From Quito we travelled east into The Orient – Ecuador’s slice of the Amazon rainforest. We would be staying with the Shiripuno indigenous community for a few days. Interestingly the community is run almost entirely by the women, as explained by the communities “big chief” – a tiny lady called Maria!
The camp itself was lovely, set on the banks of the Rio Napo, it covered several acres of what’s described as secondary rainforest – which is not quite as dense / out to kill you as primary rainforest. The main camp consisted of several communal buildings for dining, entertainment and crafts, a large dormitory and several small cabins. All built using traditional methods and using only that which grows in the jungle.
We were privileged to get our own little cabin – with facilities including; four walls, a bed and some candles. As soon as the sun drops below the horizon however, the stars come out in their millions (you could see the Milky Way galaxy with the naked eye!) and the first cicada kicks of the jungle orchestra, that was everything we needed.
After dinner we went on a night walk to look for creepy crawlies, it wasn’t long before our guide was plucking snakes out of trees and turning over leaves to reveal dozens of different spiders and scorpions – the unfortunate ones, blinded by our camera flashes going of inches from their many little eyes! We headed back to camp to look for tarantulas, apparently they like it there…great we thought. Within a few minutes we’d spotted a friendly looking one, and a few minutes after that it had made a new home on Lou’s arm.
The following morning we set out along the Rio Napo in a motorised canoe to head deep into primary rainforest. We spent the day trekking with a local guide who described all of the different trees and plants and what they are used for (both traditionally and modern medicine) and the many species of birds and insects. Wiped out we went tubing down the river at sunset, an awesome way to finish the day.
We spent the following morning collecting fresh fruit and vegetables with some of the older women in the community to go with our lunch – fresh fish cooked inside a single palm leaf, delicious
We also collected fresh cocoa, and in the afternoon we were shown how to make our own chocolate. Really quite simple; start by removing the beans from the pod, sun dry them for about a day, roast for 10 mins over a very hot fire, peel the beans and then grind them to a powder, add a shit load of suger and then powdered milk to lighten. It wasn’t the most refined chocolate I’ve ever eaten, but it made a very good jungle brownie!
To burn off the brownies we challenged the local kids to a football game. If they win – we buy them Coca Cola; if we win, they’ll give us a kiss. Their team definitely had the advantage, being double in number, half the size, and not wearing wellies! They beat us 5-2 in a match full of tantrums tears and giggles and posed for a photo at the end. (Note the little lad who had been bullied for missing a goal and sat sulking 3 metres away).
On the final night the whole community, our group and a bunch of annoying American students all got together on the banks of the Rio Napo for a bonfire and party. The men played traditional music, the women in full dress danced and we were invited to join in and embarrass ourselves…which we dutifully did. The Americans were just annoying.
Next stop > Banos
View from our jungle hut.
Maria overlooking our fish wrapped in palm leaves.
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