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Published: November 2nd 2013
We have just arrived back at our accomodation Banana Lodge in the small village of Misahualli in the Ecuador Oriente region, after spending three days in the jungle. We arrived in Misahualli from Baños five days ago, and spent the first two days mainly laying in hammocks enjoying the sun and the relaxing surroundings. Even though, we did not only
lay in hammocks, but also spent quite a bit of time also observing the wild monkeys inhabiting the village central square: it was extremely entertaining to watch one of them steal the hat of an unfortunate French lady, then play with it, and then angrily attack a man who tried to take the trophy away from it. We were instructed to take care of our cameras, as apparently those sneaky things can snatch them too - I don't know if our travel insurance would cover losing our cameras to a monkey...
The next day we took a trip to neighboring town Tena with intentions to visit an island inhabiting all kinds of interesting creatures, such as tapirs, but only to find that access to the island was closed. Too bad, even though the 20 minute bus trip was necessary in
any case, since we needed cash, and the nearest ATM is located in Tena. Credit cards are usually not accepted here in Ecuador, and even when they are, it costs a lot of money to pay with them, for some reason.
In the morning of day three our jungle guide Enrique and his assistant Edmundo came to pick us from Banana Lodge to begin our three day jungle adventure tour. After a short drive by car, we headed to the wilderness. It was a four hour jungle trek, during which Enrique told us about plants, birds, insect etc we observed on the way. Our Spanish studies really paid off again, firstly it would have been nearly impossible to find an English speaking guide, and second we could actually understand a lot of what he was telling, as he was very good at explaining things simply and clearly. We saw for example a cinnamon tree, a rubber tree, and a giant grass hopper jumping around. The first two were interesting, but the third encounter I did not particularly enjoy - it was insectwise one of the creepiest creatures I have ever seen. After we reached our camping site, we took
a much needed refreshing dip into the small river to rinse off all the sweat and dirt of the jungle. While we bathed, Enrique and Edmundo set up our tent and a fireplace made of palm leaves. It felt a bit awkward just standing and watching them work, but then again, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. And well, by the time we had sat by the campfire and eaten the tasty meal of chicken, rice and vegetables prepared by them, we were already feeling too lazy to offer help with the dishes, and leaning more towards considering ourselves as expensively paying customers 😉 Actually, at 60USD per day per person, we cannot say that the trip was awfully expensive..
The first night in the jungle was probably the highlight of the trip for me, or at least definitely one of the highlights. Our guides went to bed immediately after dinner when it started to get dark, even though it wasn't much later than 5pm - in the jungle darkness comes very early because much light doesnt get through the high and thick vegetation once dusk starts to set in. When Leo and I remained sitting by
the campfire, we started to see a lot of fireflies, looking like sparkles flying around. They were attracted by our campfire, I suppose, and unfortunately quite a few ended up facing their death in the flames after flying too close. When those creatures are not flying, all you can see of them in the dark is a pair of turquis glowing spots resembling eyes. Later when we were inside the tent, this looked quite spectacular, since all we could see in addition to total, utter darkness, were large patches of turquis glow in the places where fire flies were gathered together, and there were lots of them! Not to mention listening to the sounds of the nightly jungle - it's hard to imagine how much sounds mainly insects, joined by the random frog or bird, can produce. Even I, inspite not being a big fan of insects, enjoyed listening to the nightly consert of grass hoppers while laying in the pitch dark tent. Ok, we were under the safety of mosquito net, so there wasn't much chance of any of them jumping on us by surprise.
Day two started by breakfast by the campfire, followed by somewhat shorter trek
to reach our night quarter for the second night: the home of an indigenous family living in the jungle. I thought this could be an interesting part of the trip, and it was of course that, but at the same time we didn't fully enjoy our time at the family's home. Firstly, when we arrived, it seemed they didn't know beforehand we were going to come and didn't seem overly welcoming, perhaps for that reason. They were also relatives of Enrique, and after arriving, he appeared to focus on socializing with them. So we felt kind of out of place, and didn't have much to do, except to hang our by ourselves. Enrique did take us for a swim at the river again, and later, after we got bored and asked if there is something to see, for a walk to the nearby banana plantations. Also, immediately after our arrival everyone, including our guides, suddenly ran to the river. This was because dynamite fishing was taking place, so being left behind we observed that for a while. Those people commonly use dynamite for fishing, so fishing mostly means swimming in the river trying to catch the dead dish floating in
the stream. Another common fishing method is to use a poisonous plant to kill the fish, again then just picking up the dead fishes from the water.
The family, as well as other people in the region, lived in a very simple, partially open house consisting of an open living room area, a small kitchen and two small bedrooms. They had no other furniture besides hard wooden dining table, benches, beds, and two hammocks for relaxation. They also didn't have running water, or toilet, not even a non-water toilet outdoors. In this house, altogether 11 people are living (not all were present), and apparently it's common for families to have 10+ children even today. It appeared the children also work quite hard, as we saw the kids do laundry, babysit, pick fruits and fish after school. It didn't seem there are many similarities between their lifestyle and ours. Probably not between them and Ecuadorians in cities either.
After the night on the family's hard floor on top of thin sleeping mattrass, we woke up to day 3 at dawn, while the family was already up and about to leave to sell their produce at a local market. The
night before we had seen spectacular, almost nonstop, lightning in the horizon, and there was heavy rain and thundering during the night, causing loud noise against the roof made of corrugated steel. Morning was a bit grey, but it turned out to be another sunny, and HOT day. After breakfast we left for a walk with Enrique, this time involving a river crossing on foot, and later by a small canoe. I wonder if they have many accidents with the dynamite fishing, because while we were crossing, there was again someone blowing dynamite. Luckily at a safe distance, but at least Enrique's father-in-law had lost both of his hand in that business long time ago. We walked to a local school, next to which there were several small market stalls owned by local families, including the one of our hosts. They all seemed closed, but the daughter of the hosts opened their stall for us on her break from school, and we stopped for a well deserved shared beer on the porch.
That was the last activity of our jungle adventure, and after returning to the house, it was lunch and back to Banana Lodge in Misahualli. Or not
quite, to reach Misahualli, we had to still walk a reasonable distance in quite demanding terrain. Then we were supposed to catch a motor boat, but apparently there had been a confusion regarding time - the boat only met us after we had already given up, and started the journey with a borrowed canoe. We switched to the motor boat then to speed up our progress. The boat trip was quite nice, cool breeze and last views of the thick and green riverside jungle. Then it was a totally full (some passengers sitting on the roof) bus, which dropped us on the road 2 kilometers away from the village. During the walk it started to rain - and a while later it was pouring. Back at the Banana Lodge, we said goodbye to the guides, had some coffee with the Russian owner, Anna, and retired to our room for some blogging and reading. We will stay in Misahualli one more day, just to rest in the hammocks after the hard jungle adventure, then the plan is to head to the capital, Quito.
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