a half long Boa snake! ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!! it gave me quite a startle but after a while it was cool to see a wild snake, just happily hanging out with us sheltering from the rain. I think the way to stop being fearful of something, like I've found with large insects, snakes and spiders, is just to innocently see them for what they really are, they're just creatures after all with they're own kinda beauty. Some of the guys tried to poke it down with a stick but it displayed how strong in all its monstrosity when it held on to the stick and took it off them! was awesome to see but sooooo freaky to see actually how long some of these snake are. The Boa isn´t one of the poisonous snakes of the Amazon, there´s about 53 species and only 8 of them are venemous. We've named the Boa Cynthia and pretty sure we'll see her again.

Cynthia......our new boa snake in the roof

Cynthia......our new boa snake in the roof

I didn´t escape the animal fest and they like the dark, so when the powers out - out they come. A fruit bat got into the station and couldn´t find its way out so we were ducking and diving at it was flying around our heads! You are never short of excitement in the jungle, thats why I love it! oh and did I mention the stars are BEAUTIFUL out here, you can see everyone........we like to chill out away from the canopy lie in the middle of the road in front of the station and then rolling out the way when a car comes haha! c'mon you've got to have some adventure sometimes....

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 06:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest rivers wildlife south america amazon medicine ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Nine

PART NINE: BACK TO SCHOOL AND DEEP LESSONS IN THE RAINFOREST

Ok I´m sick with a cold but no worries I have the worlds medicine's a stones throw away! so just drunk some tea of boiled bark off a Cat Claw tree for my cold and eaten in a restaurant in Tena with a sloth living in the roof how cute! but here´s some more stuff thats been going on with more of my adventures in the Amazon....

Working at the 'Centro Conservacion Plantas Amazonica', a lady came into the garden inquiring about the 'Cruz Caspi' tree we have - its a natural contreceptive ´no more babies tree´ where women could drink when they don´t want children anymore. She seemed quite serious about the no more children arguement which was kind of nice having her kids standing next to her when she said it! This gave Sergio, the head ranger the idea of finding 100 stems of the 'Cruz Caspi' tree to pluck out and sell them for $1 at the centre, thats like 50p for this medicine that stops you having babies - think we need the same idea in Britain mmmmm.

Speaking of children (niños) the only time I have actually felt like I was putting something into the rainforest was visiting a local school 'Chicicu Rami´where we took some 'Íshpingo' plants for them to make their own garden. It kind of involved us going into the classroom with them all staring at us and having to introduce myself as

´Soy (I am)....Sal.....en la sopa´ (in the soup) where they all just abrupted with sniggers and giggles. Sigh.

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Then the other volunteers did this presentation where I kind of recognised a few of the words about how they wanted the children to make the garden and allocated them tasks including macheting the grass down, watching 8/9 years old with machetes are quite a sight - they are really good!. Then they planted the trees in their new cleared garden which was sweet with the exisiting rainforest towering in the background.....and then play time! The kids took a particular shine to me and the amount of them trying to climb my legs like a tree were causing my trousers to fall down! I attempted to play from what I gathered was cat and mouse but obviously there was going to be a few accidents when they insist on doing it on the concrete! I love the kids though, it was particularly fun lifting them up with their basketball so they could reach the hoop - was so cute. They work really hard, really good kids.

Back at the reserve, I walked through the jungle to the bathroom when a found a small bird was caught flying around the place trying to get out, so I was entertained with a broom trying to usher it out with not much success while it was squaking at the top of its voice. Also in the reserve, I came across a small black wiggling thing on the ground.....then it rolled over to reveal it had bright fluroscent orange bands - a baby poisonous coral snake! very rare to see but generally when you see bright colours - stay away!. Also when I was working in the Organic Garden, we were planting new beans and cutting down some purple bananas.....little did I know that the bunch I was carrying was the home of a tarantula! but I got over it by munching on some sugar cane, its yummy...grows all around, just strip it away and suck...

The Organic Garden

The Organic Garden

You wanna know something? read on......

As the reserve is so big at 2,200 hectares you can do a self guided tour through the rainforest with a book. I decided to go it alone armed with a machete and the book and headed into the jungle to learn a bit more.

It's amazing walking through the jungle alone, having the rainforest to myself - but I hadn't been this deep in the jungle all by myself before so after I got over the initial feeling of being vulnerable and getting totally freaked out at the same time as the noises are so weird out here. I slowed my pace down and stopped in my path to see tiny little cutter ants carrying leaves one behind the other in a straight line across the forest floor up over tree trunks and off into the forest - very cute

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I absorbed the feeling of being engulfed in what they call the ´primary forest´which is where the canopy is really thick and humid with the reserve being 70% of this and 30% 'secondary forest' where there's more crowding among the shorter plants and the canopy is more open. What really annoyed me though are the amount of spider webs that choose to be right in the path and parallel to the height of your face! egrghhhhh - I was forever pulling them off and they stick really bad aswell as having a thousand things to trip over, stones, bumps and tree roots ha!

For a millenium the South American Indigenous people found in the forest shelter, food and medicine provisions for their survival and their spirtual life. The Spirit of the Forest is very deep and rich where the indigenous people believe trees and animals have souls and their spirits can take on human forms. They prefoundly respect the forest and its inhabitants, asking permission from the spirits of the forest to extract something, to cut a tree or hunt. In addition, they follow specific rituals when collecting medicinal plants and their stories of the forest spirits have been passed down by generations by word of mouth

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The trees are what I find amazing in the rainforest.....there's 246 species of trees in one hectare! many of them in the Amazon have roots which are visible above the soil, supporting the trees to allow them grow really tall without having deep roots penetrating the earth...hence why they blow over easily in storms. But it also allows them to lean towards the sunlight when their roots die to catch any sunlight penetrating through the canopy. Clever hey! There's two types....

Stilt Roots which are found in palms and used to build rustic lodges or parquet floors

Stilt Roots which are found in palms and used to build rustic lodges or parquet floors

Buttress Roots are solid, flat and vertical where native people would strike them to communicate

Buttress Roots are solid, flat and vertical where native people would strike them to communicate

I came across these MAHOOOSIVE Trees which are like the tallest, thickest trees in the rainforest called 'Camatuhua' trees in Quichua- their fruit drops off and are taken by animals and rodents who eat them and then bury some of them do that they regrow in other parts of the forest - kinda sweet helping eachother out. Vines grow on top of the trees to obtain the light they need - they are awesome though!!!!!

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There are some really obscure plants out there - the really large leaves are shaped with a point on thr tip to steer water. My favourite are the 'Labios de mujer' ´hot lips´they are bright red flowers in the shape of huge puckered lips on leaves - really cool. There's also Cacao trees which are the raw chocolate where Aztecs considered it a sacred plant and used it's seeds for money - chocolate for money mmmmmmmmm

Labios de mujer "hot lips"

Labios de mujer "hot lips"


Cacao

Cacao

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Y'know rainforests have tea coloured streams that run through the jungle which is from the leaf protein which leach into the water from the decompsing litter surrounding it mmmmmm. A smart move I made was to not bring a torch so I had to find my way through the forest before the sunset because when its the dead of night - it is so dark, you cannot see your own hand in front of your face. It's super thrilling

Restoring my zen in the tranquility of the forest, I could hear the soft buzzing of wings and there was a hummingbird right in front of me.....dead cute, they're attracted by the bright colours of the plants. They are so mesmerising and only stick around for seconds....so pumas and jaguars next time..... BUT, one night I was going to brush my teeth and I noticed something jump as I was brushing and saw it was one of those teeny weeney green tree frogs that you never ever see - so I was running back through the forest to get my camera with the toothpaste still burning my mouth - you NEVER get to see those little dudes, I was lucky.

Ok lesson over.....leaving you here in the jungle.....hasta luego!

Sal.

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Posted by SalBolton82 14:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest rivers wildlife plants south america amazon medicine ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Ten

PART TEN: LADY OINKSALOT AND THE CAVES OF JUMANDY

Buenas Dias! (Good day)

I've been one month in the Amazon and I feel sometimes the symptons of 'Jungle Fever' coming over me.....oooo sounds crazy doesn't it? most night's I am having the same reoccuring dream..... where I'm waking up on the forest floor, barefoot and surrounded by darkness.....or maybe its these malaria pills I'm taking......either way it wakes me up to relief of still being inside my mosquito net and in the cabana. It's a right party out there in the rainforest in the night.

But things for me have got more exciting and made me far happier out here keeping me busy.....I bought a pig!

It was suggested we have a piglet at the station to eat our left over food in the compost, so me and Sergio headed into Tena in search of a ´Chanchita´. We showed up at Tena Market asking the locals where we could buy one, but recieved no positive response except for the shake of the head and ´no´ pointing us in the direction for ´Senor Busca´or ´Senor Martinez´somewhere else in town - we even drove around stopping to ask a women grilling pork on the roadside! (we were looking for a live pig by the way and it was sure she certaintly didn't have one!) Our search continued out of Tena prompted by various directions from people on the street out into some rural areas looking out for signs for ´Chancho´but every farm we came across, the farmers would just grunt (funny enough like pigs) and mutter they had no piglets. We tried one last time asking this lady outside her house on the roadside leading into Tena and success! She told us she knew ´Senor Rodriguez´ who bred most animals including piglets! only thing was though it was in the town of Contundo, a 45 minute drive out of town and Sergios petrol was very low, so I offered to pay for his petrol for a wallet breaking $5! haha. The game was afoot!

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We drove towards Contundo stopping at the petrol station of course and admired the splendid views of the surrounding rainforest. Upon reaching Contundo, there was a mass of school children blocking the road and market stalls spilling out onto the streets, so Sergio made good use of his horn stopping to ask passersby about the whereabouts of ´Senor Rodriguez´. following the directions of fingers pointing off into the distance. After passing a GIGANTIC rock with two children sitting on top of it, we came to a house where we were greeted by two very loud dogs who came running towards us - a lady followed them out and Sergio asked for Senor Rodriguez. She said he was not home but she was Senora Rodriguez and yes she had some piglets ´round back´. Yes!!!We were shown the pigs pen which was kind of inbetween the cows who were in quite small conditions with bulging eyes and tongues sticking out, groaning loudly and the place smelling of dampened straw and manure. Sergio wanted to get two pigs but Senora would only let us have one for $50, so I picked the girl piglet with black spots and Senora plucked her up by her back legs which freaked the piglet out as she stuffed her in a grain sack and handed her to me. I felt really sorry for it as it was so scared and was making so much noise!! wriggling around the bag. I handed Senora Rodriguez my $50 notes and quickly got her in the car as she squirmed and shrieked (I would have been scared too if they had just happened to me) and started to drive off with the piglet at my feet. We had to stop twice as she was so naughty and ended up biting her way through the sack and was jumping about the car while i´m trying to think of the Spanish words to yell to Sergio for help! it was soo funny, but I thought I had chosen a real troublesome piglet. After two attempts to keep her still, it resulted in me having to lock her between my knees and hold her down with both hands! (she´s proven to be one strong little piglet) where she eventually fell asleep!. Once we arrived back at the reserve, it took three of us to hold her while we took her to the ´pig pen area´ right at the bottom of the station, nearly knocking us off the bridge and into the river in the process as she was struggling so much. When you first get a pig - its so stressful!

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We put her temporarily in the chicken pen so we could fix the door of the cement pig house - when we came back for her later she had escaped! I was convinced she was dead and wouldn´t survive a night in the rainforest......but the next morning.......the kitchen ladies had spotted her in the kitchen having smelt the food and chased her back to the pen - I couldn´t believe she was alive! for a young piglet she´s really tough, so tough infact that even when we put her in the CEMENT pig pen she found a way to escape again! that time I had doubted we would ever see her again, but the next morning I had a speck of hope and went to the area in the reserve where we keep her and low and behold she was sleeping in a bowl in the chicken pen! she came back! Well now we have heightened security (literally we made a wall) so she can´t jump out. I´ve named her Lady Oinksalot as Sergio is a real fan of Lady Gaga she´s a lady and is a real talker. She´s really good now, I adore her. I feed her food scraps and fetch her clean water from the river everyday. She´s really sociable so I go and play with her when I´m not working - she´s like a puppy, she doesn´t leave your side and runs with you nearly tripping me over half the time. She´s become really obedient, but she makes ALOT of noise when she sees you and jumps up, she hates it when you leave her - pigs are sociable creatures so don't cope very well on their own, so I try and spend as much time with her. I´m really sad I can´t take her with me - she´s a cutie!

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Last weekend we ventured to 'The Caves of Jumandy' in the Oriente Region, and it was quite an adventure getting there. First we hitchiked from the station to Tena in a pick up truck that was being pulled along by a truck with a piece of rope with a guy sitting in the pickup merely steering it. Seeing as there were no more vehicles passing by, we had to run after the pickup and help eachother get into the back as it was being pulled along by the truck ahead which was pretty good fun. However, three times the rope broke off and we had to get off and push the pickup towards the truck that had driven off! ha!
The only concern we had was when we were going up a steep hill and praying the rope wouldn´t break coz we would have rolled straight back down the hill - ahh the danger... we didn´t even make it into Tena as the rope broke again (fortunetly on the flat road phew!) so we paid $1 to a taxi driver who happened to pass to take us into Tena. From there, I had to step over a homeless dog who really was just skin and bones with people nudging it to see if it was still alive. Getting a seat on the right bus, which always have a character of their own, I had to step over another dog who´s nose was poking out of a grain sack on the floor - kind of an odd way to transport a dog. Anyway, once we were about to leave, an older man got on with a shoulder bag and started shouting in Spanish which was inaudible, then he put on a headset and turned on a speaker to talk which was still just as inaudible and got out diagrams of eyes and started pointing to his own eyes, mimicking some sort of eye disorder- really funny to watch but he failed to get our custom.

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When we reached ´Cuevas de Jumandy´ lying in the heart of Cotundo and about 4km north of Archidona, we paid a cool dude named Ramon to take us down into the caves for a couple of hours. We all needed to take headtorches as we descended deeper into the caves passing visitors coming out of the caves covered in mud - yes!. The caves are very impressive- they were formed by volcanic activity and named after 'Jumandy', an Amazonian hero. Today, shaman rituals are still active in the caves and are home to really odd rock formations, huge staglamites, minerals and crystals, quite a few things to bang your head on. The caves are also home to crab spiders and small coves you can explore - we had to crawl on our fronts into these small caves with Ramon and when he shon his light to the ceiling......it revealed an army of false vampire bats! of course the bats went crazy and attempted to shoot of the cave in a panicked flurry one proper whacking me and rickashading off the side of my face! ahhh (good thing they were just false vampire bats ay?) . The caves were awesome though, and huge, having to wade through waist deep water, but my knees took quite a knocking. The coolest thing was seeing an underground waterfall. Ramon pointed to a part of the plunge pool, held his breath, jumped in and disappeared! thinking he was going to shoot out from elsewhere in the cave, we were looking around until he resurfaced out the same spot and scared the living daylights out of us! haha

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The adventures didn´t stop there as we took a bus ride the next day to the ´Cascadas de la Umbri´some reknowned waterfalls in the Oriente Region. They told us a hike to the big waterfall would take 30 minutes but never trust that! we had to pass a natutal waterslide which was so slippery, I was halfway sliding in before I had to be helped up - that would have sent me halfway down the springs! After much sludging and sliding in the mud, we reached this amazing waterfall - one of the boys flip flops broke so he had to do the jungle trekking bare foot oh yeah! but jumping into the plunge pool and actually experiencing being under a waterfall is amazing. The waters so strong it feels like your´re being thumped repeatingly, but its in a real theraputic way - seize it if you ever get the chance....

Cascadas de la Umbri

Cascadas de la Umbri

We left just before the sunset and hadn´t thought of a way to get home - so we had to walk the way back to Tena hoping we could hitchike a ride.....we didn´t. Noone wanted to pick us up so we walked for a good hour through the forest and little indigenous communites who would call out ´Buenas Tardes!´ they´re really friendly out here in the forest. Dogs were coming up to us, snapping at us - children played in the road and stared at us curiously, while some families sat on the street side with a television set and looking up to say ´Buenas Noches´. and probably wandering what a bunch of gringos were doing walking around at dusk. Fortunetly as the light was about to die (and it is pitch black in the forest) and none of us had torches, a bus pulled up behind us allowing us to sit on the floor for a well earned rest back in town.......guardian angel there again.

Ok thats all for now, onto the next adventure! It' now creeping into the Christmas season here so kinda weird seeing Christmas trees in the windows with this humidity of a climate - but tis the season!

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 07:39 Archived in Ecuador Tagged animals rainforest caves plants south waterfall america amazon pig ecuador tena cotundo Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Eleven

PART ELEVEN: THE 27 CLUB, CHRISTMAS SCHOOL SPIRIT AND THE FORCES OF NATURE

Hola - well I turned 27! who would have thought but you´re only as old as you feel right? and of course age is just a number. Well here´s more in the day of my life in the Amazon.....

I started the week off by going to one of the schools in the Rainforest where some of the volunteers who teach English go most mornings of the week, but of course their Spanish is very good so I tagged along to see. We had to take a 5 minute bus ride to the 'Monte Alegre School' which was basically two small green buildings which were the classrooms and a patch of land outside where some of the children were playing football.

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What amazed me, despite the fact they got excited to see that there were new visitors, they were getting into the classroom through the wired windows and the teacher was helping them! The classroon itself is pretty sweet. It seems like only half of the children participate in the class - they kind of just split the classroom in two and pull their desks up to the whiteboard thats leant against the wall. Its quite funny actually sitting back and watching as it seemed near impossible to teach teach - they just didn´t seem that interested. The teacher in the classroom was busy teaching the other class by drawing cartoons on the board, but there seemed to be no order at all. The kids were running around the classroom chasing eachother and some even walking out! But some kids were good - getting up to write the english answer on the white board, but by the way I saw it, there was just hardly any effort from them to listen.

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Then one of the volunteers teaching got out his guitar and started to strum to the rhythum for the 'ABC song' which made things pretty fun for them and for me to sing along to. It even got to a point of giving up with teaching and they started to sing ´We Wish You A Merry Christmas´ and the ´Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes´Song! but Christmas time is pretty weird here seeing Christmas Trees in the windows and lights when its sweltering hot. After the class was done, the children went outside to play football again and we made our way onto the main road to sit on the bridge to hitchhike back to the reserve. I looked around the forest and noticed a large patch of land had been cleared with new trees sprouting out, even though one day it would be replenished with fully grown trees, the sight of the barron land sure looked ugly.....and many areas of the Amazon look like this....the downer of clearing the forest so much is apart from loosing the biodiversity abundant in the rainforest, we encourage contributing factors of global warming by destroying the earth's largest land base storage of CO2 by cutting down the trees

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Later on the the reserve - I decided to go up the bird tower again with two new volunteers. The sun was blazing as we set off trekking into the reserve to find the tower buckled up with harnesses. The further you go in, the thicker the canopy becomes, so you´re nearly oblivious to how the weather is looking. As I buckled myself on to the tower which is actually only wide enough to fit both my hands on (really it is narrow), I ascended to about 25 metres above the canopy and started to feel a strong gust of wind with the tree branches swaying around me.

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I looked down at the boys slowly following and called down to them warning it was getting very blustery. I reached the observation deck first now at 30 metres above the canopy and looked across the Amazon to see nothing but pure sunshine and blue skies to my left and foreboding black and grey skies to my right - we had missed the clear spell as the boys came up to join me and there was a crack of thunder and lightning and the black clouds split open and we could see the rain pouring down on the forest in the distance as they slowly creeped towards us.

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The Amazonian storm approaching......

Now the wind was really picking up as the storm was growing closer to us balancing 30 metres above the canopy! We decided it wasn´t the best idea to stick around, so the boys started to hastily start their descent and then I followed. I took one last look out and the blackness was on top of us and darkness fell over the Amazon as the raindrops started to trickle over me. Getting myself back on the ladder - it was swaying from the wind that was getting more and more aggressive and the rain poured harder soaking me as I was trying to keep my grip on the ladder with one hand and changing the karibeener on the harness so I could go lower. The trees were now really rocking about and their roots only go down a metre so they do tend to blow over in storms. It was extreme but what a thrill! I finally made it down in the storm and we had to run through the forest as the thunder roared and lightning cracked woah!! Lets just say we got our full supply of water that day!.......

Speaking of water - I regularly go and bathe in the Rio Napo after work - it´s my most favourite thing to do here in the Rainforest, to and play in the water. The boys fancied putting some life jackets on and actually swimming into the heart of the River and be carried down. The water looked rapid as I watched them swim into the middle and could see their heads bobbing up as I called after them as a joke ´Watch out for Anacondas!´ and carried on bathing. When I looked up again, they had disappeared but didn´t think anything of it. When I got out the river, I could see the bend further down and noticed three figures walking on the shore which I was a bit confused about as it hadn´t seemed very far - It had turned out they had disappeared because they had been swept to the wrong side of the river and sucked into a whirlpool! they said if they didn´t have their life jackets they probably may have drowned - yikes. I later floated a bit down the river but not to that extreme - scary forces in the Amazon.... and look what we found joining us in cleaning our teeth...hello Mr Scorpion....

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Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 11:19 Archived in Ecuador Tagged animals rainforest plants south america amazon ecuador tena medicines Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Twelve

PART TWELVE: JOURNEY TO MISHUALLI

Hola! Really long blog this one is gonna be as I've had quite an adventure recently....

Well I'm not your average English girl, quite an adventurous girl actually if you've not come to that conclusion yet from following the last parts of this blog. Anyway, I'm one to tire of routine and sameness and having been at the reserve for over a month, really wanted to explore the Amazon further, so I decided to pack my bag and go it alone.......well sort of.

Giving a call to a jungle lodge in a nearby town called Misahualli for the weekend. Their office was in Quito, so I spoke to this guy called Luis who told me I could join a group and be taken deeper into the forest and have an english translator - yes!
So.....having made arrangements, I got up early to catch a 6:45am bus outside the reserve, and sods law awoke to the foreboding sounds of horrendous crashing and rumbling on the roof of my cabaña and realised I had to get up and head into the jungle in a thunder storm. As I waited on the main road getting soaked, Francisco, an old man who is the handyman at the reserve, came out dressed in a white poncho and mumbled to me asking where I was going to. I told him I was heading to Misahualli down river and he was thrilled to tell me his house was there and that I could come with him (good news for someone not entirely sure where they were going). The bus came soaring down the road screeching to a halt past us and then reversing back to pick us up, very funny. The bus in the early morning was packed and I had to wedge myself between people while Francisco sat on the step. A few moments later, he yelled for me to get off the bus and stepped out onto the dirt track with a corroded sign saying ´Beinvenidos a Puerto Misahualli´.

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The dirt track led into the forest which was smouldering with the 7am clouds as we started to trudge through the rain down the path greeting morning passerbys. The rain carried on until we came to a huge bridge across the Rio Napo leading into the small town of Misahualli. Francisco knew of the hotel 'Él Albergue Español' where my port of call was and walked me up a small hill to the hotel where we were met by this young girl who was slightly confused why I was there. It turned out, there was no group at the lodge and that her husband Pier - the english translator was sick.....great

So I really was taking a solo adventure two hours up river on a canoe which I had to wait an hour for. I hung around Mishaualli playing with the hotel dogs until I was called down to the bank. She had arranged for a canoe to take me to the lodge an hour and a half away up river and I helped push the canoe out into the river after some ´technical problem´with the motor and off down river we went away from the Port of Mishualli. I sat on the side of the canoe, leaning over and sticking my hand into the water, spraying it up and watching the riverside life go by.... men fishing, ladies panning for gold and washing little kids racing canoes. The clouds hovering above the forest canopy in a dream like illusion was spectacular to cruise into as I headed on my solo voyage further into the Amazon.

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After a couple of hours, my driver slowed the canoe down and pulled up to the bankside where a guy was standing waving. He got on board and introduced himself as Ramon (another Ramon) and was my tour guide for the weekend! however....Ramon spoke no english - oh the fun to come! (I thought to myself this would be good for me, character building, no english speaking in the middle of the jungle all weekend). A short river ride further up, we pulled up to the bankside again to some steps, which you wouldn´t even have noticed if Ramon hasn't have revealed, very secret.
I jumped off the canoe and bounded up the stairs amongst maize fields till I reached this beautiful lodge. The lodge had room for 40 guests and I was the only one staying there! so I had this beautiful lodge all to myself in the calmness of Amazonia. After picking a room, spoilt for choice and dumping my bag. Ramon invited me to lunch in the restaurant where they gave me soooo much to eat! it was like three full courses. Around the lodge, birds were lingering - two green parrots and this huge Scarlet MaCaw named Miguel who tried to bite my boots, not the most friendliest of parrots - he clambered down his perch and walked off along the restaurant when he was bored with you!..charming......

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After lunch, Ramon took me in the canoe down river where we had to hold on to a table that they were carrying in the canoe. We pulled up to the side of a bank to the ´Jaguar Reserve´where we had to clamber up the mud and into the reserve. Ramon was armed with a machete and we made our way through the vines, bugs and bushes - whenever Ramon saw something of interest, he would stop and try to explain to me what it was and I tried to understand the best I could (this is where I needed that damn English Translator!) but it was quite funny having to use body language and nodding along answering 'Si' ha. I actually felt privaledged in a way that I wasn't tagging along with a big tourist group struggling to hear what Ramon would be saying. Here I was having a very unique experience, having my own private ranger under no stresses or strict schedule or the forest being drowned out by many voices. Despite my lost in translation, Ramon and I had some fun in the forest.

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Further into the reserve, we came across some vines of a 500 year old tree - it was the biggest tree I had ever seen in my life! Ramon gestured that I should swing on the vines but I had to hold on tight - I jumped (literally) at the chance and as I swung out like Tarzan the vines propelling me away and I looked down to realise I had swung out over a ravine!! ahhhhhhh!!!!! my grip started to slip slightly but fortunetely I swung back into the forest towards Ramon and we both started to climbing the roots of this mother of a tree - seriously they were GIGANTIC - but good fun. New leader in my tree climbing conquests.

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Blending in with the wildlife...

After exploring more of the forest, discovering animal traps, lots of fungi and medicinal plants of the Amazon, we took the canoe further down the river to visit the indigenous family and a shaman. We pulled up to the pebbled shore where a young girl no older than about 12 or 13 was laying out clothes to dry in the hot sun. She seemed shy and walked ahead of us through the cocoa and corn fields as we shook hands with ladies coming through them. At the end of the path, we came to a clearing with a wooden house one storey high with clothes hung everywhere with chickens, puppies and kittens running around aswell as excited kids rushing to greet Ramon and I. Not being able to understand half of what was being said - I held a kitten and looked around their basic but simple home as we sheltered from the rainstorm that came shortly afterwards

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We were then gestured to come upstairs into the house where a lady was lying on the floorboards moaning and asked if she was sick. I observed that a huge fireplace centred the house and the young girl we saw earlier sat with a baby wrapped around her wondering if it was actually hers. A much older, shorter, fatter man who looked in his 80´s was the head of the house and his son told me he was the shaman of the community and asked me if I wanted to be cleansed by him in a ritual. I agreed and was told all bad spirits and enegy would be exorcised from me and then positive energy put in me. What a once in a lifetime oppurtunity!

The room was dark and he sat me down on a stool, closing my eyes - he started to softly sing and whistle to me shaking 'Shu Panga' leaves (leaves that are noisy) over my head and draping them over me. Amazonian Shamans use these in religous ceremonies to ritually remove bad spirits from a person. I know it sounds weird but I felt like I was being lifted off the ground and things being sucked out of me. After a short while, the Shaman took my head and put his lips to it and started blowing for 10 breaths. It was a pretty unique experience - when I opened my eyes, it was really strange - I never felt better! Before leaving, I attempted to ask questions and managed to find out there were about 10 people in one house which was probably the size of my living and dining room at home - pretty close family! but not much privacy, y'know to do all your 'private stuff' I suppose they were spoilt for space with the countless acres of virgin forest they had surrounding them for a toilet anyhow! The son of the Shaman asked if I wanted to try some medicinal concoctions of a plant that helps stomach aches - I took a sip and wahooooohhh!!! what a stopper!! extremely strong!

I thanked the family and the shaman for his work and we headed back to the shore but not before trying some panning for gold! what most women are busy doing on the river bank. We collected some dirt and a load of small rocks in a large wooden disc and carried it to the river, the process is to add water and appear to swish it around emptying the rocks until you get the dirt - we then tipped the dish with the dirt left and looking closely, we saw we had caught some grains of gold! really cool!. But such a long process that these people do everyday here, but it is gold after all..... We rode back to the lodge down the river with the sunsetting over the River and Amazon and attempted to push the table on the canoe up the stairs! very bizarre

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After my weekend was up, I took the canoe back down the Rio Napo taking in the scenery - I ported back in Misahualli and crossed over the bridge back to the dirt track which was bone dry from the heat of the sun. Armed with my backpack and rubber boots, I trudged down the dirt track aligned with lushious greenery you will ever see and stopped to look at birds and monkey´s high in the tree tops. I was then startled by a jogger passing me with ´Buenas Tardes Señorita!´and carried on running. I was passed many times by cars who wouldn´t give me a ride but thought it would be funny to wave at me speeding away. Reaching the end of the dirt track onto the main road, a house was opposite with 4 dogs who came charging towards me barking angrily ahhhhhh!!!! now I love dogs but wasn´t so keen to hang around and play so I decided to walk back from Misahualli which I calculated would be about an hour - it was great! like a lone walker finding their way home. Pick ups would stop to give me a ride but I decided I was enjoying my walk back too much - you miss so much when you´re speeding by in a car. Along my journey, I encountered a few people and children bidding ´Buenas Tardes´and asking where I was going and replying 'Jatun Sacha' regardless whether or not they knew where it was, but they smiled and nodded anyhow. I walked past many homes that were the same wooden shacks plastered with posters of local political figures holding their thumbs up saying ´Vote for Me!´ It was nice to see a vote for Lisa too for the women (I´d vote for Lisa) - women are second best in South America unfortunetely. Eventually, I reached the school 'Chichaca Rumi' where we planted the Ishpingo Trees so I had a little look to see how they were doing. Actually, a couple of the kids who I recognised from the school were playing marbles in the road and then running out the way when the bus came (They came up asking my name even though they´d seen me before and of course laughing at the response of Sal hehe I thought they´d remember!)

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I noticed passing a sign saying ´Bienvendas Kamakmake´ which unless you were told was an animal centre where the animals just roam around you never would have known what it was. I reached the 'Centro Conservacion Plantas de Amazonica' I knew I was close to Jatun Sacha passing the dead horse with its totally decayed skelton with a few black vultures flying out as I approached. The sun was now setting over the canopy and the clouds were like pink smears across the sky - really pretty! and I even saw some parrots squaking and little black monkeys jabbering in a tree - cute!. The birds nests are really weird here they look like shigra bags hanging from trees.......I did make it back to the reserve by dark, just as well - I had no torch ha! but so pleased with myself that I took the plunge and did this on my own and I truly did end up coping on my own and having an unforgettable experience- what a ride!

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Well the next day, we took the 30 minute walk back to Kamakmake - it was a real plush reserve and the first thing I saw was this cute little Amazon Pig running along with some children who I recognised again from the school dressed in typical Amazonian attire and showing us this cute little monkey that clambered on one of the boys shoulder and held on tight. Totally up for having a monkey on my shoulder, we managed to get him to clamber on me...then he wouldn´t let go. He was tightly clinging on and then even had the decency to pee on me!. Having the novelty of ha monkey on you slowly wearing off. One of the boys got a stick in an attempt to coax him off me which worked but then he clambered back on him again - it was so funny!!! Now that´s monkey business for ya.......

Signing off here at Jatun Sacha

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 08:48 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rivers wildlife plants south america amazon ecuador tena medicines Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Thirteen

PART THIRTEEN: STRANDED ON TELEFORIQO, MOUNT COTOPAXI AND THE BREAD LADY WITH A CROWN OF STARS

Hola! mi amigos

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The time has come for me to be saying my final 'Adios' to the Jatun Sacha reserve and my adventures here in the rainforest after 6 eventful weeks of living in this utopia of the Amazon (and thank you for still reading them)

It is the month of Christmas and I plan to leave Ecuador within the next few days so I finally spread my wings and forced myself to leave the magic of the rainforest a changed person. Saying a pain stakingly goodbye to my piglet, from the reserve I decided to go to the school again with the other volunteers one last time, but we´d forgotten the teacher had told us the school would be closed that day so of course we were met by an empty classroom. Oh well - nice end to my time in the Amazon. Adam, another volunteer was heading back to Quito also and managed to hail down a bus for us to jump on taking us out of the jungle. Slipping through the pretty cramped bus with our backpacks, I was met by this little voice below me saying ´Buenas Dias´and it was this little boy wearing a Santa Claus hat - how cute! We endured the cramped conditions in the bus to Tena for an hour and once squeezing off it, wandered around the markets buying a shoulder bag and belts all by myself (so proud) until we bought a $6 ticket in the dusty bus terminal from a guy screaming 'Quitoooo!!!!!!' ushering us on to a ´Flota Pelileo´bus. The piece of paper reading 'Quito' on the windscreen was always a comfort to see before I started choking on a piece of chocolate Adam gave me haha!. We headed back to the high altitude of Quito, Ecuadors capital city which lies nearly 3,000 metres above sea level so going from the jungle is pretty tough with the altitude. Anyway, the buses from the Amazon head through the cloud forest (so you literally driving throught the clouds) and the Andean Mountains. It was funny, coz on the bus they actually put on a film that had sound and funny enough it was my childhood hero Indiana Jones in Spanish.

Back in Quito

Back in Quito

I reached back to the Mountains of Quito a very speedy (they drive buses sooooo fast here) 5 hours later after sitting next to lady who openly was breast feeding her baby as it kept kicking me with its little feet. I immediately started having withdrawal symptons of the jungle, surrounded by the chugging buses, dirty streets and cluttered housing, I longed for the peace of mind of the Amazon. Rita had kindly agreed to house Adam and I at her apartment again so we caught a taxi in the late afternoon before it got dark. Heading towards the East of the city to Rita´s apartment I looked behind me and saw we had arrived at the right time as a mammoth storm was chasing us back into the centre and of course the seat belts don´t work......welcome back to Quito. Rita was happy to have me back and welcomed Adam into her home. The first night back in the city, we had a women wrapped up in Andean clothes seating out on the pavement right outside my window wailing and crying and then lying helplessly in the road, it makes me really sad when I can´t do anything about that, she was pretty sad and kept us up most of the night......

The next morning, seeing as I missed out last time - I wanted to go up Teleforiqo, a multi million dollar sky tram that takes passengers on a 2.5 km ride up the flanks of Volcan Pinchincha to the top of Cruz Loma which was the picturesque view that you could behold on top of Rita's balcony. Adam agreed to go with me and we hailed down a $4 taxi to the base of the tram which is really steep! (well it is on the side of a mountain) but people live and work on that incline so I reckon they are pretty fit walking around there everyday. When you actually get into the cable car after a 100 year wait, it takes nearly an hour to reach the top but looking out you can see how stretched out the city of Quito is as it lies in the valley. When you eventually get to the top you´re at 4,100 metres and your breathing gets a little bit tougher but you just have to acclimitize to that altitude, but the view was sooooo cool .....

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but the adventure of it happened coming down........

Well, we got in the cable car which took a century to come around for us to get in to again - Adam and I jumped in with two japanese men and an ecuadorian man who was speaking to them in English who looked like their escort or tour guide or something, sat talking on his blue tooth mobile. At the last moment, an ecuadorian lady came scurrying in to catch the last tram going down - oh how lucky she was. We started to descend and the view of Quito and the bottom drew closer.......we must have been about 20 metres from the end when we heard a strange noise and the momentum of the cable car came to a stop.....

the power had gone.....and we were stuck only 20 metres from the end noooooo!!!!!

The cable car in front of us had just made it off so I guess god wanted us to marvel at the view a little longer of the disembarkment point - at least being stuck at the top you had a nice view. We sat in silence for a while and the Ecuadorian guy sneezed a couple of times and broke the silence by suggesting to the Japanese man sitting in the middle that he knew a really nice Peruvian restaurant that they should go eat at - then the Japanese man translated to the other Japanese man who translated it back with ´No´and then he translated back as ´No´ to the ecuadorian guide - it was so funny to watch!. The ecuadorian lady on the other hand provided us with some musical entertainment by playing this really funny ecuadorian music from her mobile phone to fill the silence.......
After waiting 30 minutes rocking silently in the cable car with still the same view of the disembarkment point just 20 metres away, the power was not coming back on and it was then decided we would have to be rescued via ladder! ha!

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Having been living in the tropic humidity of the Amazon, I decided to get myself on a really good trekking tour up the second highest active volcano in Ecuador near Latacunga - Cotopaxi which means ´Neck of the Moon´ because the moon can be seen just above the peak. Cotopaxi stands at a snowcapped 5,897 metres surrounded by paramo (Andean Grassland that looks like those 80's troll toys). The guide took us to 4,500 metres in a truck up the volcano and kitted out in Andean clothing, we slowly hiked up Cotopaxi - the air was the freshest I have ever breathed in my life! but your breathing becomes a lot harder due to the extreme altitude. The view of the park is a very baron due to the volcanic rock and dirt everwhere (the volcano had been know to erupt in the past) our aim was to hike 300 metres to the refuge base where it starts to get more cold and icy. The strangest thing for me looking across the volcano was to see a group of school children literally crawling up the side, must have been a school trip or really harsh punishment!

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Reaching the refuge base at 4,800 metres, we stopped to eat and throw snowballs off the side until a few of us opted to go up to 5,000 metres to see the glacier (right up to the snowcapped bit) which was AMAZING - I looked up to the peak and could see tiny figures of mountaineers heading to the summit and the active crater at the top. At 5,000 metres you´re pretty much in the clouds so its a crazy experience, its probably the highest I have been on top of the world I´ve ever been - its awesome. Coming back down is a hell of a lot more fun - you pretty much have to slide! how often do you get to slide down a volcano?!?! Reaching the 4,500 mark again, we could feel a storm was a brewing but that didn´t stop the second half of our tour which was to bike down to the lake on mountain bikes! now that was intense! especially when you´re riding down with lightning bolts all around you! Having survived Cotopaxi and proud of myself that I didn't come off my mountain bike over the rough terrain- we drove to a sweet little farmhouse in the Andes called ´PapaGayo´ where they gave us chocolate cake and made the discovery of a hole under a tree where the farm dog lived with all her puppies running out of the hole! awwwww how much of a better day could I have had!

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Adam left to fly back to the USA a few days before me so an Australian guy called Nathan moved in to Rita's spare room so we´ve been out and about around town. There´s this really cool church on a high hill on the north eastern side of the old town in Quito called La Basilica, its really gothic and instead of gargoyles, there are iguanas, reptiles and monkeys on the side of the church. You pay $2 to scale the spiral staircase and over a rickety wooden plank and ladders to the top of the clock towers - pretty cool.

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Nathan and I then decided to head to the south of town to the 'Little Bread Loaf' hill 'Él Panecillo´ which also translates into 'The Bagel' where stands a huge statue of La Virgen de Quito a lady with a crown of stars, eagles wings and a chained dragon looking down over her kingdom of Quito down in the valley. We had to get a taxi up there as its right in the south of the city where the working class are so it isn´t exactly the safest part of town. It´s cool when you get to the top, you can go to the top of the statue for the views across Quito and the mountains - and there were even some some really sweet Llamas up there too munching on the grass :)

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The only problem was getting down........we started to walk a little down the hill back to town when we came across a pack of dogs lying on the side of the road.....we nearly passed them until they got up, started barking angrily and started chasing us back up the hill!!! we were absoulutely petrified! we couldn´t walk down the stairs down the hill after that or even if we did it wasn´t safe due to muggings and hold ups so were practically stuck on the top of the hill with the statue! Well what safer company than the religious statue herself.

Luckily, the statues charm paid off and our guardian angel returned, finally managing to flag down this car with a guy and his little boy riding with him and kindly giving us a ride down back into town phew!!! see not all the people in Quito are bad! Getting back into town we went for a nosy around a crafts market looking for a Panama hat for Nathan which are a very popular style of hat here in Ecuador. The markets are huge and we were caught up in a group of people on their banjos and ladies bringing bread and this soup thing in a cup to all the vendors. One of the ladies actually offered us a cup and muttered something we couldn´t understand so we took the cup and took a sip....it was DISGUSTING..... I don´t know what it was but it tasted like thick nicotene, but being polite we had to smile and be like mmmmmmmmm ha! then quickly dashed away to give it to someone else! haha!

Well, the sun is slowly setting on my time here in Ecuador and I am due to be on a plane soon back to Atlanta for a 12 hour stopover and then homeward bound to London where my new acquired Spanish will seize to exist. It's probably been one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life which has been unforgettable - will make a great story hey!

So....do you want to buy an acre of the rainforest?

After my experience in the most biodiverse utopia on planet earth, I made a donation to the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve and bought an acre of the Ecuadorian Rainforest to contribute to the ongoing battle to preserve and protect this most endangered landscape on the planet.

One acre is the same size as 16 tennis courts or one football pitch! - and contains up to 86 different species of tree, with the amphibians, birds, insects and mammals that depend on them.

Here's a number of ways you can do it..

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With The Rainforest Foundation UK 'Protect An Acre' scheme - you can buy an acre for just £25 to last a lifetime! extras include a certificate, photo card and information about your acre

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With UK based The World Land Trust patroned by Sir David Attenborough you can buy 1/4 acre for £25, 1/2 acre for £50 or a full one acre of £100 in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico

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Rainforest Concern
is a Registered Charity in the UK where you can buy one acre in Sri Lanka, Panama, Costa Rica and all over South America for £50

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WWF Sky Rainforest Rescue
offers you to sponsor an acre from just £3 a month of buy one for £36.

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Cool Earth lets you buy 1/2 acre in the Ashaninka region of the Peruvian Amazon for £30 and 1/2 acre in the Awacachi Corridor of the Ecuadorean rainforest for £50. You also get an online account where you can view your plot.

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It costs just $15 (12 Euro/£9.50) to purchase and protect an acre with Conservation International to save this threatened habitat and its wildlife from destruction.

Check them out. You'd be amazed what you can do to help.

Now off to soak up my last moments in South America....adios mi amigos....see you again sometime

Mucho Gracias por leer! (Thank You very much for reading)

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 05:01 Archived in Ecuador Tagged rainforest rivers statue volcano city cathedral south dogs america amazon help quito cotopaxi ecuador tena acre Comments (0)

'Letters From The Amazon' Audio Story Book Episodes 1 - 3

First Three Episodes available to listen to for free now!

I have Written and Narrated a six part Audio Book based on the blog 'Letters From The Amazon' listen to the first three episodes now!

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Episode One : In Dr Jones Footsteps
Episode Two: Into The Amazon
Episode Three: Welcome To The Jungle

'Letter's from the Amazon' This amusing and enlightening story is told in in six short audio episodes.

For those who enjoyed listening to Sal Bolton's 'The Call of Africa', you are invited to follow her on another adventure, this time into the rain forests of Ecuador, South America.

Sal, inspired by her childhood film hero, Indiana Jones, and with only a basic school-girl knowledge of Spanish, attempts her own adventure into the Amazon, one of the most mysterious and formidable bio-diverse ecosystems on the planet; a place that has drawn explorers and travellers for generations into its dark and sacred heart.

'Letters From The Amazon' hopes to unlock the reality for us of living and breathing something of this spell-binding cocooned world that is life in the Amazon; revealing, as the adventure unfolds, precious glimpses of rare wildlife, medicines and flora and fauna that are found hidden away in isolation. It should inspire in us the need to preserve and protect this unique, irreplaceable endangered eco-system.

In her own words,

"Hola, welcome to the jungle. Come on in and listen closely to the hidden calls of the wild. There's something about saying the word 'jungle' which immediately invites the thoughts of danger and intense curiosity: a secret Utopia which only the boldest of spirits will dare to venture into. So I decided to pack my bag, and go it alone; well, sort of."

Based on Sal's journal, notes and letters whilst living in the rain forest, this series highlights some of her most unpredictable, amusing challenges and mishaps and adventures. Despite being lost among the indigenous jungle locals and their customs, she makes it to her destination “with”, as she puts it, “a little help from my inner guardian angel!”

The episodes follow the emotional highs and lows of the journey of an English 'Gringa', as she shares with us the reality of living in wild isolation. We discover the magic and sacredness of the rainforest as we are carried along on a canoe journey to a remote place upriver to visit an indigenous shaman.

Sal tells of the marauding, biting mosquitoes, jungle bus rides and of being caught in an Amazon thunderstorm. Her occasional pangs of frustration tell, in a humorous way, of her experiences of 'Jungle Fever', things that go 'bump' in the night and how her loneliness is healed by a curly tailed friend.

Listen to the First Three Episodes for Free at PeopleTalk Podcasts

Posted by SalBolton82 09:28 Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon Audio Story Book Episode Four

Episode Four - The Enchanted Forest

Hi guys

The latest episode of my adventure travel audio story 'Letters From The Amazon' Episode Four is now available to listen to for free right here!

http://www.peopletalk.libsyn.com/

Come on in and listen closely.....to the hidden calls of the wild.....

Episode Four of Sal's South American adventure 'Letters From The Amazon' begins with her having survived a rather unpredictable (and itchy) first night in the jungle with all the strange, bewildering and somewhat seemingly frightening sounds that filled the dark night at the Jatun Sacha Reserve, as the dawning of a brand-new day awakens the heart of Ecuadors Amazon Rainforest and all the surprises that come with it.

The episode follows' Sal's letters from her first experience of the raw life in the wild - getting up close and personal with marauding jungle mosquitoes and the overwhelming charm and magic from the spell of 'Enchanted Forest' itself - revealing the secrets hidden away so protectively from the outside world, making it one of the most sacred places on earth.

Under the guidance of trusty and charismatic native station ranger Sergio; Sal is invited into experiencing the pure cocooned beauty and plight that is Amazonia. As daylight breathes new pulsating life into the 'Lungs of the Earth', it begins to revealing itself to her behind its intimidating myths and tales as an undisclosed Utopia of rare and wonderful flora and fauna, precious medicinal plants and ancient trees.

Despite becoming enchanted by the pureness of the Amazon, she soon discovers the harsh reality of the unforgiving elements of nature as her adventures find her being caught in the middle of a ferocious jungle thunderstorm....thirty metres above the canopy.

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Posted by SalBolton82 07:24 Comments (0)

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