Thursday, October 30, 2008


AAAAAH. we got back from the jungle last night, which was super great. We stayed at a place called Liana Lodge (if it´s in a weird language, click the british flag in the upper right corner).

It was great. All inclusive, thatched huts, tours, amazing meals, great price. The first day I did a couple hour jungle trek with a guide named Fausto and he was great. Mark and Geoff did a different thing so I ended up with a family from Guayaquil so it was all in Spanish and a great opportunity to practice. We saw a poisenous frog and a poisenous snake and ate some orchids and lots of other cool things. Lots of indiginous medicinal plants that made me wish my mom was there because she probably would have known what the heck he was talking about. Although one of the people asked what we would do if we got bit by the snake because you have a shelf life of about 20 minutes after getting bitten and we were clearly much further than that away from anywhere. And he said no problem! the antivenom is this vine over here! stuff like that was pretty amazing.

I went that afternoon on a tour - again with Fausto to an island in the river where the native Kichwan grow various crops and got to try out the blow dart gun and I was the only one who hit the target, including Fausto, so I felt pretty cool. Thanks VSO! We also tried the Chicha which is the native fermented drink. It was a little weird to be such a tourist in these people´s homes, clearly there only for the dollars we bring them, but with the jungle being flattened all around them, it´s harder to live off the land so they start to have to have money to buy the food they used to be able to hunt and grow. And so the world changes I guess.

The next morning I went again with Fausto and the folks from Guyaquil to the zoo/animal rehab area which was pretty cool. They are doing good work and it was fun to have the chance to see the animals up close, even if they are behind cages.

That afternoon Geoff and Mark and I went with the man who had been their guide the first day, Cesar and "built" (tied some logs together with rope) a raft and went down the river for a couple of hours. It was fantastic to just get the chance to sit and visit with one of the guides about what it was like living there and working the lodge and how much it has all changed just in his lifetime. It is amazing how quickly it is happening. Just when he was a kid, they would load up their things onto a balsa raft and move stuff down the river for a few days, now there are motorized canoes and roads and trucks. And he´s not that old - 26 or so. It´s sobering to start to learn the realities of it all.

But, Liana Lodge, and their project Selva Viva are up to some good things and it looks like more and more folks are trying to figure out ways to preserve a lot of the jungle and the animals and the native cultures.

Now we are in Baños, which is super gringo town but also super fun. Geoff wasn´t feeling great last night so Mark and I went out and had some beers and ended up in a bar called BARBASS and the bartender was super duper fun. After a few beers and some political conversation - all of Ecuador seems to be pulling for Obama - but it´s tough to have a conversation about politics when you don´t have all the vocabulary of the language. It was funny to try to walk softly on such a subject. But, it was good to hear that other cultures think that the people of the US are mostly great, we just have had some tough leadership for a while. Suddenly they empathize and know how we feels since it happens like that in Latin America so often. Then he made us a drink called the Bob Marley which, near as we can tell, was flaming sugar cane liquor (moonshine) out of a decanter with no label, a little grenadene and a little creme de menthe to make the rasta colors, lit on fire and drank through a straw all at once. It was odd and there was definitely a moment of "this is where you´re given something funny to drink and wake up with a headache, no money and a missing kidney" but sometimes you just go with it anyway and all it ended up doing was making us drunk and giving Mark a sneezing fit.

So now we´re deciding what to do next, Mark has to leave for Quito tomorrow to catch his flight out on Saturday and Geoff and I will head for Cuenca where we will spend a few days. We´ll catch all-saints day, all-souls day and Cuenca´s independence day celebration which is meant to be amazing so it should be a great few days.

I think I can figure out how to load images now, so I´ll make another post with some that we have so far. love you all!

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