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!
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....
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!
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
'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.
'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!
and some other characters too....
Any zoologists dream!