Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Amazon

We spent 4 days and 3 nights in the Amazon. And by that I mean basically just 2 days because we got in late on Friday—the weather was too hot so the plane was delayed flying us from Quito to Coca...what?—then left early Monday morning. Good times were had by all.

We stayed at the Yachana Lodge, an ecotourism lodge that is run by the local people and supported by the Yachana Foundation which also sponsors a local high school where kids from all over Ecuador are educated on agriculture, environmental preservation, and how to become good members of and leaders in their communities. I am a huge fan.

At the lodge they gave us these sweet rain boots because it's pretty muddy and wet in the rainforest. I had been looking forward to getting to wear a pair of these boots literally almost the entire time I was in Ecuador. In the rural areas all the people wear them, even the little kids, and I just fell in love with them. Weird, I know, but very true.

Ironically none of the boots they brought out for me fit me. They were either too tight or too loose, so instead of the sweet black Ecuadorian boots I ended up with these ridiculous cherry boots that look like they were bought at Target. Really, friends? My friend Nigel got to wear these sweet white boots you see below on the left that made her both look and walk like a cowgirl.

We went on a bunch of hikes and stuff and one day we journeyed over to the local healer's house. He was this sweet old guy who would clean your air, or aura, who would send the bad energy surrounding you back out into the universe. To get healed you had to sit up straight in the chair in the middle of the entry area, put your heels together, palms on your knees facing upward, and close your eyes. He would blow smoke on you from his hand rolled tobacco cigarettes, then use this bundle of leaves that smelled like lemons. After he'd gone around you and gathered up all the bad energy he would walk to the door of the house and, using the leaves, fling the bad energy back out into the universe. Then he would come back and make this cool little whistling noise between his teeth and continue to clean your aura until he determined that it was good. It was pretty cool.
After the healing we all went out and learned how to use a blow gun. Our guide, Juan, set up a target of a cocao nut on top of a piece of wood standing on end for us to shoot at. Despite the fact the the blow gun itself was about 6 feet long I still manage to shoot my first dart into the mud. The second one, however, hit the middle of the log, and the third one wizzed right by the nut itself. I gave myself the "Most Improved" award.
The next day, on our longest hike through the jungle, Juan showed us how the indigenous people can weave baskets out of palm leaves and roots to carry home fruit or small animals they have killed to bring home to eat. He wove this baby in probably about 5-10 minutes and it was freaking sweet! The best part is that you can reuse it until the palm fronds start to dry out and become brittle, and then you can just throw it away and it is 100% biodegradable. I love the jungle!
On this same hike we walked for some time through a shallow river. This is when I discovered that both of my lovely cherry boots had holes in the sides. A winner on all counts. There was nothing I could do about it so I was a man about it and sucked it up.
That day for lunch we had a little cooking lesson and we learned how to cook grubs! Three of the girls ate them raw, which means that you have to bite off their heads first so they don't bite you in your own mouth, then chew up their squishy, still wiggling bodies before you swallow. Yeah, I didn't do that. BUT I did eat them once we'd roasted them over the fire and they were delicious! I had seconds. They tasted like little tiny pieces of chicken, with crunchy, delicious skin. If you ever get a chance I highly recommend trying one. A cooked one, that is...

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