A few fun facts: The Amazon Rain Forest is approximately the same size as the United States and has at least 30% of the planets fresh water.
Our small group piled in the caravan for a five hour drive from our resort Papallacta to the Amazon basin resulting in an elevation drop of 9800 feet. It’s funny how your body reacts to not only elevation but changes in the weather when you have little time to adjust. For example a few of us experienced mild headaches, rapid heart rate as well as shortness of breath. Actually we were just happy to continue our trip with the growing Ecuadorian strikes and the potential road closures.
Once we reached the Napo River, a tributary to the Amazon, our group boarded motor powered canoes for transport to our Amazon lodge. We were all hot and sweaty with temperatures of around 90 degrees and humidity to match, a contrast to the cold weather of the Andes that morning. Surprisingly a few travel mates were still wearing long sleeve sweaters and quilted vests.
But it was all worth it once we reached our lodge, very beautiful with the surrounding jungle and wildlife.
After we were situated we once again headed out by boat to a small island inhabited by several families of indigenous people. The idea was to visit a native family to get a “real feel” for their lifestyle.
Our group then took a short nature walk where we reached the family that would be hosting us, which also was one of our guides in-laws.
We were ushered into the islands hut greeting area that was probably a whitewashed version for the tourists. It was smokey inside due to the burning of an empty termite nest, that is routinely done to keep away the mosquitoes. Effective, but if your not use to it can seem overpowering at first.
The patriarch of the family and father-in-law to our guide was also the shaman or medicine man and elder to the other people on this small island. He wore a crown of feathers and seemed bored with our intrusion. The wife and several small children were also present. The children were shy but the mom was more eager to greet us. We all wore masks.
We then sat down on benches placed along the perimeter of the hut for an informative talk of the local fermented drink chicha and how it was made and various tools and plants used in preparation of meals. It was also an opportunity to ask questions about everyday life and customs.
At some point though my interest waned as I increasingly felt uncomfortable from the heat, humidity and smoke in the hut.Then I felt a physical transformation occur, but not in a good way. It began with the sunscreen as it slowly dripped down my face while I liquified into a huge pile of sweat. I could feel Allan looking at me empathetically while perhaps considering my demise. The sunscreen I had applied earlier that day was now making its way into my eyes causing them to burn and become red and swollen.
Other people in the group shot nervous glances at me as if I was some monstrous wax figure melting in real time like you would see in some horror movie. I swear I could hear them thinking …. “Was she suffering from jungle fever?”
Honestly at this point I didn’t want to leave the hut and bring any more ill-favored attention to myself, so I sat quietly ….. and didn’t move ….and dissolved.
Fortunately this experience was short lived as we exited this Amazon hut and soon had demonstrations of blow guns and piranha dart sharpeners. All of which I had a greater fascination for.