On our way to the jungle
After having seen the breakout of the Reventador volcano, we decided to follow the recommendation of some backpackers to travel to Tena due to its proximity to the Amazon and jungle tours offered there. Several hours later by bus, we finally arrived and decided to do -nothing! As a side note- the weather has been very constant since we arrived, between 28-33 degrees Celsius, but unlike in Stuttgart, you can hardly feel the heat here and it is quite pleasant.
While relaxing in Tena, we decided to book our trip to the Galapagos islands which can be more complicated than one might think, but we will write about this in a later blog!
While in Tena, we were busy finding a Galapagos tour and paying for it, all in cash, which can be a problem as there is a limit on cash machines sometimes, of 300 $ for example, so you have to put your card in several times and pray it does not get eaten by the ATM machine which would leave you without credit card in the end. And even more thrilling is the act of transporting 1500$ in cash to the next bank in order to deposit it.
Son 3 kilos y media, cuesta 136 dollares.
Otra vez, por favor?
Son solamente 3 kilos y media... no pueden ser 136 dollares!?
Fancy sending a package back home? That would be 136$, Thank you!
We tried to send a package back home via ordinary mail and figured it would not cost the world. This was something we planned on doing in Colombia, but we thought it might be better to wait after passing through Otavalo in Ecuador due to its great markets. Turns out that sending a 3,5kg package from Ecuador to Germany costs 140 $ and yes, this was the cheapest option. Sending one postcard would be another 4$....so in the end we decided to carry everything around for another few weeks rather than spending 250$ at the post office. We calculated that it would have been easier driving back to Colombia by bus, both of us, and spending one night at the bordertown, sending the package and coming back...but we had other plans;)
Deep in the Amazon and how our bus broke down in the middle of the night
Instead, we decided to use the money instead in order to make a jungle tour through the Amazon as we planned on seeing the vast beauty of the rain forest and animals living there such as birds, caimans, piranhas and monkeys. But we needed to find a tour operator first and an affordable offer. Somehow, there has been the trend for luxury accommodations in the jungle, which means that you can end up paying 400 $ for one night in the jungle, in a luxury lodge, which is obviously way too expensive. In addition, we don't really need whirlpools in the jungle, thank you very much, we prefer to travel the good old way! However, finding an accommodation that is not luxury was very difficult, both on the internet and in the lonely planet. Eventually, we found a reasonable tour to the Amazon with a guide and an accommodation fulfilling your basic needs, which was exactly what we wanted. The itinerary was to start the trip in the night and to take a bus all the way to the Limoncocha reserve in the Amazon.
Around 3 am our bus decided to have a problem with the engine, so we had to take another one in order to reach a different city and another one from there which didn't show up, so we called a cab instead. With an hour or two delay, we finally arrived at the Limoncocha reserve, but the journey did not end here. Our tour guide Ivan (yes, this is his real name despite being of native origin!), Johannes and continued our travel by motorized canoe for 20 minutes across the Limoncocha lagoon to our cabanas in a small clearing in the jungle beside a Kichwa family.
What is Kichwa?
Kichwa is the terminology used to describe the indiginous people of Ecuador, as well as of other countries (Bolivia, Peru, etc). Whereas many are Catholics, there is also a mix in belief between Catholics and Pachamama, meaning mother earth and the power of nature. We were not keen on going to see a 'cultural show' of 'how native people live', which can feel quite staged, but the tour we chose allowed you to stay with an indiginous family without all the show. They are dressed normally, no fake shaman routine, the family doesn't make much of a show, but they offer you their accommodation and land to do jungle tours from and you get to know them a little bit which is nice.
Even Caimans want to cuddle once in a while
Upon arrival at the lagoon, we were not only welcomed by the head of the Kitchua family, but by a Caiman (which is a South American aligator)who charged towards our boat almost biting the captains ass off (even he dodged away, and usually they are used to the animals there and quite fearless). Maybe he loves to cuddle with people, maybe he fancied some human flesh, maybe he prefers to be in the boat for a change, or - and that is the most likely explanation- because he/she has a baby and is just very protective. Either way, the reason doesn't really matter we managed to fend it off in the end. Welcome to the jungle!
Pachamama- our natural Pharmacy in the middle of the jungle
We did several tours through the jungle, looking for birds, monkeys and other animals as well as some special plants. We got to see ginger, as well as other vegetables. But we also got to learn about plants with 'superpowers'- one acting like a glue ( so you can use it either as glue or as a natural, organic bandaid. Other plants include dragon's blood, consisting a red paste which can be out on the skin to heal injuries, it can be used as sunscreen and even as toothpaste. We also learned that termites can be eaten and are a good mosquito repellent once smeared onto your skin, and many more, so we are fit for survival now;)
The destination of our second walk through the jungle was a tree estimated to be roughly a thousand years old...
And you can't believe how gigantic and impressive it is.
Ivan, our guide is not only an excellent cook and a great company, but he also seams to have eagle eyes and sees the tiniest animals from the distance, which to me is quite remarkable and as a positive side-effect, we feel very safe:) Fishing piranhas, making our own chocolate, seeing more and more animals, driving along the lagoon and just relaxing in our little cabana was also on the agenda until it was our time to say goodbye again and move on to our next destination in the Andes called Banos.