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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 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 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)

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