Marc & Nora ROUND THE WORLD 2005/2006 - Join us!

Ecuador-Travelogue  |  Travel time: September 2005 - July 2006  |  by marc and nora L.

ECUADOR: Baños and Jungle Trip

After a very scary bus ride from Riobamba which reminded us strongly of the death road in Bolivia we arrived in Baños.

In an internet cafe I got to know Angelina and Jan, a lovely German Couple that had just been robbed on the bus from Quito to Baños. They were pretty busy phoning around to cancel their credit cards, organise new ones, informing the consulate etc etc.
As I have gone through all that before in Buenos Aires I gave them some advise.
The thiefs were so clever - it is hard to believe how professional and quick they are.

The conductor of the bus walked through and collected all the tickets of the passengers. One-handed he then grabbed Angelina's rucksack which was placed in front of her legs and pushed it below her seat saying, for safety ans security reasons, it is better stowed underneath there. They felt very suspicious and observed the guy closely. As he used only one hand they could see that he didnt take anything out but only pushed it under the seat.
As soon as the conducter moved on Angelina took the rucksack back to the front and placed it back next to her feet.
In what couldnt have been more than 15 seconds the person behind (obviously the accomplice of the conductor) managed to open the rucksack and take a small bag with all the credit cards, flight tickets to Galapagos, flight tickets home and $600 USD in cash out. They obviously didnt realise this until they has got of the bus and of course the guy sitting behind them had left the bus hours ago!

So after the initial shock and the stress to organise everything we sat together for dinner and we also spent the next few days together watching the football games.

On the 2nd day in Baños my tooth started to ache again - OH NO!
I went straight to the only dentist that was open on a Saturday (of course it had to be just when the England game kicked off but believe it or not -the dentist had a TV with the game on right next to the treatment chair.)
He calmed me down saying that the infection has almost gone - I might need a few days more antibiotics, thats all.
Hallelujah!

I ran back to the pub where Marc, Angelina and Jan were and had to see how England's dream of becoming the world football champion was destroyed by the victory of Portugal.

We then booked a 3day jungle trip to the region of Puyo.

The next day my toothache wasnt any better. But that was only the beginning.

The guide for our jungle trip was called Sandro (that was the name he chose when joining the army in Ecuador - his real name was something like Wayro)
He grew up in a small village in the jungle and his uncle and parents still live in different villages in the middle of the jungle. His grandfather was a shaman who killed his enemies and then shrunk his heads by boiling them (really, no joke!)

We left Baños early in the morning, took a bus to Puyo from where we continued by 4WD taxi to the first camp called OLAVIDA.

Sandro showed us so much - at every 2nd plant we stopped and he explained to us not only what it is but also how it is used for medical purposes. Of course I was also given a certain plant that should cure my tooth ache. By now I didnt even hesistate - just gimme anything that makes my pain go...
...so I was given "DATURA" - Sandro took the leaves off, cut them open and scraped some green flesh out which he put onto my infected tooth with some cotton. I had to bite on it for a few minutes, then he repeated the same treatment twice. It did help but unfortunately not for long.

DATURA plant - to heal my tooth ache

DATURA plant - to heal my tooth ache

He also showed us plants that the indigenous use for colouring fabrics (one plant is called SANI) and some other plants that they use to colour their skin when they have ceremonies (called AOTILLO).

We learned that termites are natural mosquito repellent.
Marc tried it and it worked! What you do? You first need to know where the termites are - then you scrape off a bit of the tree trunk where they are in so they all come out. then you simply put your hand there and they will all start crawling on it. Then you simply rub them onto your body - their bodies burst and the smell is really strong - and keeps mosquitoes away. Marc also tasted them too as Sandro had said that they also make a tasty snack....he said that they weren´t too bad if not a little ´perfumey´

We were, for a change, actually very very lucky with the weather. Right now it is wet season in the SELVA (Selva is jungle) so it usually rains like crazy - thats why the tour operators give you wellington boots and rain ponchos.
During our 1st day it rained a little, the 2nd day was pretty dry (just a short shower) and the 3rd day was lovely, really hot, blue sky and not a single cloud!

During nighttime however it pissed down and the ground was really really muddy - so you get covered in mud. It is quite funny as you really get stuck in the mud - sometimes the mud is higher than your wellies and then you have the mud pouring into your boots - NICE!

The first day we saw some mimosa and sandro told us to touch its leaves. As soon as we touched them the leaves pulled together and when you touch the plant in a certain way the entire plant shrinks... very weird.
It takes 24 hours for the plant to stretch its leaves again. Next day we passed the same plant and it was back to normal.

our camp: Hammock and river

our camp: Hammock and river

another view of the river

another view of the river

our little hut

our little hut

our bedroom

our bedroom

a butterfly just escaping the cocoon

a butterfly just escaping the cocoon

a jungle monkey (night active)

a jungle monkey (night active)

I also had my face painted ´jungle style´ and Sandro showed us how to prepare against the rain if you are in the jungle and you dont have anything to cover your head....a big leaf fashioned into a hat....

a jungle wasp

a jungle wasp

A spider - can you see the face on its back?

A spider - can you see the face on its back?

getting my forehead painted

getting my forehead painted

the result

the result

a perfect rain protection - simple & quick to make

a perfect rain protection - simple & quick to make

a waterfall

a waterfall

It is amazing to think that there are still so many indigenous people that rely on the plants in the Selva to heal their wunds and illnesses.

There are plants against Asthma, Malaria, Diabetes, Arteritis and even a treatment against baldness. (plant UNGURAJUA).

Another really interesting plant was the DRAGON BLOOD. You cut the trunk of this particular tree, then it starts bleeding, you take this red colour and apply it onto your skin and keep rubbing. The red colour diminishes and instead a thick white creamy consistency appears - used as moisturizer by women.

We also saw thoasands of ants that cut out the leaves of the trees and bring it to their queen's nest.
The whole jungle is full of lines of ants transporting these relatively huge pieces of leaf - it looks amazing!

On our 1st day we also saw a snake (apparently harmless) - the infamous ANACONDA however stayed hidden during our few days in the SELVA.

2 indigenous kids fishing

2 indigenous kids fishing

young boy from village

young boy from village

young tribe girl

young tribe girl

In the evening we stayed in a jungle camp which was done really nicely - Sandro cooked for us lunch and dinner which was really really nice.

The 2nd day after an extensive breakfast (Sandro prepared pancakes with fresh fruits, bread, marmelade, coffee and tee) we went for a long tour - again he explained to us different plants and tradtions of the jungle and then it came to the point where we had to learn some Survival practices. If you are lost (it is easy to get lost in the jungle as there are no real paths, Sandro cleared the way with a machete) there is a certain tree called INGA IDULIS which is hollow inside so if you grab a stone or a stick and hit this tree hard someone further away may here your "drums for help".

Sandro was not only a good guide who spoke and understood excellent English, as we said before he was brought up in the jungle so it is his home and therefore he is a great hunter and weapon builder as well.

In about 4 minutes he created a very sophisticated trap with some wooden sticks, a tree and some leaves of a vine (long thin twines). He then gave Marc a stick and asked him to throw it into the trap pretending it was the foot of a wild chicken or a pig.

I couldnt believe my eyes when Marc threw the stick into the trap with so much power so that it bounced off the ground in less than a second but even though it touched the trap for less than a second it was cought by the string and lifted into the air - hanging off the tree a moment later.
NO WAY! Marc and I were speechless! We made Sandro repeat this trick and it worked again! RESPECT!

Sandro then crafted a bow and arrow in less than 2 minutes using a branch of the UCHJA tree, strings from a vine (Kletterpflanze in German), and some other stick.

You should have seen how well we did pretending we were Robin Hood for a while.

With knowing how to build a trap, shoot a wild chicken and how to cry for help in case we couldnt catch our food we were able to survive in the jungle (yeah right!)

yes, it was quite muddy!

yes, it was quite muddy!

a beautiful huge butterfly

a beautiful huge butterfly

preparing the trap

preparing the trap

proud hunter marc with his catch

proud hunter marc with his catch

We then continued walking (putting one foot into the mud then the other) until we reached a river. Here we had to take all of our clothes off, put some swimming pants/Bikini on as well as our Wellies and then continue to walk in the river. This was rather funny as the water was much higher than our Wellington boots and sometimes it even reached our belly. What I forgot to mention was that the water was frrrreeeezing! Further down the river we had to take our wellies off, put all our valuables into a bag and swim a short distance through a narrow opening holding our arms up into the air with the bag to make our camera/passport didnt get wet. On the other side there was a beautiful small waterhole with a fantastic strong waterfall. PARADISE!

the handmade bow and arrow

the handmade bow and arrow

walking through the freezing cold river

walking through the freezing cold river

to get to this beautiful waterfall

to get to this beautiful waterfall

like in paradise!

like in paradise!

After a swimming break we walked back and arrived at the camp mid afternoon. Sandro prepared a fantastic lunch and after lunch we had to pack to spend the 2nd night in a different camp. (called Escondida)

To get there we had to take a narrow river canoe. My god, what an experience! All of our stuff was packed in the front of the canoe, a poncho around to protect it from the water and then Marc, Sandro and I had to get it. The river Puyo was so incredibly high due to the heavy rainfall from the previous night that the rim of the canoe almost was at water level.

At the beginning the water was smooth but soon after there were swirls and waves...it didnt take long and we were very wet. The tiny canoe seemed so unstable, I just wondered how long it takes until the boat flips over. I initially thought the boat ride only takes a few minutes but found out soon that it was a 45 minute ride of anxiety!

At first I had my hands clutched onto the rim of the canoe but when I was told that anacondas inhabit the river my hands quickly found their way inside of the boat.

The boat ride was a constant change of smooth, calm water and all of a sudden a turbulent, wavey section. Towards the end it got so rough and rocky that the canoe driver had to jump into the water and balance the boat from the back so it doesnt crash into the rocks. A bit like rafting but with a tiny wooden canoe! No crash helmets, no life vests! And no protection against Anacondas! It was FUN!

Of course we arrived safely at our second camp which was also the home of Sandro's uncle.
Here as well as in the 1st camp where lots of parrots that were here for rehabilitation (found as illegal pets with families and before being released into the jungle they come here to get used to be in the wild again).

As it was evening Sandro prepared some dinner and he also showed us how the indigenous make the handicraft (artesania) sold at all the markets in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and generally all over the world.

Earlier that day we had collected some nuts (Kili for Marc and Pamigua for Nora) and we all had a go cutting the flesh away from the PITA plant (= Jungle pineapple) in order to get the fibres from it.
Now back at the camp Sandro chewed the leaves of the SANI plant, spat them out and rubbed the fibres with them. Amazingly the green leaves turned into bright purple and the more Sandro rubbed the more colour came out of those leaves.

He then dried the fibres and drilled a hole through the nut and also made a pattern with the knife. We now have 2 necklaces not only made by hand but we also witnessed how they were made and what off.

beautiful! shorts and wellies!

beautiful! shorts and wellies!

concerned Nora on the canoe ride

concerned Nora on the canoe ride

Later at night we visited Sandro's family and as a celebration Marc was offered CHICHA, the Ecuadorian traditional beer. Only after he had a sip (it looks like a thick white soup and is served in a big soup bowl) Sandro told him how it is prepared:
In the jungle it is made from sweet potato and Yuca (in the sierra they use corn instead) which is boiled then CHEWED (nice!!!) and then SPAT back into the bowl and left to ferment. The whole substance is left for 3 to 5 days until it turns into alcohol. If you want it really strong you leave it for 1 week.
ENJOY YOUR CHICHA!

the canoe

the canoe

On the last day I (Nora) couldnt join Marc and Sandro on their walk as my tooth ache just killed me...I was in such pain it was horrible!

Instead I stayed in the camp, took an overdose of painkillers and tried to relax in a hammock.

A few hours later I felt better and Sandro's uncle suggested that he could bring me to the same place where Sandro and Marc walked first - the Alligators.

Armed with an enormous machete we made our way to a kind of swamp land - and then we saw an alligator bathing in the sun - with a butterfly sat on his nose! CUTE!

Sandro's uncle was really eager to show me some Anacondas but we couldnt find any (not sure whether I am happy or sad about that - after having seen a 15meter long skin of an Anaconda in a museum later on I might be happy we havent encountered one alive)

When we returned Marc and Sandro have come back already - they collected some banana leaves and were ready to prepare our last meal in the jungle - some typical food called VIEJA which is fish with some herbs wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in the fire.

Mmmmh! Yummy! Delicious! So simple but so tasty!

At the very end we also got to see some poisonous frog and on the way back with the taxi we made a detour to the Mirador where Marc and Sandro had been in the morning so that I could also enjoy the view from the top of the hill.
It was a beautiful day to be here - we could see the curving river and the jungle in perfect sunshine.

To finish a perfect trip off in a perfect way we got to practice shooting darts with a blowpipe - an authentic hunting method still used by indigenous people. The darts are poisoned and can fly up to 300 meters (if you are a skilled blowpipe hunter).

We practised with a wooden bird - it seemed like Marc had some secret training before as he hit the bird's heart all the time. I managed to hit his throat!

So after 3 days in the jungle with Sandro as an excellent guide, cook and hunter we might be able to survive in the Jungle!!!

a turtle

a turtle

a poisonous frog

a poisonous frog

an alligator

an alligator

preparing traditional lunch in banana leaves

preparing traditional lunch in banana leaves

yummy!

yummy!

the view from the mirador

the view from the mirador

trying our blowpipe skills

trying our blowpipe skills

Marc, the professional blowpipe hunter

Marc, the professional blowpipe hunter

The result

The result

another (this time not poisonous) frog

another (this time not poisonous) frog

a caterpillar with bright red face

a caterpillar with bright red face

© marc and nora L., 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
Hello - 5 more days!!! On the 12th of September we are setting off! Our plan is to travel round the world for a period of 10 months. 1st stop: Thailand (1 month) and cambodia 2nd stop: Via Singapore (overland) to Australia where we plan to stay for approximately 4-5 months. 3rd stop: New Zealand (2 months) (north and south island) 4th stop: South America (approx. 3 months) (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and if time and money allows we might visit costa rica)
Details:
Start of journey: Sep 12, 2005
Duration: 11 months
End of journey: Jul 31, 2006
Travelled countries: world-wide
United Kingdom
Thailand
Malaysia
Cambodia
Singapore
Australia
Australia & Pacific
New Zealand
South America
Chile
Argentina
Bolivia
Peru
Ecuador
Canada
The Author
 
marc and nora L. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.
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