Friday, October 27, 2006


in the jungle, the mighty jungle

lions, as a matter of fact, don´t live in the jungle, they live exclusively in the plains...

I met Gustavo (my spanish teacher and travel partner for the week) early on sunday morning at Quito´s main bus station. We were the first on the bus heading south and east to Tena, on of the main cities of Ecudor´s eastern region, and the gateway to the Amazon. as it left the station there were only a few other riders on the bus, but within 100 yards of leaving the station gates, the bus was packed, standing room only, without actually coming to a stop. Because there is a .50$ tax on tickets purchased at the station proper, people congregate just outside to hop onto the slowly rolling busses. 5 hours, and 2 Schwazenegger masterpeices later we arrived in Tena. The ride had been pretty spectacular, riding east through the Sierra and eventually down through the cloud forest, where the drizzle actually made things more dramatic, and eventually into the amazon basin. We left Tena itself pretty quickly, onto the Shangrila cabins, built like a peterpan/swiss family robinson tree house on the top of a cliff looking back west over the rio anzu and a strectch of secondary (aka once a rubber plantation) forest to the mountains.

In the mornings we had steamy sessions with that most impenetrable, confounding, and doubt ridden of subjects, el subjuntivo...our first afternoon we went to explore the canyons with Jose, who told us about the medicinal plants we passed along the way (one is to repel snakes). The canyons were two very narropw gorges formed over time by two tiny trickles of water, that I assume are a bit bigger after some rain. We climbed down into the first, walked down it until it met the second, then walked upstream as that canyon narrowed and narrowed until we eventually had to shimey up and out of it. The next day we caught a ride up river and tubed back down, stopping on the way to visit a small (80 person, 2 family, 2 soccer field) community on the river. After three nights at Shangrila we headed off to our second base, the Amarongatchi Cabins. We caught an early ride back through Tena in Mauricio´s pickup; to get to these second cabins we drove to the end of the paved road out of Tena (about 10 miles) and then along the unpaved section for another 6 or so...we rode over a rickety ´temporary´ bridge that had been there since a huge storm in march washed out the real one; ´they told us they´d replace it by august´ said Mauricio, ´but i suppose its not technically lying since they didn´t say august of which year´.

Later that morning we hiked through the primary (meaning only native plants) forest to a small river which we followed upstream for 2 hours until we reached a series of 3 huge waterfalls. Jose scrambled up first, tied a rope around boulders, then dropped it down to us so we could walk up the falls. The second of the three had a perfect little swimin´hole at the bottom so we stopped for 20 minutes to cool off. The next afternoon we hiked to the end of the road, where a less dramatic (less long/steep) waterfall dropped into the Rio Grande. About two thirds of the way down the falls was a pool, about 10 yards square and 10 feet deep, the best swimin´hole ever (sorry rappahanock)...Gustavo, Jose, Eduardo, and I spent about an hour hangin out on the rocks on the edge, jumping into the pool, and using the falls as a waterslide. When we finshed we hoped into the tubes we´d brought with us and floated down the river back to the cabins. That night it rained. From about 6 to 10, and again, for good measure, from 2-4 as hard as possible. The four of sheltered in the dinning room playing round after round of cuarenta (Ecuador´s most popular cardgame) by candlelight. The next morning Gustavo and I were due to leave, and we waited at the edge of the road for our ride. and waited, and waited. eventually a boy rode by on a bike and told us the news: last night´s storm washed out the bridge, no trucks were getting past. So we walked, and walked, and walked. A few hours later we arrived at the paved road and bus (luckily one had been caught on our side of the bridge) was idling. We sprinted to it (idling is a rare state for Ecuadorian buses, they dont sit still for long) and hoped on for a ride the last few miles to bridge. We clambered over the remains to the otherside where Mauricio was waiting for us. Back in tena we drank a tall glass of pinapple juice and caught the nxt bus to Quito, 5 hours and a Big Moma´s House marathon (¿they made a sequel?) later we arrived, exhausted.

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the welcoming party at shangrila

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view from the cabin, not too shabby

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swimin hole!

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the fourposter bed of the tropics

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this bird couldnt even talk

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gustavo playing cards

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on the bus ride home

shekk yur spelinng
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