After a brilliant nights sleep, we have breakfast which is included in the room and head off towards Tena, which is a town up from the river of where we will be staying in the jungle, the Anaconda Lodge on Rio Napo. On the way we see beautiful mountains, volcanos including Volco Imbabura 4600m and Volco Cayambe 5700m, waterfalls and a view of how people live in the mountains. We drive up to altitudes over 4000m so we are all peeing like crazy as it has that effect, and all the girls tummies bloat out, another side effect! We were aiming to arrive at the river to get our boat at 5pm but there is a massive traffic jam on one of the winding mountain roads. Its turns out a very lorry has got itself stuck on a small bridge so it can't go forward or backwards. Everybody gets out their cars and trucks etc to have a look and all the men give their opinion of how to move it. It starts to rain so we head back to the truck and take out a sweepstake of how long it will take, I think Sinead won at 25 minutes. I have no idea how they managed it but we were pleased to be on our way again. We gradually started descending back to sea level and as we got closer to the jungle the air began to get heavier, warmer and humid.By the time we reached our destination it was pitch black darkness. Torches on, we quickly got our day packs, got on our life jackets then got on a long thin motorised canoe like boat. The Rio Napo look amazing and all the stars and the moon were so bright as we went along the river, it was so exciting. The boat ride was about 40 minutes and pulled up to the edge of the river where we all hopped out and walked to the main bar and eating area where we were greeted by Adonis, the owner. He was a big tall guy with an American accent even though he was from Ecuador, the whole scene in the simple wooden structure and the low lighting made me think of him as Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now with his mini army, obviously I never said that to him!
Once the introductions were done we were shown to our cabins that were on stilts, all wood and very basic. No electricity, candles and cold showers! We dumped our bags and put up our mozzie nets as the ones that were provided had plasters on the holes, so we didn't want to take any chances. But Adonis told us that there weren´t many mozzies as they breed on still water and the river was moving very fast all the time, it was sand flies that we had to look out for by the river and the best way to avoid them was to apply baby oil on your legs as they just get stuck and die. Of course no-one had any, so 50% deet it was. Back to the main area for drinks and dinner, bit of a chat then everyone went to bed.After a good sleep and scrambled eggs, we put on our swimming stuff with shorts and t-shirt, as well as wellies that they provided for us as we were travelling up river for over an hour to reach our destination for our trek in the jungle. On the way we saw kids in canoes or swimming in the river, women doing their washing and men looking for gold. Once we get off the boat, Juan our guide explains that the jungle is 98% humidity and that we should aim to drink about 3 litres of water. He also tells us that 93% of the jungle is poisoness and that we must not touch anything unless he says its ok- so we're all relaxed and ready to go with that information!The first part of the trek is really steep and difficult footing so it is so hard to not grab hold of plants or tress to get your balance. Leah was hilarious and kept grabbing everything, she was all over the place, Juan kept telling her to stop grabbing things.
As we walked through Juan would tell us all about the plants and insects with all the stats including that there are hundreds of species of butterflies and palm trees just on the Ecuador side of the jungle, including the walking palm tree. It has long roots above ground like legs and when it wants to move, say to the right for more sunlight, the left-hand roots die and the right side grows new ones enabling it to move up to one metre.We saw lots of big and small colourful butterflies, different sized spiders, wine cup mushrooms, spiky caterpillars and hundreds of plants. At one point Juan made a crown for Emma out of a leaf as it was her birthday, therefore had to wear it for the rest of the day.Eventually we reached the river which we had to walk down, thankfully the river was low as went as high as our bum, but after the rains it can go as high as your neck- no thanks! Again there was another sweepstake to see who would fall in the river first as the rocks were so slippy, I had my money on Leah but in the end it was birthday girl Emma who slipped and fell in just as we were reaching the end of our trek!The boat was waiting for us as we reached the River Napo with our packed lunches, Andy had a go on the flimsiest bridge I have ever seen which was basically a large bit of bamboo, rope and wire, that was it, he then dived into the river for a swim which is why we named him Tarzan as well as the fact he was born in Africa.We then went down the river again and stopped at nearby Museum, not before we all had a go on a shell that makes a horn noise when you blow it like a trumpet but none of us could do it. Then into the Museum where Juan talked us through all the different ways in which they would catch animals in the forest, some were pretty lethal even if a human caught in them as the wood was so hard and sharp. He then passed round this kind of firewater that they make from sugar alcohol and leaves from the jungle which tasted like strong whiskey, definitely made everyone's eyes water!We then all went on the hammocks there trying to swing in synch where Ian fell off which made Juan laugh so much, I think it was the most I ever saw him laugh when we were there. Then they went to a little shack that he said a Shaman was, as well as a sweet shop which was odd, and they pulled out this long tube for us to blow dart at a target. The target was made from polystyrene with a wooden parrot in the middle, everyone missed the parrot except Juan!On the boat back to the lodge, I lay in the sun for abit as it was a boiling hot day, then a shower where I then chilled out with everyone on the hammocks. The people at the lodge had decorated the main area with balloons for Emma which was really kind of them, so we went for drinks before dinner, then we were having a birthday party.Unfortunately I missed all the festivities as I had a reaction to the food, swollen belly and vomiting just as the heavens opened with rain I have never seen or heard anything like before. I managed to run back to my cabin to recover and then listened to the non stop rain, thunder and lightening. It got to a point where my whole cabin, including my bed was shaking when the thunder was over us it was brilliant! Leah came and check on my about 11pm absolutely hammered, which was so funny. She gave me a heart attack though as I was asleep, had no idea where I was and she marched in with a head torch on her head, I thought we were being invaded! Then I went back to sleep.Next morning I woke up as fragile as everyone else but for different reasons. The river and surrounding area looked like a different place and it was still raining. The river had risen by about 4ft and the islands that were opposite us where no longer, the river was flowing at an unbelievable speed carrying trees and all sorts with it. We were originally supposed to go and visit Juan's village up the river, where he grew up then come back down to the Lodge on a raft made from logs and rope but it was deemed too dangerous with the river at such a speed with the added extra of trees that could smash the boat up. So instead they went to try and find the local Shaman to come and visit us but unfortunately he was out shopping! So eventually they managed to bring the Shaman from the neighbouring village instead.We all sat in a semi circle in the hammock area and the Shaman took off his shirt and put lots of beads round him. He was only little and looked quite old. To get into the right state he drinks the sugar alcohol, like what we had at the museum and lights up a dried banana leaf, like a cigar. Juan requested three volunteers, Leah went first, then me then Andy, then they added Sinead at the end. He has a bunch of dried leaves that he shakes rounds you head while blowing smoke into your hair. Then he makes this strange noise to almost blow the evil spirits away, using the smoke and the leaves, and blows in the middle of your head. After he starts to whistle a tune then hums a tune then starts singing as he shakes the leaves over your head, towards then end he strokes the leaves around you, like he's cleaning your aura or something. It takes about 3 minutes but when its happening to you it feels like 20 minutes, you feel all woozy and relaxed afterwards it was lovely. Then Juan handed round a hot lemon tasting drink that had the leaves from the jungle and A LOT of the sugar alcohol as a kind of end of ritual drink which makes us even more sleepy. Leah and I then sleep until lunchtime, luckily I put my alarm on as we were out of it!Unfortunately I couldn't hold my lunch down again but didn't want to miss the Animal Sanctuary Amazona that we went to next on the river again. We arrived and met our guide called Ben who was American. He was quite odd, he had the lightest blue eyes I've ever seen, translucent pale skin and brown hair but no social skills at all, it was so bizarre. He said he had come to the Sanctuary just like us then decided to come back the following year to volunteer, he'd only been there for 3 weeks and was studying Political Science, all the oddness made sense then! The Sanctuary never refuses any animals that people bring which can be from the jungle, old pets, animals that have been sold illegally and it is funded purely through donations and run by volunteers, quite amazing. Under no circumstances are you allowed to touch the animals as they try to get them ready to go back into the wild but sometimes its not possible as they'd never survive. They have Woolly Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Agotis, Capubaras, Coatis, Ocelots, Crocodiles, Caiman, Squirrel Monkeys, Trumpet birds, Toucans and Macau's. When we were there we also saw Congo Ants, I had already seen one at our lodge but did not realise how painful their bite is which is why they are also know as Bullet Ants as when they bite you it feels like you have been shot. They are black and are about an inch long and 5mm wide. One of the volunteers had been bitten that morning and was still in pain, it was about 3pm by then! After leaving some donations we then went by boat to a village where they showed us how they make their pottery, how they carve animals, fruit etc out of this soft light wood. I bought a strawberry bowl, more for a donation than something that I wanted as they didn't charge us to demonstrate and it was the least we could do.We then had a walk round the village where I saw my first Honkey! Also we noticed that the girls were so young to have children but apparently they get married as young as 14 years in the tribes/villages, and the men are allowed to have more than one wife if they can afford it. Juan said he only has one wife and that's expensive as it is with all the children, so he will be sticking to just the one wife.Back to the lodge where I missed dinner to rest but got up to watch a family sing and dance a traditional dance/song, which they then all got us up to do with them, no-one felt awkward at all especially when you had to do a solo in the middle of the circle! The kids were really sweet, though I felt bad that we were all so subdued from illness/hangover.Next morning we went up to Juan's village where we saw his school and how they lived. When we arrived the women were doing the washing in the river. We walked for about 10 minutes that took us into the heart of the village and we went into the school first. Their were two little boys learning to write English vowels with their teacher, probably more for our benefit as it was school holidays there. The houses are on stilts, its almost like going into a tree house. The kitchen is all open plan with a wood fire burning for a stove. Next to there are hammocks were there are some children sleeping and a TV in the corner which did not fit in with the surroundings! Round the corner was the sleeping area where everyone slept, the averaged sized family is about 15 people to one house, there were children everywhere! But very cute. They made us this drink that is made with water and a mashed potato like vegetable that turns into a milky substance when mixed with water called Quicha. It was like sour milk/ yoghurt, and not very nice but the kids are fed this about 8 times a day when they are growing up, it's a main stable of their diet, I suppose the same way cow's milk is in our culture for kids.After said our goodbyes and made some donations we then got ready for our raft ride back down the river and it was now raining so we were wet already. It was much more stable than I thought and great fun but my the water was cold! Going over the white water areas was hilarious and we took it in turns to paddle at the back. At one point we passed the army doing their moving target shooting, luckily they saw us and stopped until we had passed!Once back at the lodge we showered and changed, paid our bar bills and said our goodbyes. Then it was back in the boat back to Puerto Misahualli where we had left the truck for 3 days. I then had a lovely long snooze as we headed south to Banos.