We got to Tena around lunch time and I stepped out of the bus and was immediately sweating, it was so hot. I was wearing my denim skirt with leggings, I was boiling, so whilst I was waiting for James to come out of the bus I whipped the leggings off. To my horror my skirt also came down which was a hilarious treat for a group of lads waiting for a bus. They didn't stop wolf whistling until we left the station, it was so embarrassing! We found a nice hostel but it was very expensive so we could only stay there for one night. It was mid-afternoon on a Sunday in a jungle town so everything was shut apart from one small café. We went in and ordered quickly as they started to lock the shutters when we were still eating. We booked a jungle tour for the next two days and found a cheaper hostel to stay at on our return.
The first morning of our jungle trip and we met the group, they were all French. We were a bit apprehensive at first but they were lots of fun and included us in as much of the conversation as they could. We all squeezed into a camonesta and got driven to an entrance of a National Park and, after changing into our wellie boots and covering ourselves with repellent we headed into the jungle. One of our guides (Luis) spotted some tamarind monkeys so we tried to get a good picture but they are quick and tiny so it was tricky. Sergio found some chirimoya fresh from the tree for us to try. James called me a geek because I knew the name already, as I had tried it in Bolivia. It is a delicious fleshy fruit with a big black stone in the middle. While we were enjoying the fruit Luis (our own Bear Grylls) had found a giant yellow beetle. All of this was in the first 10 minutes, we were feeling positive about the day ahead.
The whole day was really interesting, but to go into too much detail would be boring! So here are some bullet points of the highlights:
· Huge termite nests (James held some)
· Making our own crowns from panama leaf hat material (James' attempt was terrible)
· Trying more exotic fruit from the trees
· Learning about lots of trees including one with a penis shaped root!
· Seeing some incredible views over the top of the jungle
· Eating ants, lemon flavour as they live in lemon trees
· Making Quentin look silly with a flower called 'black woman's lips'
· Eventually seeing bull ants, they are HUGE
· Clambering and climbing in between canyons
· Climbing up waterfalls
· Dodging bats (Isabel was not happy!)
· Banging my head on about three trees. I told Sergio off for not warning me but he laughed and demonstrated that he doesn't need to worry about banging his head; he walks straight underneath the tree!
· Getting excited as we heard an animal above us in one of the caves, but couldn't see it. It was probably a jaguar.
· James helping the whole group up a steep part of the canyon and then Sergio not helping him-haha!
· Seeing a poisonous snake on our way to the jungle lodge in the evening.
The fun didn't stop there. In the evening at our lovely lodge and after eating some great food we were taught a game by the French called 'Wolves and Villagers'. It was really good fun, it involves a lot of arguing and blame so I think it'll be one to teach the family! We were in hysterics a lot of the time and it made it funnier and more confusing as everyone was made to speak English (for our benefit) but this was difficult for some of the guys especially in the middle of a big argument.
The next morning we said a sad goodbye to Adrian and Isabel who were doing different activities for the second day. Our first stop was to an indigenous community. We went into one of the families' house and learnt a bit about the family and the lives that they lead. Unfortunately the rest of the group had to leave early as they were catching a bus to Cuenca that afternoon. Before they left we all tried grubs that Florin had just killed and then put onto the fire. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to put it into my mouth but the taste wasn't too bad. They were a bit chewy and tasted a lot like fat! Sergio took James and I around the outskirts of the village telling us more information about the plants, mainly the poisonous ones. He showed us the yuka (manioc) plants and how the women harvest the crops, it is bloomin' hard work. We went back to the house and had an amazing feast of fried rice full of vegetables, fish wrapped in natural aluminium foil and cooked on the fire with garlic, lemon and parsley and cooked yuka. The fish was so good and Sergio said he had caught it the day before from the river, you could really tell it was so fresh and tasted delicious when cooked on the fire.
Before we left to go tubing on the river there was a football match (girls) being played between two families from the community. It was really nice to watch as there were a lot of supporters from the community but I did embarrass us both by shouting when our team (the family we had eaten with) nearly scored, everyone stared at us, apparently this isn't the done thing. We left before the match was over but saw some good skills, I did think about scouting them for Cambridge. Sergio took us on a long route of the river and it was nice and relaxing with some outstanding views of the jungle. He warned us that at one point where two rivers meet the water would turn cold. He was right, it was freezing. Not only was the last section a lot colder it was also a lot rougher. We were splashed all over and sent flying all over the place, but it was good fun. We were about to say goodbye to Sergio but he invited us to his house to meet his family in the evening. We instantly agreed and bumped into Adrian and Isabel and they came too. His children were so cute and cuddled both James and I for most of the evening. We asked Sergio lots of questions about his life and the life of his family (he has 60 nephews and nieces) it was interesting to get an honest and real life opinion of Ecuadorian culture. He lived opposite an open air sports hall and for the second time today we got to watch women's football. The spirit of Sergio's community was so nice, some of the women were overweight but it didn't stop them, they knew nobody would be making fun of them and people were even betting on which team would win. Every now and again Sergio would point out one of his cousins or a niece, living all together in the same area of town. After the exciting match we said goodbye to Sergio and his family. We went back into town and got a small snack with Adrian and Isabel (Becky Wiper lookalike!) then said au revoir to them for the second time today! If you remember the last time we were in the jungle James got over 30 bites. This time, because our repellent got washed off in the river I counted 64 bites covering his body, we will never learn!
Our last day in the jungle we visited a mini national park where they had some animals but it was very average so we didn't stay for long. We found a nice café on the river's edge and ate there for lunch and dinner. The signal was quite good in our hostel so managed to skype the family both Mansfields and Wipers and we wished Gail and Chris a happy anniversary, not that Chris had remembered!