A Travellerspoint blog

Ecuador

Cuenca and Quito

overcast 17 °C

Day 85 - 91

Cuenca

We spent seven nights here in a two bedroom house that we rented on flip key from John and Barbie from the USA. It was a great week, our last week of the trip. We only went out to eat in restaurants for lunch and really enjoyed cooking our own breakfast and dinner as well as having the space to spread out.

The weather is Cuenca is always spring, although this time of year we did experience some rain as well. They always have flowers and veggies and fruit growing.

We didn't do too much as this was a week to relax and wind down from some hectic weeks prior.

There are many expats living here, and almost the first question you get is, "are you looking to move here?"

I can see why it is attractive however. Costs are low, weather is pleasant and health care is good and very affordable.

We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out with our hosts and another couple Joanne and Kevin from White Rock. Both couples are just four of many who have decided to live here full time. Most, like them, rent rather than buy. They were around our age and had many funny and interesting stories to share.

We did visit the Main museum and found it one of the best we have been in as well as a smaller one, which had handicrafts from all over South America.

A tourist bus tour one day and walked around the main square a few times and found a hammock to bring home.

I spent a day at a spa getting myself cleaned up to come home. What would have cost over $200 at home was only $60 here.

A visit to two 'Panama Hat' factories where we bought a few hats for ourselves and the kids. It is so interesting how they make them. They take palm leaves and cook them and weave them and shape them into hats. All Panama hats are from Ecuador but when they were building the Panama canal they were all outfitted with these hats, so they got to be known as 'Panama Hats'. The fellow we bought ours from has sent hats to Madonna, Prince Charles, Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp. And now the Pattersons.

We also walked along the river a few times which was very pleasant. We really liked Cuenca and can see why so many move here, although it would not be what we would choose for ourselves.
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Day 92 and 93

Quito

Our flight from Cuenca to Quito had us arrive at 2pm and this was the first time we saw the mountains and the sun. Quito is a beautiful city and we finally got to see it without the rain and clouds.

We visited another amazing small museum, Mindalae with displays from the Oriente region of Ecuador, the Huorani tribes. We recognized so many of the items in the museum from our trip to the jungle.

A visit to the San Francisco monastery and church and another amazing museum, Casa de Abalado which housed pottery and artifacts that were beautifully displayed. I think that Ecuador has some of the best displayed museums of any we have seen in the world.

On our way home from dinner, close to our hotel, we see many police dressed in fancy uniforms and musical instruments ready to perform. There is a road blocked off and many other police with machine guns lined up.

We asked someone what was going on and was told that the president of Ecuador, Correa, is in the building. We walked down the street, past the building and all the police and even walked between the two SUVs, one for the President and the other his security. Doug had a back pack on and no one said anything to us. Can you imagine if that was Mulroney or Obama? We would not have gotten anywhere near the place.

All too soon it seems it is time to head home. We are on the plane now, Quito to Miami, then to LAX and finally arrive Vancouver at midnight where we have to overnight and take the sea plane the next day.

We were so blessed to have all of these amazing adventures over the past year. We loved every country that we visited, but I think that if I had to choose a favourite in South America it would be Ecuador with Bolivia coming in second. But they were all fantastic and each one had its own charm.

Thanks for following along with us. We are both looking forward to being home for a while and enjoying our beautiful island this summer.

Posted by debbep 20:24 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands

sunny 35 °C

Day 77

3:45AM just seemed too early to to go to the airport but off we went. We had to first line up to purchase a $10 Galapagos ticket and then have our luggage scanned and tagged. They want to be sure that no outside fruit or vegetables get to the islands .

There are a few school groups heading to the Galapagos, one we met from Calgary on Spring Break. Lucky kids. Our flight left on time and we found out that there is an hour time change on the islands. We are now only one hour difference from home. All visitors must pay $100 US cash park fee upon arrival to visit the Galapagos.

A five minute cab ride, (in a Toyota pick up) and we are at our hotel at 930AM. Thankfully our room was ready for us and the owner asked if we would like a city tour. Sure, why not. His brother and wife picked us up in their pick up truck and in ten minutes we had seen where most of the major sites within walking distance were. It was a great way to get our bearings.

The Main Street is the tourist area and on the waterfront with many shops and restaurants. Sea-lions are everywhere. They are smaller than our sea lions, almost seal looking, but there are hundreds of them in various shades of black, brown and blonde. They are laying not only on the beach but on the boardwalk as well, quite used to humans and very tame. We also see large iguanas walking down the Main Street. Welcome to the Galapagos.

We are now on the island of St. Cristobal which is one of many in this chain but there are only a couple inhabited by people. We will spend two nights here before meeting up with a five day cruise that we booked.

After walking around the town and having lunch we went back to the room for a rest. It is so hot here. Incredibly humid and hot which I was not expecting.

The evening however is very pleasant and we walked around the edge of the ocean and then had dinner. The sun sets at 6:30P here as we are on the equator.

Day 78.

The man from the hotel drove us to a beach called The Loberia at 830AM. We walked down a path and then along the shoreline looking at various birds, iguanas and crabs on the beach. There was a small bay that we were told to snorkel in and it was lovely. Huge turtles in groups, some the size of me, just lazing on the bottom of the ocean and coming up for a gulp of air every now and then. I had to move out of their way they were so close. We saw a number of tropical fish as well and it was a great morning and only a couple of other snorkelers in the water with us and the turtles.

Victor picked us up from the beach at 11:30AM as arranged and after we changed our clothes we walked to town to get some lunch and then out to the Interpretative centre. It was a lot longer than we thought it would be, and only felt so tiring because it was so incredibly hot. We quickly went through the centre reading the various boards and then started on the board walk towards the hills to see some birds. The problem is that there is not any shade. All the plants are very low bushes so we are in the blazing sun all the time. We came to a crossroads. To the right was the 200 stairs up to the lookout to see the birds. To the left was the beach.
We chose the beach.
The first beach had large waves and quite an undertow, and a few surfers. Tempting as it was we continued on to Playa Man which was a lot more swimmer friendly. Sea lions are suntanning next to the sunbathers on the beach.

Cooled off from our swim we flagged a cab, but because we were wet he made us sit in the back of the truck which was fine with us.

The town of Puerto Moreno is really charming, laid back, lots of tourists but I can see spending a lot of time here. There are many beaches and attractions (animals) that you can see just on this island.
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Day 79

Luckily our hotel let us hang out for the morning until it was time to meet our group at 1PM. We were driven to the airport and met up with Harry, our guide from the ship. We were waiting for three more to arrive from Quito by plane.
I found out that there are already 7 passengers who have done the northern 5 day trip, and now will stay on board to do the southern five days with us. Harry is German so I ask, are the other passengers English speaking? No, they are all German. This was my fear and one of the first questions that I asked the travel agent before booking. I was assured they were all English speaking.

The first passenger arrives, Christine, late 20s from Switzerland. She speaks German.
The next two arrive, Anthony and his new wife D, mid 20s from Australia. Yeah! Someone to talk to. The other two are a young couple from Japan who speak some English.

We are taken to the boat by zodiac and amazed at the elegance of our home for the next four nights. The Treasure of Galapagos is a first class yacht and very luxurious. I booked this a few weeks ago, there was one room left so I got it for around half price. Our cabin is bigger than some of the hotel rooms we have had and we not only have our own bathroom but a balcony too. It is way more than we every expected or thought we could afford and feeling quite decadent.

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The German thing didn't turn out too badly. Most of them were nice and spoke some english. One single woman kept hanging with us when she could. They are in their late 60s, mid 70s I think. Christine ended up being a great person to hang out with, we have so many of the same interests and she spoke mostly English. We seemed to form an Alliance right away, the Germans and all the new ones, whom Harry spoke English to. Our table their table, Our zodiac, their zodiac.

After being served lunch in the gorgeous dining room Harry gave us an overview about the ship and the itinerary for the next few days.

The Galapagos Islands are a series of islands in the National Park and protected. You can only visit most of them with a certified guide. There is an airport on San Cristobal and also on Baltra, off Santa Cruz. One of the other islands has a couple of hundred people on it as well. A lot of people just visit the islands by land, taking a boat from one to the other doing day trips. We decided to do the five day cruise because they travel at night while you are sleeping.

Our first outing was at 3PM and we took the zodiacs back into town and then a 45 minute bus ride to the other side of the island where they breed the giant tortoises.

We did see a number of them on the walk and also the area where the smaller newborns, (these are two years old) are kept until big enough to be put in the acreage that is the breeding centre. It was all quite interesting.

We, the English, got to know each other after dinner and then off to our rooms at 9 PM for the night. This is not a party ship that is for sure.

The captain started the engines at 2:30AM to move to the next island. We were really rocking and rolling all the way, I had to take a few ginger pills and a sleeping pill to get though the night.

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Day 80

We wake to see a gorgeous white sand beach with aqua blue water, we are at Espana Island and it looks like a postcard for the Caribbean. After breakfast at 7:30A we pick out some snorkel gear and head to the island by zodiac. This is a wet landing, where we jump into the water and make our way to the beach.

We walked the beach for an hour first with Harry telling us about the many colourful iguanas, birds and crabs that we are seeing. Sea lions are all along the beach and none of the animals are the least bit concerned about us.
There are many baby sea lions that are still suckling. I watched as a young one went from female to female smelling for his mom, to have the adults bark and growl at him to 'get lost', They are so amusing. Related to the California sea lion but much smaller.

The snorkelling was disappointing as the visibility was not great.
It appears that none of the Germans swim or snorkel. We seven 'English' take every opportunity to be in the water as long as possible.

Our afternoon outing was a dry landing to the other side of the island for a walk on lava stones to the bluffs. We saw many more sea lions and iguanas, blue footed boobies and Nasca boobies as well as other birds.

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Day 81

We moved during the night again but it was much calmer this time. At 8:30 AM we did a wet landing onto Florencia Island. A very short walk on the sand and we are at Post Office Bay. There are two barrels here and in years long ago the ships would pass through and leave mail for back home. They would then go through all the letters in the barrel to see if there were any for where they were going. The letters were delivered by anyone who was passing through your area.

So we did the same. We left a postcard, (no stamp needed) and will see when and who will deliver it to us. We took one for Abbotsford and will deliver it when we go to Mission next month.

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We walked the beach for a while and then snorkelled again. Once again we were disappointed. We have all done some amazing snorkelling in different parts of the world so the bar is set high. Two other ships came in and so there were many people in the water and again the visibility was not great.

After lunch and a rest the seven of us went back into the zodiacs for a deep water snorkel. Now that's what I am talking about! This time the snorkelling was amazing. So many colourful fish, thousands of them and the sea lions were swimming all around us and playing with us. I had one come right up to my mask to check me out. We saw a large ray and the others saw two white tip sharks, but I missed them.

Doug had a blue footed booby dive into the water in front of him and go down about 12 feet and catch a fish. He said it was amazing. We snorkelled for over an hour until it was time to go back. Finally some great snorkelling, but it was worth the wait.

Once when I raised my head to see where our zodiac was I see that a sea lion has jumped into the boat with our driver. It is very common but so comical.

Shortly after we showered and changed we were back in the boats and this time all of us went to another part of the island for a walk across to the other side. We saw birds, more lava lizards, pink flamingos in the distance and different vegetation.

When we reached the beach on the other side we find a large sea turtle coming out of the water. He turned and went back in when he saw us coming, but we had a great chance to watch him coming in and then swimming off again.

As we walked down the beach we saw more turtles in the water and then we were lucky enough to see some spotted rays close to the shore as well as the sting rays.

We walked across the island again and back to the ship as the sun was going down and painting the sky a brilliant orange and red.

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Day 82

A terrible night of rolling as we travelled to the island of Santa Fe in the night. We were all bleary eyed at breakfast this morning.
We left by zodiac and had a wet landing on the island at 8:30AM. It is already scorching hot out, we are all sweating profusely. Only three of the seven Germans came with us on the walk around the island.

We see many cactus trees in bloom as well as huge Galapagos land iguanas. They are endemic to this island. Being vegetarians and green plant eaters it is slim pickins here now as all the bushes are just coming into leaf. We did see one eating a prickly pear that had fallen from the tree.

Back on the beach to return to the ship the sea lions are spread across the sand between us and the water. We almost have to step over them to pass. So much for the two meter distance rule. Lots of babies again, and they are so funny to watch. One was very curious about D's hat.

I was the last to get into the boat, stepping over the little seals to get there. The waves are active and a little voice told me to place my camera into the zodiac before climbing in. I am glad I listened because I ended up going over backwards knapsack first into the water. Not my finest moment but so happy my camera was okay.

Ten minutes after arriving at the ship the six of us, (The English) put on our suits and set off again in the zodiacs for another snorkel from the zodiac. It was another great day seeing spotted rays, huge tropical fish and again swimming with the playful sea lions.

After a couple of hours we headed back to the boat and set off for our final destination of Santa Cruz island.

Upon arrival everyone went ashore except Doug and I, we had the ship to ourselves. We are spending two more days here so decided to just relax on board and read and listen to music which was great.

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Day 83

We had to get up at 6AM and leave our luggage outside the room before breakfast. We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed into puerto ayora to our waiting bus at 7:30AM and drive across the island. The vegetation is much more lush here, bouganvillia, hibiscus and lots of other tropical flowers and palms line the road. They must get a lot more rain here, it looks more like Hawaii.

A large acerage is at the top of the island and is a private reserve for giant land tortoise. We walk around the property for a while and see many huge tortoise in the grass and also the many ponds. It is very lovely and a great way to see the tourtise.

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The rest of the group got back on the bus to head to the airport to other parts of Ecuador. We said our goodbyes and then waited for an arranged cab to pick us up. Christina was staying a couple of days as well so the thre of us headed back into town,

Our hotel is a lovley oasis with a swimming pool which looks so inviting. It is only 9 am but already sweltering.

We were able to get into our room early and after a siesta we headed to town to explore. It is. Such bigger than San Cristobal and very touristy, with tons of tourists from all over, but I like it. The buildings are all very well made and have some great designs. The tourist strip runs along the water and there is a nice breeze.

We met Christina for dinner and her and I arranged another snorkle trip for the morning.

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Day 84

Christina and I joined 12 others in a very small boat for what we thought was a snorkle tour for three hours. We stoped to look at sea lions first, then there was a walk to look at iguanas on the shore. I did'the go and instead asked if I could snorkle while we waited, which he said yes.
There were not many fish but I did swim with a huge turtle for a while.

Back in the boat to pick up the others and then to a snorkle spot that was quite good. I swam with white tipped and black tipped sharks for a while, tried to follow them but they are fast. They were around four or five feet long. More sea lions and lots of colorful fish,

We got called back to the boat and then stopped to do,this long walk that I was not prepared for. We were supposed to bring good shoes, which I did not know, so after climbing over loose lava rock, in my bathingsuit and sandles, for fifteen minutes I decided to turn back. I waited at the dock for about an hour and a half but got to see lots of rays and sharks in the water .

We headed back to town, I had a siesta and then walked for a few hours. Doug and I went into a number of fantastic art shops and just enjoyed the town. We had a great dinner and now it is time to pack again for our flight tomorrow.

We really enjoyed the Galapagos. It was different from what I expected, in that I had no idea we would be snorkelling for one thing. It was great to see iguanas and birds that are found no where else in the world and protected here. Most of the beaches were gorgeous and the water beautiful shades of blues and greens. To be able to walk amongst these animals and have them not take any notice of you, and feel perfectly safe was amazing.

The landscape is very harsh for the most part, and a lot hotter and humid than I thought possible. It is cooler in the summer months apparently.

There were a lot of other boats ranging from budget to luxury. Apparently this is a place where you really get what you pay for, so not advisable to go budget. If you have a flexible schedule like we did you can get the first class boat for the budget price anyhow.

There were a number of young families, and a lot of people in their mid 20s. The eldest were in their 70s, but not many of them. Everyone for the most part seemed quite fit, as you need to be to do this tour.

I am really glad that we decided to come here, it was a great experience. We are now off to Cuenca for a week.

Posted by debbep 20:55 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The Amazing Amazon

semi-overcast 28 °C

Day 70
Quito. We just went to the main square, had lunch and bought a few supplies. We were bagged from yesterday and needed to prepare for tomorrow, so Quito will wait until we get back to explore.

There are lots of pictures in this one.

Day 71

Roberto picked us up at our hotel at precisely 6AM to start our journey to the jungle. We drove to another hotel to pick up four others from Texas. Marc and his wife Laurie, their 16 year old daughter Anna, and family friend 29 year old Monica.

Our seven hour drive took us north east through some rolling green hills and beautiful scenery. This part of Ecuador is the adventure area with bungee jumping, rappelling, zip lining, and biking. We stopped in a lovely small town of Banos for breakfast and could see why it was very popular with tourists.

At 2PM we arrived at the small airport called 'Shell', named after the oil company. All of our luggage was weighed and then we each had to get on the scales too as we were flying on small six seater cessnas.

Waiting there for us was a Hourani man called Moi and his family. Moi is the president of the Hourani tribe and spends a lot of time on the main land talking to politicians and oil people, not to mention President Obama as well as others. He is working hard to make things work between the oil companies and the tribe. The Ecuadorian government is on the side of the oil companies because it brings a lot of revenue to the country, but the Hourani tribe are losing a lot of their hunting grounds, not to mention that they are cutting down the rain forest and polluting the land. The incidence of cancer has risen substantially in the last few decades since the oil companies came.
The Ecuadorian Government said that there were not many Hourani left, so selling the land to the oil companies would not impact them. Moi spent eight months walking from village to village to do a census to prove to the Government that there were in fact many left.

The history of the Hourani is a violent one. They killed so many people over the years, oil men, loggers, other tribes people, missionaries and many of their own. The spear would solve many problems for them, protecting their land and culture, revenge issues as well as some anger issues. The last killing was March of last year. A revenge killing of 30 people of another tribe the Taromenane, who still remain deep in the jungle and want no contact with the outside world. They killed an elder Hourani couple, which promoted the revenge.

I would think of this sometimes as we were hiking through the jungle, or floating happily down the river, that perhaps they were hiding in the bushes with spears.

Moi had some groceries that he wanted us to take back for him and he also showed us some of his handicrafts that were for sale. He needed to make some money to get to the the hospital to have an injury checked out. We each bought a necklace or two from him. I bought two with large teeth of wild pigs that are rather unique.

The group was divided into two with myself, Doug, our guide Roberto and Monica who got to be the co pilot. The flight over the Jungle was breathtaking. We can see the river snaking its way through the dense forest.

In forty minutes we see a patch of grass and realize that we are going to land there. As we are flying lower to land many groups of Huorani are coming out of the jungle to greet us. By the time the planes landed there must have been fifty people in total running towards us, young and old. We felt like quite the celebrities.

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After meeting a few people and sharing a glass of lemonade we are given rubber boots which will be our footwear for the next five days.

Our bags are taken for us as we hike through the mud into the jungle and towards the river. A very long wooden dug out canoe is waiting for us. There is an engine at the back for travelling upstream or if in a hurry. Most times one man at the front and one at the back push a long pole into the river to help us manoeuvre down.

We are now going by canoe for an hour to our village camp. The river is not that deep right now and there are so many sticks and logs proving a challenge to navigate. Our driver, who looks to be less than 18, is very skilled however and arrive in one piece and still dry.

The humidity is very high, sweat is pouring off us. The temperature here never varies much, being on the equator. It is usually around 29, but it gets more humid this time of year.

Pulling off to the side of the river we climb the bank to our homes for the next few nights. You can not see them from the river as they blend in. You can not find them on Google maps because the canopy is so dense.

The main meeting area is a raised building on stilts that is screened in on all four sides and has a wooden roof. Inside is a table with 8 chairs and our lunch is waiting.

I did not expect much for food here, but was happily surprised at the quality and quantity of food. Anna was also a vegetarian and the cook was very accommodating.

We have two cooks, one cleaner and couple of boat drivers and workers. The camp is run by the Huorani with the guidance of a manager. The staff rotate every time new guests arrive, then return to their village and give others a chance. The marketing and payments are done by an American company because there is not any internet or communication in the jungle, which would make it impossible to manage.

There is a manager, Mowgli, a young man from Quito, but everyone else is from the community and most of the money stays here.

For every meal we would have an appetizer, main course and dessert, all fantastic and tasty. We were not going to go hungry here.

Full, but tired, we were taken to our cabins. There is not any internet, telephones, tv or electricity here. Solar panels keep the fridge and a few lights going.
Our cabin is four screened walls. No privacy but we are in the jungle and set back from the paths. We have two comfortable twin beds, one light bulb, a bathroom with flush toilet, sink and shower with cool water. Our porch has a wonderful hammock and area to leave our muddy boots.

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In the evening we met our local guide, 'Bay', who is a Huorani hunter aged 54. He took us on a night walk after dinner through the jungle looking for nocturnal animals and insects. Before we went however we were told to be careful where we stepped and put our hands as there were many deadly snakes, scorpions, and spiders lurking under leaves and branches. We also had to be aware of these huge Conga ants, about an inch long, that sting like crazy and leave you in pain for a long time.

The jungle is very loud. Frogs that sound like large animals, cicadas, birds and crickets fill the air with their singing.

Every tree, insect and flower has a use and a purpose. We have learned a lot from Bay already on our first day.

Sleeping in the jungle with all the sounds around us was a great lullaby.

Day 72

After a large breakfast of eggs, bread, fruit and granola we set off in the canoe for 40 minutes upstream towards the airstrip. The next four hours were spent walking through the jungle learning about the medicinal plants, edible and hunting plants and looking at the different tracks in the mud. And speaking of the mud, it was a boot eater. Sinking and slipping through lots of mud.

We came to a huge tree that had a 'Tarzan' vine hanging from it, so we each took a turn swinging through the jungle which was fun. I did not get too far before falling off however. I am made painfully aware that I have not been to the gym in three months.

We came to the river, so hot dirty and tired, to find that we can swim in this part of the Amazon. After finding a tree to change behind we all welcomed the cold refreshing water for an hour. The rain came while we were swimming which made it even more invigorating.

Lunch was waiting for us on the side of the river. Our cook, with two of her four children, were there to serve us another great meal.

A walk back across the airstrip and we are at the community centre. There are many small family areas within a large area, but they all meet here in the community area to play sports such as soccer, go to the two schools here, high school and elementary as well as a gathering place.

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A couple of dozen people are in building in the middle which has a palm roof and open sides. Six or more small areas hold necklaces, bracelets and bags that are the local handicraft and for sale. Nothing is said, they patiently sit there talking amongst themselves. Small children are playing in the grass and a couple of the teens are playing soccer.

Our group of six tried to buy from each of the vendors. A couple of necklaces from one and then I bought a blow gun from another. We will learn to shoot using a blow gun tomorrow.

Two of the young girls in our group are single, so the men held arms and ran in a circle chanting and singing before circling Anna, the youngest, and pushing a young single male towards here. This is a mock wedding. and they have just married her off to an eligible bachelor. They did the same with Monica and it was great fun.

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We were given a tour of the school which has been closed since January. It is very hard to get teachers to commit to living here for a year, and now the government has decided not to fund education here any more. Very sad. The education is very basic in the reading writing arithmetic department, focussing more on learning the history of their elders and ways of the hourani tribes. Like most places the kids are not as interested in the old ways anymore, so there is a big focus on preserving it.

Our last stop was a visit to an elder woman and her husband who have so many stories to tell. She showed us a scar of a spear that she was shot with as a young girl that went right through her.

The company that we have booked this trip with with focuses on creating an awareness about these communities and what the logging and oil companies are doing to damage the lifestyles and habits of these people.

It was a very long day and after another canoe ride home, we collapsed into bed for a rest before dinner.

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Day 73

Today we learn how to hunt, the Hourani way. Down the river by canoe a ways and then a walk through a different part of the forest. We were shown tracks in the mud of anacondas, caiman, large wild pigs and rodents, and many birds.

Once we were deep in the jungle our first mission was to kill a squirrel with a blowgun.
Well not really, or course I could never do that. Bay hung a up a large flower pod as a target and we each took a turn.

Bay was dressed ( or undressed) in his traditional hunting garb. A small undergarment and a few adornments was all that he wore. He was barefoot and carried his heavy blowgun and a spear. Roberto decided to go barefoot today too, which proved to be a challenge for him as there are so many biting ants.

The blowgun is around 8 feet long and very heavy. Trying to hold it up to aim proves difficult, but with a bit of help I was able to shoot quite close to the target.

We then had to aim at a monkey (the favourite food of the Hourani) which was a target at the top of a palm tree. Shooting up was actually easier. Of course we were not shooting a real monkey either. We were laughing and making so much noise there were no animals within 10 miles or more.

A walk further into the jungle and we try our hand at spear throwing. Targets are set up to resemble wild pigs and we learn how to sneak up and throw our spear in for the kill.

Our last lesson was tree climbing. They weave a circle of vines to put around their feet and shimmy up, blowgun in hand, and shoot the monkeys from the top.

After watching the two young women having great difficulty trying to do it, we decided not to humiliate our selves and politely declined.

A lot of the women have deformed feet from doing so much climbing at an early age, they resemble hands from wrapping them around the tree.
This is still the way of life for the Huroni. It was not a show for the tourists, but the way that they really live today. It was fascinating.

We returned back to camp and after a rest we sat in the hammock cabin overlooking the river learning how to make some of the baskets from palms as other crafts. Bay told us some stories of the jungle, translated by Roberto.

The girls came into the dinner room all excited because they saw a snake outside their cabin. Roberto ran off to find it, in the dark, and he and a couple of other guys had to kill it as it was a very poisonous snake. Thankfully no one got bit.

After dinner everyone went out in the canoe for a night hunt for caimans. I stayed back at the cabin. They didn't see any but did see other birds and tracks in the sand.

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Day 74

Thunder like I have never heard last night. The storm was right over head and shook the cabin at times. Rain pelting down accompanied by lightning and more thunder. The real rainforest experience. Roberto said that he was scared......it does not happen here too much like that.

In the morning the rain stopped and it was another warm but muggy day. We packed up our belongings after breakfast and tried to fit everything back in to our small backpacks.
All of our clothes are filthy and smelly and seem to take up a lot more room.

We said our goodbyes to the staff who were staying behind and split into two groups. Doug and I were with Monica and a few of the boatman as they poled the canoe downstream. So peaceful and beautiful floating down the river.

After an hour or so we pulled onto a beach and switched with the other three who were kayaking.

Kayaking on the amazon. What an experience. The canoe followed behind us a distance as we went with the current, dodging the many sticks and logs coming out of the water. I was the lead kayak with Roberto navigating the river, while Doug and Monica followed behind us.

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An hour or so later we arrived at Bay's house. We were greeted by four small children, his grandkids, and were led up the hill through the many fruit trees on his land. The Hourani people can decide where they want their homes, if they want it over here, then that is fine. No one questions it, you build you house where you want to.

His land is beautiful and he has a few structures on it. Sleeping, cooking and communal buildings. Beba his wife greets us at the house as well has his two daughters and a few other relatives . They are in the traditional dress, Beba (bebantoque) topless and the daughters have bathing suit tops on and skirts made of tree bark.

Our greeting involves having the red colour of a fruit painted around our eyes. We are all given Hourani names and welcomed with the local drink of chicha.

The local girls then took a few of the fruit and smashed them into Roberto's and the other boys faces, which was then returned by the boys. It became a war of red paint for a while, and a young boy around seven decided to smash a fruit in my face which he and everyone else found quite amusing.

A few handicrafts were sitting on a bench which we looked at and each bought one or two things. Doug and I bought a couple of necklaces and two small spears.

Then we danced the traditional dance done at parties and the women sang a few chants. It was great fun and everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. A small baby capuchin monkey was there as a pet. They rescued him from the forest and he was quite happy sitting on our heads and being part of the action.

In the kitchen were other pets which included two baby red tanagers and two blue ones as well as a parakeet. The Hourani like to have parakeets as they let them know when visitors, or enemies, are coming.

When ever we approach a Hourani home the lead person hoots, or makes a noise to let them know we are coming.

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It was now 2PM and we were hungry so set off up the hill to Bay's old house, a building with no walls and a palm roof that is very sparse at this point. Chino had our lunch ready for us, once again a wonderful three course meal which included poached pears for dessert.

Thunder in the distance and then the rain poured down. The roof did not seem to keep much off of us, Roberto produced some ponchos which were welcomed. We waited for the rain to pass but after half and hour decided to go. Our path down to the canoe was now a small muddy river.

It rained for most of the hour and a half ride but we all found it a fun part of the Amazon experience. There seemed to be more obstacles in this part of the river which necessitated us ducking in the canoe to get under large fallen branches and manoeuvring around fallen trees.
To get over a large log that is laying across the river submerged just under the surface our driver would go very fast to glide over it and lift the engine at the last minute. It made for a bumpy ride at times, but exciting.

We arrived at our home for the night which consists of four platforms with tents for each party. We have foam mattresses, sheets and pillows. It seems quite comfortable.

The rest of the crew went for a hike up to this huge tree we passed on the way, but I stayed behind to rest.

Tonight is our last night in the jungle.

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Day 75.

I have been fighting off a cold since we have arrived, but last night it came with a-vengeance and settled in my chest. The hike to the waterfall did not sound like the best plan for me so unfortunately I missed the hike. Doug decided to hang back with me.

The rest of the group left at 6:30AM and returned around 8. They said it was a very muddy, slippery and steep climb up and down to the waterfall so I felt I made the right decision.

I sat in the open air dining room and took funny pictures with my ipad of the kids and women. We were all having a great time and laughing a lot.

After breakfast we packed up the canoe, said our goodbyes to the staff and made our way down river in the canoe for a few more hours.
A stop in another local community with more dancing, learning how to make fire, and handicraft purchases. Each place we have stopped have had different items which is great.

Another couple of hours in the canoe heading to the town of Coca. As we head downstream we can see the canopy getting lighter. The forest is thinning out and the sun feels hotter now.

We reached the town and tried to clean up a bit, change into the least dirty and smelly of our clothes for the trip back to Quito. This is an oil town, many people are employed on the rigs and everything else that goes along with oil drilling. Unfortunately what also comes with it is that the locals also get involved with more alchol ,prostitution and other vices that are not common in the jungle normally. There are a lot of plantations where the land is cleared for cattle and farming. Pollution is of course another big problem.
We have many of these problems with our own oil tar sands as well of course, but the Amazon rainforest is considered the lungs of the world and no one wants it to be cut down and to die from oil and logging.

On the way to the airport we stopped at an animal rescue centre to view some of the animals that we only saw the tracks of, as many are nocturnal.

Our flight to Quito was pleasant, our bags (and spears and blowguns) all arrived with us and we say our goodbyes to our jungle 'family' of the last five days.

We found out that some teachers have arrived and that school will be back in. The government was also coming to look at building another elementary school in another village which is great news.

The staff at each of the places we stayed were wonderful. We have not complaints or criticism what so ever.

We were very happy to have Roberto as our guide. He was so enthusiastic about everything, like it was the first time he saw it too. He was incredibly kind, patient and had boundless energy. His passion for the Amazon jungle and the Hourani people added to our enjoyment and desire to understand the area even more.

Our four fellow travellers from Texas were great companions and we all seemed to get along very well. We felt very blessed to have just a small group with people who were ready for adventure and what ever came our way.

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Day 76.

Quito. Well another day in Quito where we won't be seeing much. Doug has picked up a bug of some kind so we are laying low in the hotel room, which is actually fine by me too. We sent out our laundry (those poor souls who have that awful job) and will re pack and re group for our flight south early tomorrow morning. The cab is coming for us at 3:45 AM !!

It is now on to the Galapagos Islands for a week. The fun never stops.

Posted by debbep 18:44 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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