Uno mas aventura is my new slogan. I only have...2 more days here in South America and I keep finding myself thinking uno mas aventura! or one more adventure! I am ready to unpack my bags and just stay somewhere and relax for a while but...while I am in Evuador...uno mas aventura!
So what was my last adventure? To find la selva, the jungle.
I found the jungle alright.
And got lost in it.
Let me start this story from the beginning...on Sunday I got on a bus to Tena which is a town that is surrounded by jungle. On the 6 hour ride I sat next to a 19 year old native named Jonathan. He suggested that I go to Musuahili to find the jungle and offered to go with me the next day.
So after staying the night in Tena and waking up to find ANTS (harmless right?) in my bed I met up with Jonathan and we got on a 1 hour bus to go to Musuahili. Musuahili is unique because it has jungle and beach! Two rivers connect and there is a nice area with sand banks where people and monkeys alike hang out and fight playfully.
Jonathan and I went to the beach. Just as we were getting in to the river the sky opened up and poured rain. But the air was so warm it was all comfortable! Jonathan had to leave early but I stayed and hung out at the beach for a while and watched monkeys stealing food from unsuspecting families and children.
Last night I met a bunch of Australians hanging out at a hostel. They are doing a volunteer project in a nearby village and all stay at this one hostel. I got to talking with them and somehow it came up that I was in Musuahili in search of the jungle. The guy who is in charge of the volunteer project (and has lived here for years) suggested that I go find Carlos and set up a tour with him. So I found Carlos. And set up a tour for today. A family of four were thinking about joining the tour but ended up not.
So this morning Carlos and I hopped in to the back of a pickup truck and went for a ride to a nice place away from towns in the jungle. The pickup truck ride was one of my favorite parts of the day. I saw so much jungle and what can beat standing up in the bed of a truck and ducking out of the way of branches?
Anyways, we arrived at our little entrance and entered the jungle. Just like that. One second we were on the road. One step later I was in the jungle. Carlos explained that we were going to walk around for a while in the Primary Forest (forest in a state of equilibrium with tall trees, medium plants and small young ones) and possibly encounter Secondary Forest (where a tree has fallen and suddenly the plants on the forest floor grow rapidly because of all the sun).
Oh did I mention we did not have a trail?
So we walked for a while and saw big trees and trees called Walking Palms. These ones are really cool, the roots are half way above ground and they can actually move as much as 15 centimeters per year to get to soil with more nutrients. We also heard cool birds and saw colorful butterflies.
A couple hours later we came upon a trail and decided to follow it. We came out of the selva at another road. We had a snack and Carlos said he would prefer to cut straight through the forest to the other road instead of walking in the sun to the other road. Ok, I thought. He knows what hes doing.
So we sat down and had a little snack of bread, water and bananas. A guy walked by and Carlos asked him if the trail we were on went straight through to the road. The guy said he had no idea. This is when I wondered how well Carlos knew the forest. My Australian friend had recommmended Carlos to me as a guide. And in talking with Carlos I found out he had been guiding for 25 years. I had felt secure going in to the jungle with him.
Then we went back in and followed the trail for a while then lost it. Then we turned to the right. I thought, That is funny, I thought the road was the other direction...but my sense of direction is always bad, I will just follow Carlos, he knows where he is going.
About 15 minutes and lots of crazy turns later Carlos turned around and said, ¨Somos perdidos.¨ which literally translates to ¨We are lost.¨
That is when a giant boa constrictor dropped from the tree right in front of our faces. Luckily Carlos had his machetti and he chopped its head off with one swing. Then a pack of monkeys ambushed us. They pulled our hair looking for flead and stole my rubber boots. Sunndenly they stopped the ambush and took off swinging in one direction. Carlos and I turned around to see none other than a giant black panther. It looked us in the eyes, gave one snarl and then-
You dont believe that do you? Really, that is when I pulled out my handy dandy compass. On my last trip to the store before I came my mom bought me a cute little compass that also doubles as a whistle and thremometer and magnifying glass. I hooked it on my backpact and never have actually had to use it until today. Carlos and I found the beautiful direction West and headed in that direction. We walked and walked. I wondered what it would be like to sleep in the forest and wished I had thought to bring my head lamp.
Then we stumbled upon a trail that Carlos said he remembered using more or less 4 years ago. So we followed that. And I was thirsty but did not want to drink any of my water because I wanted to conserve it for later when I might need it more. We walked at while more and I thought about what food I had: an orange, a granadilla, altoid ginger mints and vitamins. Enough to live on for a while right? Then Carlos said 15 minutes to the road and sure enough, about 15 minutes later we came out of the jungle and on to the road. Just like that. One second we were in the jungle and one step later we were on the road. I have never been so grateful to see a dirt road before!
Luckily just then a truck drove by and we hopped in the back and rode to a nice little river where we swam for a while. While we were swimming Carlos said something to the extent of ¨You thought we were lost in there for a while. But we werent lost. We are here in the river now.¨ Ha! Really??? Do you want to rewind an hour and tell me this?
Currently I am at my hostel. It is really cute, one of my favorite hostels on my whole trip. I have a nice big bed with stark white sheets and a floral mosquito net over it. I also have a private bathroom with surprisingly warm water.