A four day jungle trip to the Amazonas seemed to be a great idea to finish our Ecuador visit. From Quito it took an eleven hours bus drive to the Cuyabeno Natianal Park and a three hour canoe ride to the Guacamayo Eco Lodge. Caymens, anacondas,10 species of monkeys, over 530 species of birds and 350 fish species were waiting for us to be discovered and we were excited to be so remote from civilisation.
By the end of the first day we were asking ourselves why we had signed up for this trip. Especially after our guide Ossi explained the dangers of the jungle whilst also pointing out the giant tarantula in the roof of the dining hut over our heads, and warning us of horseflies that cause nasty bites and leave eggs under the skin. A look into Sam’s eyes told me that we were not jungle material and every inch of our rustic bamboo hut was inspected on a daily basis for snakes and hairy spiders. Bare in mind that after dinner we had no lights in the lodge but candles and our head lamps.
We explored the jungle through different ways and one of these was by canoe, watching out for birds, monkeys and caymens. Especially after sunset it was pretty creepy being on the river when you could see bugger all but orange eyes staring at you from all directions.
We also had the chance to go swimming with piranhas but we both gave it a miss and decided to keep ten toes and fingers. It was also not necessary to get in the water to see scary fish as they often jumped into our canoe making all the girls scream. It was hilarious!
Our night walk though the jungle was my absolute nightmare. To avoid any creepy insects on my skin, I was dressed with long trousers, long sleeve shirt and a protection on my head. I was covered in my own sweat with hundreds of moth in my face and some other creatures flying in my ears. No, this was nothing I would enjoy especially after we had been told not to touch any leaves or branches as everything could be venomous and deadly.
We were not only here to see the wildlife but also to get some survival tips a la Bear Grylls in case we get lost in a jungle. On our three hour hike through dense forest, again trying not to touch anything we were shown how to survive without food and water. We found jungle mushrooms and a kind of coconut that had water and a tasty worm inside, or a leaf that was so poisonous that it can be used for fish hunting. Simply thrown into the water the poisoned fish will come minutes later dead to the surface. Fortunately the poison has no affect on the human body. We saw giant Ceabo trees, which are well known from the movie Avatar. When you hit this tree with a stick it will be heard for hundreds of metres and useful when trying to attract attention. Also we found roots the can be used for mosquito protection and leaves that ease the pain after bits and stings. A special kind of branch can be used as cigarettes and one kind of plant that had ants and their eggs hidden in it which could be licked off to protect from dehydration. What a jungle delicacy!
There are 5 different tribes living along the Rio Guyabeno and we visited one of them to learn more about the preparation of yuca bread, which tasted great with a bit a chilli and tuna.
Each tribe has a Shaman who takes care of them when they are sick. Shaman Thomas introduced us to his spiritual work and explained how we cures his patients. Thomas started learning the shaman knowledge when he was 12 years from his granddad who was one of the most famous shamans in Ecuador. With 40 he graduated and it is said that he is a very powerful shaman. He demonstrated one ritual to clean people and to get rid of a bad aura. Thomas explained that he had 5 students at the moment from all over world who stay for months and years and learn from him until they were ready to graduate. He is a truly fascinating man.
From 6 am on people from the lodge could be found on the high wooden stand watching the forest wake up to the sound of monkeys and birds
Although this was a magnificent show I have to admit that I rather would dive with hundreds of sharks before I would do another jungle trip. Spiders, snakes, jungle cockroaches and bullet ants made me paranoid and you are constantly looking over your shoulder or checking your chair. From the distance of being back in the city we can truly appreciate and laugh about it however it would take a lot to get us back in the jungle.