The old saying says there is no pleasure without pain! Well this is exactly what i was thinking when i left the Galapagos and headed onto the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle. Let´s face it with a nickname like ´high maintenance girl´ it´s a wonder i even considered going to the jungle. But on my RTW trip so far i´ve done and experienced lots of things which i´ve never done before so this was another one which i had to add to my ´been there, done that´list. So i tried to forget my huge fear of spiders, bugs, cockroaches and rats (most of you should have heard that story) for a few days on my visit to the jungle.
I left Quito on plane to Lago Agrio which is in the north of Ecuador. The initial pain was experienced soon after this in the shape of a 3 hour extremely bumpy road trip to journey closer to the jungle.
After the road trip we had a 2 hour boat ride along the Cuyabeno river to the Samona Lodge. This was relatively painless apart from getting a sore neck from looking up at the huge trees which lined the river. We saw quite a bit of birdlife along the way and 4 different types of monkeys which were great fun to watch.
I was pleasantly surprised when we made it to the lodge. I shared a room with Jennifer from Canada who was lovely and the added bonus was she wasn´t as scared of all things bug like as i am so she could do all the cockroach and spider killing when it was needed in our cabin.
We were supposed to go out on a late night walk that night but it was a bit late so we just sat down for dinner. 16 of us on the trip and one million ants, flying ants and wasps. It really was a bit of a nightmare. You had to eat and drink so quickly as it was the only way you could enjoy your dinner before the bugs got to it.
We were up early the following morning for an early morning birdwatching trip. It was just like being back on safari in India. Up at 5am to sit and hope that the wildlife would be out on show. However, it was worth it. We saw lots of beautiful birds and the best bit was that we saw some pink dolphins. I had been thinking that our guide ´George of the Jungle´was joking that there were dolphins in the amazon but i was glad that he proved there were. They were gorgeous. Unfortunately, they were a bit quick for my camera so no good photos to remember them by.
After our early morning walk we had breakfast and got kitted out for our first walk in the Amazon Rainforest. Prepared for anything with my wellies, poncho, sunglasses, sunblock and mosquito spray we headed into the jungle. It was there that i encountered my first tarantula. Boy are they big and scary!! I also saw some other big spiders and some more birds. Fortunately and unfortunately we didn´t come across any snakes!!
In the afternoon we went piranha fishing. Now i´ve never fished before and i never thought i would but i have to say it was great fun. Our fishing rods were a bit primative but they seemed to do the trick - well 2 out of 7 of them did. We caught two fish between us. George of the Jungle caught the first and the second bigger one was caught by a Danish guy Johs who from now on was nicknamed Tarzan (a relief because i couldn´t pronounce his real name!) See the photos of the piranahs teeth. Sharp!!
The next activity of the afternoon was a swim whilst enjoying the sunset over the Laguna Grande. Scarily this was only a few metres away from where we fished. I assume that the piranahs weren´t man eating ones but decided it was probably better not to ask.
We went back for another dinner with a million flies before we went out for a night walk in the rainforest. I was actually quite scared heading out in the dark and so ended up with a fit of the giggles for the whole walk (well if i didn´t laugh i´d have been crying and that wouldn´t have been good!) The rainforest was a bit wet and we ended up wading through it up to our knees. Dry enough for most of us apart from Ann who for some reason had been given short wellies which only went half way up her shins. Rather her than me. Needless to say that provided a lot of laughs.
George of the Jungle proved that he was king of the jungle by catching a 60cm long fish which he somehow spotted swimming along by his ankles. He whipped out his knife and stabbed it in the neck. Pretty impressive. It did make me wonder though what else was in the water that i couldn´t see. I dread to think!
The next day we went for another trip along the river Cuyabeno and then we did a walk in another part of the rainforest. This was an interesting walk because as well as seeing more wildlife George of the Jungle taught us how to survive in the wild. He taught us which plants produced poison, how to make weapons for hunting animals and which plants would provide us with water and medicine if we needed them. Unfortunately, at one point we all stopped to listen in the middle of a trail of bullet ants. Before we knew it we were covered in them all the way from our feet up past our waists and they were biting/nipping us. It was big time pain but funny at the same time. A few people even had to strip off because it was the only way for them to get the ant out of their clothes and underwear!
After, our walk we ended up at a traditional tribal village where we met the shaman. This is a priest like person in the tribe who has the ability to diagnose and cure human suffering and illnesses. The Shaman is highly respected and we were told by George of the Jungle that we were to respect him and listen to what he had to say carefully. He added that we weren´t to laugh at him. Cue the Shaman dressed in a v funny outfit and cue Veronica´s next fit of the giggles. I managed to compose myself enough to volunteer to be ´cleaned´ by the shaman. I thought this a good idea as the showers in the jungle aren´t very strong and are cold so cleaning in another form might make me feel better. Also, i now had a cold so if he could help that then that would be an added bonus. I turns out cleaning by the Shaman involves him shaking some banana leaves at you and singing out of tune songs. Afterwards he goes away and drinks some natural drink which has halucinating effects and then i should be all better. Sounds like an excuse for the Shaman to get high to me!!
One guy in our group who is living in Ecuador ended up staying behind to try some of these drinks with the Shaman because he wanted to learn more about the culture. Again sounds like an excuse to get high to me!
So that is the story of my jungle adventure. It is a beautiful place in a different way from the Galapagos islands. It was also surprisingly a lot of fun. Again, this was helped by the great people who were on the trip with me. I keep worrying that my luck will run out - it can´t be possible to meet lovely, funny people everywhere i go but I seem to be managing it so far.
Tonight I leave Quito for Lima and tomorrow i start my GAP Adventure trip which lasts for a month and takes me through Peru, Bolivia, back to Chile and ends up in Argentina. I´m sure that will hold many adventures for me!!
Chat soon amigos. Love V xx