Sunday, January 6, 2008

Jungle Boogie

Warning - I stopped taking detailed notes each day so from now on, it's up to my memory to provide the details. They'll be sketchy at best!

After Monkey Palace it was time to drop our new brother A-Jeff off in Tena and head to Puyo for some Jungle Adventures. We had been warned by A-Jeff that the road to Puyo was terrible. Susan and Jeremy (Volunteers that live in Puyo) had told him that it was the worst part of the drive to their site. They did NOT exaggerate! Toni was literally off-roading where the roads were washed out and the landslides had covered entire roads. There's no real way to describe the conditions - you wouldn't believe it.

We drove into Puyo on the hunt for El Jardin, a hostel that Jeremy and Susan recommended. Just past the city limits we find it - it's paradise! Literally it is paradise tucked away into the corner of the city. We crossed a foot bridge over a (beautiful yet dirty) river and into an amazing garden surrounded by two stories of lodging that looked like it came right out of the Garden of Eden. Even more amazing? We had our own beds! And HOT showers and the internet. El Jardin certainly lives up to its name and has beautiful flowers everywhere. Add the 3 resident parrots and it doesn't get much better.

El Jardin is also an amazing restaurant so Andrea called Susan and Jeremy and asked them to come join us for dinner. They came over a little while later with another volunteer also named Susan. We had a blast! I know I've mentioned Toni's blog-stalking but here is where it becomes even more obvious. She had a present for Susan! Since Susan has a list of books she wants to read Toni headed right over to Boarders to buy a book of the list. So funny! Susan, Jeremy and Susan are so nice. We had an excellent meal and then all settled into the hostel's "TV Hut" where we were joined by yet another volunteer (don't these guys work?) Katie and sat down to watch "Super Bad". Many Pilseners later, we were off to bed ready to join up with the King Family (Susan and Jeremy), the other Susan for some birding in the morning.

After an amazing breakfast we met up with the Volunteers and a man named Chris Canady who is an Ex-Pat now living in Puyo. Chris is the director of an Ecobotanical reserve called Omaere adjacent to the hostel. When I get back to the states and have all of my information I'll be sure to post the reserve website and information as the place is amazing. The Kings had been birding with Chris before so they knew he was the right man to show Toni all of the birds she had been waiting to see while here in Ecuador. Sadly the birds weren't cooperating that day as it was threatening to rain. So while we didn't see very many birds we did have a fantastic time walking through the jungle.

Chris is extremely knowledgeable on the plants within the jungle and even had us all eagerly eating a plant stalk of sorts that's suppose to be good for your kidneys and digestion. He just cut the stalk right off and started slicing bite-size pieces off for us. It was bitter at first but quite thirst-quenching and was a welcome treat when walking through the jungle. The week prior to our arrival there had been some serious flooding at the reserve so the trail that we were taken was one that nobody had been on in quite some time. There were some interesting moments - like when Alex was leading the way and then "lost" the trail since there was none! Or, when suddenly there were wasps everywhere and Chris says "I think we may have disturbed a hive" and Andrea yells to Toni "Run Mom. I mean it!" Toni and I literally started running through the jungle. So funny and weird!

After our jungle time we left the reserve and went into the city so that Toni could go to the Waorani store that Toni had read about in "Savages" and that Susan is working with the tribal community on. Bad news - it was closed! Susan was not impressed as she has been trying to explain to the tribe that being open on Saturdays is a good thing and that tourists come on the weekend. Oh well, their loss! Instead we had some lunch and then went back to El Jardin for some rest and relaxation with a promise to meet up with the Kings and Susan at La Casa de Kings for our introduction into Speed Scrabble. Speed Scrabble is coming to Concord - look out because Toni is a natural! We had some beverages and played a few rounds of Speed Scrabble. The Kings live in a great apartment and have most of the amenities of home. It's funny - Andrea's room in Tabuga would literally fit into their living room twice, possible three times. The difference between sites is incredible. Plus, Andrea lives in an extremely poor section of the world.

After drinks and scrabble it was off to El Jardin for the night and some much needed sleep.

Wake up Ang - it's your birthday! And you are officially old. I start my day off with some blogging (see previous post) and then the Crosby Clans packed up to meet the Kings and Susan in an effort to see if the Waorani store is open. I'm thinking there's no way since it's a Sunday morning and they didn't open on Saturday. Sure enough, closed! Susan was very unimpressed now as it was the second day in a row. However, she "gifted" be a beautiful Waorani bracelet for my birthday and meeting up gave Andrea and Jeremy some time to go over some Environmental Education booklets that he had and Andrea is borrowing.

Wait a minute.....did someone just see a Waorani woman walk down the street? Susan pounced on her and asked if the store was opening. The answer? The always present Ya Mismo! If I haven't mentioned it yet here's a good time to explain this phrase and way of life here. One of the volunteers (I apologize for not remembering who) explained it very well by saying it's just like the American phrase ASAP but without the P. So, if someone says Ya Mismo to you know that they'll do what you're asking them to do just on their own timeline. Armed now with the knowledge that a woman was coming to open the store we waited curbside.

When the woman arrived we spent the next 20 minutes or so going through all of the amazing crafts and weapons that they had on display. Susan's work with the women within the tribe has helped to organize these amazing artists so that they get proceeds based on the crafts they sell. Thanks to Toni the women all get quite a nice windfall this month!

With our purchases made we bid our Puyo guides farewell and started the journey to Baños where we planned to have a great meal and meet up with a tattoo artist. Baños is an extremely touristy town with lots of gringos. It was almost overwhelming. After a fantastic lunch we headed down the street to the artist's shop. He was in and Toni, Andrea and I were ready for our crescent moon tattoos (Please see the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley) that we have been planning for years. The problem? It was already almost 3pm as we got a late start in the morning due to our shopping and we still had an 8 hour drive to Tabuga to complete. So we decided against the tattoos. Sad, now that it's the end of our trip (I am writing this part of the blog only 4 hours before leaving Ecuador) and we didn't get the ink but a good decision in the end because our 8 hour drive ended up being almost 11.

The drive was the worst experience ever. It started with us driving in the clouds at night down 10,000 feet in just 2 hours. In order to get that low, that fast, the roads are crazy with twists and the drivers are even crazier. I don't even like writing about it because it was so terrible. The buses fly past cars and trucks while driving around BLIND turns. It is not okay and several times we came very close to being hit head-on as buses came driving at us in both lanes. From the mountains it only got worse as the road from El Carmen to Perdenales (the biggest city near Andrea) is so ridden with pot holes that you have to drive on both sides of the road weaving in out of potholes that would bottom-out any car. It was awful. Truly miserable. Thank god Mom is a quick study and she got very good at driving on all sides of the road, in the middle of the night AND in the middle of nowhere. Nice work Mom!

We finally arrived at La Pepperoconi at almost 2am. What a crazy birthday!

1 comment:

Susana said...

oooooohhhhhh my gawwwwd... I am so sorry that your drive was so aweful. I feel partly responsible since the Waorani store opened so late. So sorry!!!!! I do hope that your gift giving extravaganza in Tabuga partly made up for the pain in getting there. Am on the egde of my seat waiting to hear the next installation!