The Amazon Jungle
Cassandra De Pecol
My experience volunteering at a sustainable hotel in the Amazon near Pastaza River in Ecuador.
Copiuera class followed by a night on the town at Plaza del Foch until 3am left me feeling to say the least, exhausted. Our bus that headed to Puyo left at 4:00am. All of the staff at the Kapawi main office inQuitoheaded out to reach our final destination of Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve deep in the Amazonian jungle of Ecuador.
The ride took 5 hours and winded through foggy, abundantly lush and wet mountainside cliffs. We headed through the beautiful town ofBanoson our way to Puyo. Unfortunately, there was no way I could stay up entirely for this long but beautiful journey. I did get the chance to sneak a few peeks at our surroundings as I was awakened by the jolting turns at high altitudes.
At around 9:00 we arrived at the “airport”. I had to put my fears of flying behind me and get into this tiny, 9 person aircraft. All buckled in, the pilot notices something wrong with the equipment. He orders a fix, and within 30 minutes we’re on our way to the jungle! Beautiful views of nothing but pristine rainforest and muddy rivers. Huts and villages were apparent but they were definitely few and far between.
Landing was interesting. We landed a wet and literally muddy runway about 500ft long. Waiting for us were Achuar tribes and children from both the community and Kapawi lodge. We waited around a bit to catch our bearings before heading to the canoe. The canoe ride consisted of two comfortably seated, 15ft long motor-boat canoes. The ride was exhilarating, gliding through muddy waters of theKapawiRiver, along un-touched and pristine mangroves of the Amazon Rainforest. We spotted our first Pink River Dolphin pack. Every breath I took I was so grateful, not only for the fact that I was breathing in fresh Amazonian air, but air at sea level. It was a nice change from the thin, polluted air ofQuito, up at 10,000ft.
Arrival at Kapawi
The resident manager Achuar, Antonio, was waiting to greet us with a smile aside the welcome sign of Kapawi Eco Lodge in the background. We are welcomed with a drink of fresh juice served in authentically hand made bowls made by the local communities.
I am shown to my room; a wooden casita, handmade with cloth netting as draping to cover the bed and screened-in windows. The cold shower was refreshing considering the extreme humidity and heat, 80% humid at 80 degrees F. My views consist of the jungle and adjacent lagoon. The tall growing lily pads that take up most of the lagoon carry a scent that the mosquitoes aren’t very fond of, hence the lack of mosquitoes here at the lodge.
Lunch is served; a delicious chicken soup with intestines, yuka and rice. If it hadn’t been eating the same inMachu Picchufor the past two months, I might be a little more excited. However, it’s something of second nature to me now. We had a briefing after lunch about my job objectives and the Kapawi Ecolodge itself (regenerative initiatives, rules, activities, etc.). Something that was noteworthy: “Don’t venture into the jungle alone, you have a good chance of getting lost where no one will be able to find you.” Damn, I’ll have to keep that in mind.
It’s so loud! Crickets, toads, frogs, monkeys, ducks, birds, jaguars, insects, you name it-it’s here in the Amazon. This is my new melody to a peaceful rest: pure nature, clean air and vibrant stars. I lay here in my casita preached high above the lagoon. Under my feet rests water, ducks, frogs and lagoon species. I’m immersed in an environment I’ve never experienced. This wildlife will soon be one with my thoughts. This jungle will soon beguile me to introduce me an experience like no other
End of day one. I have a feeling there are more intense days to come.
Awoke, tired but ready to take on a new day in the Amazon. It took me 15 minutes before I was able to physically get out of bed and make it for breakfast at 6. Breakfast consisted of one fried egg over chunky lentils from the night before, accompanied by a white roll and instant coffee accompanied by instant milk and white sugar. I’m thankful for the food I’m given, however I think I can safely say that considering I’ve been eating this for the past three months since I arrived in Peru; I miss my Hagan Daz, bagels, tomatoes and bagged milk I had back in Quito this past week. I spoiled myself rotton and now I feel as though I’ve been let down. Aside from this I’m grateful to be here in the largest and most pristine rainforest on earth today, eating the food that is given to me by the Achuars. These certified proteins will give me power to take on this day.
I’ll admit, bird watching has never been my cup of tea, however Inkaterra introduced me to a whole new era and now I’ve become somewhat fascinated. We left Kapawi at promptly 6:30am to the canoes, where we would spend an hour and a half watching the trees along the river for any sort of activity. The “ClayLakes” are a specified area along the Kapuera river that harvest a nutritious mineral clay that these white headed parrots (and parrots alike) prefer to feed on. They fly from all over the local area to nourish themselves with this clay that is rich in calcium and iron. They are discrete as they hover over branches and work themselves down to the patch of clay, zig-zagging across the branches of this specific tree. This is the cream of the crop.
We spotted all sorts of various species of birds including wild turkeys, stalks, long tailed parquets, and many others as we glided through the cold dense fog of the Kapuera river as the sun was rising.
At the dock, we hopped the canoe to drive 45 minutes upstream to a place in the forest where we would trek back to Kapawi. Upon arriving, the sounds of ear pitching chirping were very abundant. Our guide, Domingo, informed us of this particular type of monkey called the Howler. Running 7 inches long by about 4 inches wide, these baby things were irresistible as they swung from rope to tree. Bullet ants, mammals, and squirrel monkeys were among those spotted throughout the hike. Domingo also informed us on various trees that are used for medicinal purposes among the Achuar tribes.
At this point I was starving and couldn’t wait to get back for my fried egg and white rice lunch.
The hike took three hours and was an easy trek, but mosquitoes were apparent and so was the heat/humidity, which made it a bit difficult to focus.
Starving, I scarfed down the white rice, fried egg and lentil soup and headed straight for my cama. I laied there listening to the sounds of the jungle for about an hour, dozing on and off before our next excursion.
Our last adventure left us kayaking two hours upstream in theKapueraRiver. We saw monkeys and traversed through swamps of both black water and clear water river. The only difference was that the black water produced a slightly different composition from the mineral runoff of the forest, that resulted in a darker color of the river.
A gathering of all of the Achuar andQuitostaff was compiled for dinner, and everyone gave their speeches as they introduced new people and so on. We had a traditional chicken soup and papaya juice and for desert all cheered with our own glass of chicha. Chicha is a fermented beer beverage, and its preparation (only prepared by the Achuar women), is prepared by the woman chewing on the vegetable, spitting it into a bowl, and mixing it with a bunch of other mysterious things and serving it to her guest. I took two sips and before I could say “rotten cheese”, I was done.