Saturday, December 29, 2007

Monkey Palace

When A-Jeff got to Baeza and all of the introductions were done, the newly expanded Crosby family hoped back into the car. A few quick words on my new brother A-Jeff. He is a hilarious Peace Corps volunteer from Washington State and looks a lot like a cross between Alex and Napoleon Dynamite. In addition, he claims he´s completely cool with being compared to Napoleon Dynamite and that he´s heard it all before. He must be okay with that because he was totally cool with us renaming him A-Jeff so that he could have an A name like all the other Crosby kids!

So the road to Tena......still scary! And also still beautiful. What made this portion of the drive even more odd was being stopped by la policiĆ” in the middle of a mountain rode. The police here have slightly larger guns than our cops. And by slightly larger I mean automatic weapons :) Long story short - the guy wanted to see Mom´s license and demanded to know who gave her (an American) the right to drive in Ecuador? The poor guy didn´t know what he was getting into when he dared question Mom. Andreita to the rescue again! She explained rapidly that the ¨Company Hertz¨, which of course he has never heard of, gives her the right to drive. She went on and on so that finally the cop just waved at her to shut up and said it was all okay. If I hadn´t already accepted A-Jeff into the family by that point, he sealed the deal when he came up with this brilliant question to Andrea - ¨Is that how you get what you want? Just don´t stop talking until they give in?¨

After a couple of hours filled with more pot holes, landslides, animals in the road and a car thick with sarcasm, we arrived in Tena to our first hostel - Yustoz II. It´s a fantastic place right on the river in the jungle. We had two rooms (boys and girls) and both had private bathrooms and you get a full hot breakfast in the morning. It´s a little pricey for the area at a whopping $10 a person but we felt it was worth it :) Our balcony overlooked the river and the view was amazing.

Also staying at the Hostel was the family of another Peace Corps Volunteer Jason who lives in Tena. His family was having Christmas in the Jungle (say that to the tune of GNR´s Welcome to the Jungle) and had been with Jason since 12.14. Jason meeting Mom was the first time it became evident that Toni is a Blog Stalker. She knows way too much about these guys and I think they´re a little weirded out. Wouldn´t you be if someone asked you about your new hammock (that you really did buy) but that you hadn´t mentioned? He looked at her like ¨why does she know this?¨ It´s because she is an Ecuadorian Peace Corps Volunteer blogs stalker. No big deal.

We all went and had cocktails at Jason´s favorite bar where we ran into some other Americans. Tena is popular for it´s kayaking and we met up with a Dartmouth student (can you say small world?) who had just come down on her own for few months to kayak. It´s pretty normal here for all of the Americans to offer assistance and a place to visit to others when they meet. However, here is where A-Jeff went a little wrong. Instead of introducing himself or saying hello first he comes out with something like this: ¨I live in (name of town known for kayaking). You can come stay with me if you want.¨ Weird A-Jeff! Mom tried to explain that even though Anna (the kayaker) was pretty, it´s not okay for the first thing you to say to a woman to be ´wanna come stay over´. Funny guy.

After drinks it was time for dinner. Jason´s family recommended the local pizza place so we went. Have I mentioned that by this point I really haven´t eaten yet? I had the flu right before coming and my stomach is still not 100%. Add the new (and weird) foods to it and there is nothing good that will happen. So I watched the family eat some pizza and we drank some beers. The beers were being brought over by one of the most beautiful girls we had seen yet. Of course, we do think it´s odd that a girl of about 7 was serving beers to gringos at 9pm but that´s fine. I asked her permission to take her picture ( I will post photos when possible) and she loved it. When she walked away Mom comes out with ¨Wanna come home with us to the States? I´ll send you to college.¨ This won´t read as funny as it was. Just know it´s hysterical to see Mom trying to bribe the local children to come home with her by offering them the ability to read and possibly go to school.

From dinner to bed for Toni and Angela. To the bars of Tena for A-Jeff, Andrea and Alex. Silly kids.

Breakfast is fantastic since I am still surviving on fresh juice and beer and there is plenty of fresh juice. The eggs looked so promising until I realized they smelled like fish. Alex will back me up on this - they really did smell like fish. We got directions from Jason to Misahualli which is a town just south where you can play with monkeys. I like to call it either Monkey Hawaii (if the town is correctly pronounced it sounds like Hawaii a bit) or Monkey Palace.

30 minutes later we pull up to a small town square and park. We get out of the car and are a little disappointed as we only see a couple of monkeys and people were telling us that this place was awesome and to be careful because the monos (spanish for monkey and what the coastal Ecuadorians are called so Andreita es una mona) can swarm you and will try and steal your stuff. All it took was a few minutes of us trying to engage the two monkeys we saw for more and more to jump out of nowhere. There were tons of monos and they were so fun! Alex had a big one jump right up onto his shoulder and a baby was playing with my legs trying to get into my cargo pockets. Then a monkey jumped on my head which was awesome and everyone was snapping photos. I had no idea the little mono was playing Oliver Twist and really was causing a diversion so he could go through my purse! The little brat took my pack of cigarettes. I know I shouldn´t have them and I know it´s my fault for not having a zippered bag but it was also hilarious! He ran up into the tree with a half pack of Marlboro Menthol Lights and started ripping all of the filters off and throwing them down to the ground. What a brat!

At the square we hooked up with a covered canoe ride down the jungle river to a local animal and medicinal plant reserve. The canoe ride was awesome and the man drove us right to the stairs cut into the muddy banks. At the reserve we had an amazing woman walk us around and show us all of the animals and explain the culture to us. The only bummer was that she spoke no English at all and Andrea is sometimes a space cadet so we didn´t get all that much back in English. The guide would speak for about two minutes explaining a traditional trap, how it´s used, what it´s made of, etc. and then Andrea would turn to Mom and say something like ¨It´s a trap for a fish¨. At the reserve was saw: Monkeys (which we held), an animal that is like an ant eater, crocodiles (we touched the baby one), a giant water turtle (that they keep tied to a rope they have drilled through his shell and they pull him up onto the bank to show people), small turtles that we held and a beautiful Ocelot. In addition, we learned about lots of plants, indigenous housing and tools. It was very cool.

We canoed back to the plaza - did I mention it was a canoe with a motor? Fantastic. We played with the monos some more and then we had lunch in a great restaurant on the edge of the plaza. The monos where even there! While waiting for our lunch a monkey came right into the restaurant, ran up to the door of the kitchen and stole a bag of bread they had. The (very) little old lady came running out and called them thieves. Hilarious.

More to come. I must run and have my Birthday breakfast. Did I mention I´m even older today?


Susana said...

Hey Crosby´s!!! Just wanted to blogstalk you...(back at ya!) Hoping you had a grand time in BaƱos. Did you make it to the coast yesterday and get inked too??? Can´t wait to read about your continued adventures. It was SOOOOO fun hanging out with you all. Thanks again for the great din din, the book gifts, and the many, many laughs. You all are awesome. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Donald said...

Hey everyone, just read your blog, I am so jealous. I can picture the situations you describe and know you are having an amazing time. Happy New year