Day 4 - Into The Amazon Highlands With Bear Grills
At the crack of dawn, we left Quito and took a 6 hour bus ride to Misahualli. We met up with our jungle guide, Sergio, and had a hearty meal of beef stew with potatos and salad in preparation for our first trek into the Amazon. I got fitted with some shiney yellow gum boots which did not adequately provide the traction needed to prevent my epic slip (which will be detailed later.
We followed Bear Grills(Sergio) into the flourishing Amazon highlands. We spotted vanilla vines & walnut trees but what fascinated us the most was a pecular plant the locals call "black woman´s lips". The plant flowers two red leaves facing eachother & arching back with a small bud in the middle. It gives off the appearance of huge red kissing lips. Sergio taught us about natural mosquito repellent which can be obtained from termite mounds. Apparently they secrete an acidic liquid that deters mozzies. To exemplify, Sergio rubbed his hand on this huge mound hanging from one of the trees and forced us all to sniff it. It repelled us all ... but not because of the strong woody Deet scent... because of the termites crawling all over his hand. We also learned about this q-tip like mushroom whose liquid can be squeezed into the ear because it has some sort of medicinal properties to fight ear infections. Fabio volunteered his ear for Sergio´s demonstration.
We continued trekking down into the humid jungle, attacked by bugs & smacked by multiple plants along the way until we reached the creek, which we would follow through into the narrow canyons. Nobody in the group was prepared for the type of canyoneering we were about to do (especially since we weren´t armed with head gear nor climbing equipment). Note to self: do not bring any over the shoulder hanging side packs into the jungle; they completely throw off your balance especially when you´re trying to level set on an inclining wet log jammed between two huge rock mounds. Yeop...this is where I gracefully ate it. Fell sidways completely parallel to the log and wedged between the two rocks, bleeding profusely from the elbow and bruised down the hip. Since I´m like a sleak ninja, I crawled out of the rocks and victoriously stomped back on the log proudly wearing my new war wounds.
We continued following the stream into the depths of the canyons, wedging our bodies sideways between the narrow canyon slots and when it became too tight to fit our bodies in, we had to climb upwards while sideways with feet pressed flat against the wall while our back and hands were flat against the opposing wall (completely unprotected). We found ourselved a story or two high inside the canyon, following the creek and scared s***less our legs/hands would give in or just slip from the moisture. Alas, we all emerged from the first cayons with all limbs in tact.
Let me take a moment to describe the fitness skill level of our group which was never surveyed prior to our trek. Me (31) a former gymnast/acrobat who is a tad overweight and has no relationship with the gym; Georgia (25) a former lifeguard; Dawn (early 60s) a fit retiree who works out at her home gym; Henry (early 60s) a former paratrooper for the Chinese Special Forces; Christine (60s) his wife... not sure what her background is; Fabio(34) a casual surfer and dables in martial arts; Sergio(early 40s) an extremely beefed up Bear Grills Amazon native.
So we carried on following the running stream leading us towards a pitch black cave swarming with bats overhead. I was extremely freaked and paranoid of getting bitten & diseased, imagining a bat wrapping itself around my face like in the movies. Following the path of Sergio`s flashflight, we find ourselves again climbing chimney style at a diagonal incline almost two stories above the creek with bats flapping above and our naked hands reaching into uncertain dark crevices for stability. To make matters worse, Sergio`s flashlight went out and we´re all meandering about in the pitch dark worried about placement of hands and feet searching for the hint of light ahead. After about 5 minutes or so, we all successfully make it out filled with introspective thoughts of "what if" scenarios. If someone missplaced a foot and fell down sandwiched between two rock walls in the pitch dark, how would we even begin to get them out... or get them help?
Luckily that was our last canyon climb for the day as we continued stomping across muddy terrain and stubborn greens through sporadic tropical showers. Overall, our 4 hour trek was stupid scary but crazy awesome.
It was time to check into our cabin at the Sacharuna lodge. But, in order to get there, we had to cross the Napo river in you guessed it .... a motorized gas powered gondola cage equipt with a sweet exhaust system (It needs a Greddy sticker slapped onto it).
What an action packed day. I´m spent!