The Amazon


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August 6th 2011
Published: August 25th 2011
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August 6th
We were introduced this morning to Gus (short for Agustus) who is our truck and will be our home for the next 3 weeks. As a great introduction we were stuck on there for 6 hours as we drove to an incredible eco lodge, Shangrila, just outside of Tena where we will be for the next 3 nights. It is an amazing colection of tree house type structures situated on a cliff above a huge river and overlooking miles of forest. After lunch we headed out for a ¨walk¨through the jungle which actually turned out to be a walk/trek/canyoning adventure. I had tons of fun and it was a great introduction to the Amazon. We began just walking through the jungle, learning about different types of plants, before starting to walk through a stream. We were all given rainboots but from the beginning mine leaked. Eventually we reached a small waterfall/canyon and our guides told us we were going to climb up and through the small space between the rocks. Everyone thought they were joking at first but they werent and so we wedged ourselves between the rock faces and scooted up. It then continued into a full out canyon with super skinny parts and winding passages. I loved it! When we finally made it back to the lodge everyone was wet, dirty, and tired. After dinner there was some hammocking overlooking the jungle and the sunset and then off to bed.

August 7th
Today we went by motor canoe to visit an animal santuary. It was very cool to see and it sounded really similar to what I will be volunteering at in Bolivia. Their mission is to rehabilitate the animals and release as many as they can back into the wild, so it is more than just a zoo. The best part was the hundreds of squirrel monkeys all over the refuge just hanging out or jumping from tree to tree. I had done a project on the monkeys of Costa Rica in elementary school and the squirrel monkeys were definitely my favorite. Back at the lodge we started out next adventure, rafting down the river on rafts of connected intertubes. We drove upstream and then floated back down towards our lodge. Along the way we stopped at a Quichuan village (the native Ecuadorian people) to learn about their lifestyle and to join in a small game of soccer, locals versus foreigners. Of course we lost, but we put up a good fight. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the float on the river was relaxing and we could get off and swim if we wanted. Overall, a wonderful day!

August 8th
Canyoning was today! We were promised we would be soaked and we were not disappointed. The hike went through a river again and there were three waterfalls we climbed up using a rope. With the beautiful waterfalls and the sun shining in through the trees it was just amazingly gorgeous and tons of fun! After leaving the river we hiked over a ridge, going up for ages, and then finally a never-ending downhill. We ended at a road and took a 5 minute truck ride to a natural swimming pool area. Lunch was the most delicious hamburger I have had in a long time, probably partly because we were starving after the hike. The natural pool had a cliff to jump off and a ¨slide¨that was actually pretty brutal and churned you around a bit before spitting you out into the pool. But it was a lot of fun. A truck ride backto the lodge and a hot shower before relaxing in the hammocks until dinner. I finished my first book, Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder, a very interesting book about the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi. I hadnt known much about those genocides so it was very informative as well as well written, I definitely recommend it. Our last night here and tomorrow we leave for another long drive to Banos.

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