Published: July 23rd 2009June 30th 2009
Arrived in Puyo expecting jungle. Was surprised to find out that the Lonely Planet description of a large town obsessed with the internet and American jeans was actually closer to the truth that monkeys and mosquitos. In fact, miracle of miracles, I managed to escape from the jungle without a single mosquito bite (this truly is a miracle as I´m normally the buffet for any kind of insect.)
Have an amazing hostel in Flor de Canela which is full of little bridges and walkways with cabins hidden everywhere - figured it´s better to pay more for a decent hostel than end up sharing a bargain one with lots of creepy-crawlies.
Our first foray was into town to find food and a tour. The first was very easy, the second not so easy. I was expecting finding a jungle tour in Puyo to be like finding a Galapagos tour in Quito - literally every other store offering them but they seemed a lot scarcer (either that or we were up the wrong end of town.) Finally found a very nice, indigenous-run tour agency where we managed to buy a tour for $35 for the day even though we were the
only two on the tour!
Awoke the next morning in the pouring rain. I´m not kidding when I say jungle rain is hard, the place was literally flooded and we needed waterproof ponchos just to get to the taxi. We arrived at the office prepared to be told it´s too wet and the trip had been postponed, but no. Patricio, our guide, actually seemed to think the rain was a good thing and the jungle always looks better when wet. No comment. We geared up in wellingtons and giant yellow ponchos (why yellow? no-one looks good in yellow!) and set of in a camionetta sitting inside unfortunately as it was too wet for even me to want to ride in the back.
We were still the only ones on the tour (I guess everyone had been put off by the rain) with the exception of an Ecuadorian girl who I assume was related to or worked for the guide, I never found out as she barely opened her mouth all day. She did, however, manage to do the entire trek in skinny jeans, full make-up and crochet ballet pumps. I honestly have no idea how but she made
me feel like a complete slob!
We started the trip by going fishing in the rain. Rather, they went fishing, I stuck to my theory of I´ll eat fish but I don´t want to kill any. Unfortunately for me this was a very special kind of fish that just doesn´t die. Apparently it´s very popular in the states as they can ship it alive in crates of ice and it can live for a day or two so it arrives fresh. I wish they would have just killed them, it´s very off-putting to have a bag flopping around in the back of a truck. Starting to feel very bad about the fact we´ll be eating them later.
Bumped into a very large group of Americans just about to start their trek with war paint on their faces, plaited headbands on their heads and a guide who was not being very quiet in voicing his opinions about how much he hates gringos (I´m guessing none of the group spoke Spanish, or at least I hope not!) We headed off in the opposite direction, crossing the (rather swollen) river on a rickety bridge that looked about 100 years old. I
know dozens of people must cross it every day but is there really any need to make it look like it will break at any moment??
Started the trek at a pretty impressive pace. Despite the guide being smaller than me (unusual at the best of times, unheard of in men) and his friend being completely innappropriately dressed I was struggling to keep up. The sodden mud that served as a trail certainly didn´t help matters!
Patricio our guide was very good and seemed to delight in finding the weirdest stuff he could. The list of very useful plants which it is unfortunately illegal to smuggle home include plants to stop snoring, to make babies sleep, to cure bad moods, one that looked like giant bunny ears (I´m not quite sure that comes under the label of úseful´but it´s certainly amusing, and giant leaves on stalks that he used as an umbrella (and amazingly remained drier than us in our thick ponchos.) Even more entertaining was the jungle telephone box. Basically a weird tree that grows with human-sized dips in it (which with the giant leaf are perfect for sheltering from the rain) which you then bash with
rocks. The echo is amazing and the jungle-inhabitants have codes for everything from ´lost - please come find me´to ´help, very big animal trying to eat me´.
The rain still hadn´t let up by the time we finally reached the waterfall. A few guys had been crazy enough to go under it while all the girls there stood huddled on the bank. I thought I needn´t to prove we´re not all pathetic so made the dubious decision to go in the freezing water in the freezing rain (another very good use for giant ponchos is getting changed under them I found!) Can´t say it was the best decision of my life as it was truly freezing and the ground seemed to made up entirely of pointed rocks designed to stick into your feet. Still, it was very refreshing at least! (for refreshing read excruciatingly cold!)
Headed off after our swim by the same route to take a camioneta to the indigenous village. Found a few more creepy-crawiles on the way including the most ginormous cricket-thing ever and a deadly poisonous spider the size of my little fingernail. Always good to be warned. Personally I was backing away from
the much larger spiders on the opposite side of the path when the guide told me to stay away from the much smaller (and more dangerous) one I was currently backing into!
Arrived not at the indigenous village but at the home of Patricio´s family (he really isn´t into tourism apparently and hates taking groups to the ´tourist-crap´as he calls it. I didn´t like to mention that perhaps being a tour guide isn´t an ideal job if you don´t like tourists!) Fish fortunately had stopped flapping (poor little things) and we tried to dry off by the fire as they started preparing food. The way to do this is gut the fish, stuff them with peppers and onions, then wrap them in leaves (grabbed from outside the window) which are then tied into bundles with some straw-like thing (also grabbed from outside the window) and then smoked over the open fire. Took absolutely ages but was delicious.
It was still chucking it down so the canoes were starting to look less likely. Patricio insisted it would probably let up any minute (he´s been saying this all day) so we decided to keep ourselves occupied by trying out blow
darts. Normally used to hunt monkeys (though there was one skin of a sloth - I think it´s distinctly unfair to hunt something that slow personally) we used to much more humane and eco-friendly end of a log as our target. I was actually reasonably good at it though one of Patricio´s myriad cousins had to show off by doing a William Tell and hitting and apple with the dart.
We carried on walking to the river but the rain had been going strong now for about 16 hours so the river was dangerously strong. Sadly no canoe ride but we did find several parrots trying to shelter from the rain who were only too happy to pose for photos. Went to visit the turtles instead who were actually out in full force due to the rain. However, I was having the same problem all day that it´s too dark under the canopy half the time to take pictures without flash so my turtle pictures did not come out fantastically well.
Ended the day by trekking up to a viewpoint. Should have given us a clue when the guides told us they´d wait at the bottom for us.
Turned out to be quite a trek and the rain certainly hadn´t helped matters by turning the trail into a mini river. Still, got up in one piece and the view was certainly worth it!
The guide and his cousin eventually came up to join us and decided to make things more fun by trying out the tarzan swing they´d set up. Literally just a rope looped over a tree branch that swung out a few hundred feet above the canopy. Needless to say, I was not stupid enough to try it. Apparently the only one stupid enough to try it is Patricio´s cousin who promptly set about doing monkey impressions whilst swinging one-handed. Would not have been funny if the rope had slipped (or the branch had broken which it looked like it was about to do any minute) but he seemed fine, joking that he´d have a long time top wave goodbye if he did fall!
There are more photos below