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Published: December 20th 2010
Do not ever use Taxi Express to get from Quito to anywhere - they arrived early, wandered aimlessly around Quito for almost 2 hours cramming people in and taking ages to place and cover luggage that they had put on top of the van. We missed our transfer to the hacienda and when we finally got dropped off there every item in each of our packs was soaking wet. grrr.
The Hakuna Matata hacienda was beautiful - the people, the rooms, the horses, the surrounding river and jungle, the hummingbirds and other wildlife, the views - we loved it and wished we had more than our 3 days.
Our first activity after late lunch was horse riding. Through the river and jungle and past a small village.
Next day we visited a local school (wish I'd had resources to give) and wandered around the outskirts of the village with the chooks learning about and using local plants for food, weaving and medicine.
Further up the river we checked out Amazoonica which is an animal rescue, refuge and rehab centre in the jungle manned by volunteers. The animals come from police raids on smugglers, pets or failed zoos and
some are unable to be rehabilitated due to injuries or not knowing appropriate behaviours but others are treated by the vets and reacclimatised to the jungle (even the cages are just pieces of jungle fenced off) to be put back in appropriate places. We saw woolly monkeys, maccaws, jaguaroonies, caimen, turtles, toucans, spider monkeys, ocelots and more.
Then for a hike in the jungle. Whilst we were in the animal refuge our guide, Fausto had made hats for each of us and Natassja was christened 'chica de la selva' girl of the jungle. The plant and animal life were impressive as we entered primary jungle and in parts reminiscent of Australian rainforest (not the part where Wayne clipped a koala to a twig and called the guide back to identify what kind of animal it was... much laughter and Fausto now wears it proudly on his hat and has been seen re-enacting the scene to others). We saw a poison arrow frog (tiny, beautiful and toxic), giant ferns and massive fungi and heard loads of monkeys and birds but foliage too dense to see them.
Day 3 we said goodbye to our our new friends at Hakuna Matata
and embarked on a rafting journey down Amazon tributaries in water surprisingly cold (not that surprising when you find out its coming off glaciers in the mountains). So much fun: lost the guide unexpectedly; got stuck on a huge rock in the middle of the river; played river rodeo (sitting astride the front whilst bouncing through rapids); swam in a small crystal clear creek; picnicked on the beach; capsized (Wayne did not like the raft flipping us all out but he survived); had our faces painted in a small canyon with giant fish eating spiders for company; went for a paddle in the safety kayak and finished with a cold beer in the back of a ute on our way to Tena for our transfer back to Quito (unfortunately with the same taxi express guy).
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