The second week of my travel adventure is one that I have been looking forward to. The reason is that I have spent this week in the Amazon rainforest! This entails: a lot of rain, a lot of humidity, a lot of nature, and above all: a lot of animals.
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Monday: hike in the Amazon
This week, we stayed in the Gaia Lodge, around 10 minutes away by car from a small village called Ahuano. This lodge has a common area with a terrace, tables and couches, and hammocks. Here, you can also find the kitchen where the food is prepared. Above the kitchen, there are a few private rooms. If you walk from the common area along the path, you find three other lodges with each two dorms. These are meant for groups, but I had one whole dorm to myself.
Breakfast is served at 7.30 a.m., but I don’t mind the early time at all, because the view is amazing! From the terrace of the common area, you can see the jungle and the river. If you are lucky, you can see monkeys jumping in the trees.
Breakfast is amazing. First, you get fruit – which is absolutely delicious here in the Amazon – and then you get bread, scrambled eggs and fresh juice from various fruits.
At 8 a.m. (or sometimes a little later), the Spanish lessons start. This is on the floor above the breakfast-area, with the same view.
The classes only take 3 hours this week, so one hour less than previous week. I like it, because 4 hours per day can be a little intense. This teacher is different from the one we had last week. Last week, we focused on the grammar, and the reading and writing. This week, we focus a lot more on conversation and improvising, things we need the most in daily life.
If you spend a week in the Amazon rainforest, you have to do at least one hike in the jungle. This is what we did on our very first day. First, we walked for two minutes or so on the road, and then we went straight into the wilderness.
During our hike, we saw all kinds of plants and insects, and small animals. One of the trees here has some sort of blood (and it looks like this too), and the locals say that this blood is beneficial for all sorts of things. This is why we got to taste the blood of the tree.
A little while later, our guide took a branch and tore it apart. There were a lot of small ants inside of it. The guide told us that the ants taste like lemon. First, I thought that he was joking, but he was really serious and demonstrated that you could eat the ants. Of course, I tried some too. And yes, they really do taste like lemon.
Tuesday: swimming in the Amazon
As usual, the day started with Spanish lessons, and a beautiful view. A and I just kept staring at the river and the jungle, and we were totally distracted from the class.
In the afternoon, we went swimming in the river. What we didn’t know, is that there would be a hike before the swimming.
We cruised over the river with a boat. If you ever spend a week in the Amazone, I do recommend making a boat trip on the river. This is an experience you cannot miss out on.
After the boat, we walked through the jungle for a while and we spotted monkeys and toucans. And ants, a lot of ants. When the sun almost went down, we finally got to the part of the river where we went swimming.
At that point, I though it was too cold to go swimming, but I went anyway. After all, you never know when you get the chance to swim in the Amazone rainforest again. (Spoiler alert: the next day. And the day after that.)
Wednesday: caimans and the sunset
So yeah, the next day, we got the chance to swim in the Amazon again. After Spanish class in the morning, we were told again that we would go swimming in the rivier this afternoon, so we should put on our bathing suits. Great, okay, let’s do it!
What they failed to tell us, is that, again, we would have to hike before the swimming. This time would be a 2 hour hike in the jungle. Not really expected, but totally appreciated in the end. We went to Laguna Caiman – indeed, a lake full of caimans.
(We didn’t swim here, of course).
The guide brought some food for the caimans, so they got out of the water and we could see them better. I’m not totally sure why the caimans would stay in their lake, instead of walking a couple hundred meters to the river. But okay, I trust the guides that the river is safe to swim in.
And so we went swimming in the river, again. The water was cold, again, but I still went in. Not just because of the awesome experience, but also because of the many mosquitos that were annoying is. It was literally more pleasant to go into the cold water of the river, than to stay dry and warm on the shore between the mosquitos.
We played a game on the beach, and then we went back to the lodges. When we arrived there, F, A, R and I decided that we wanted to go get snacks in the nearby village. At first, I didn’t really feel like going, but now, I’m really glad that I did. The drive to the village was amazing!
A taxi picked us op, and we could sit in the back of the pick-up truck. The sun was setting at that time, and so we saw a beautiful view while driving to and from the village. The sky above the jungle was orange/yellow/purple/pink.
When we got back the lodge, we had gotten a lot of snacks for a really low price. The other visitors of the lodge told us that they found a spider under their dorm. And not just any spider: a tarantula. The lodge of the dorm this tarantula was under, was actually my lodge as well. I admired the tarantula from a distance, but I have not thought much about the fact that the tarantula is only a few meters away from my head when I’m sleeping.
Thursday: tubing down the river
Whereas on Tuesday, I thought that swimming in the Amazon rainforest would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, today I discovered that it was yet again time to pack my bathing suit. We would go “tubing down the river” today.
This absolutely sounded amazing and we were all looking forward to it. Drink in hand, sun on our faces, floating in the water… Except it started to rain REALLY hard when we got on the boat. However, we still decided to do it. And even though it rained for the first part of the tubing, this afternoon is one of my most beautiful memories of the trip up until now.
Two girls, who work at the lodge, went with us into the river. They pointed out that at one point, you could see the monkeys in the trees. And so there we were, floating in the river, watching the monkeys jump from tree to tree. It almost seemed like they were following us. This view was incredible, and I’ll probably never forget seeing this.
Friday: waterfalls in the Amazon
On Friday, we had the final Spanish lessons of the week. These were shorter than the other days, because our teacher had to travel back to Quito today. Apparently, the only bus/taxi of that day would leave at 11.30 a.m, so he had from 8 until 11 to teach us.
In the afternoon, some of us went to the waterfalls with a guide, to admire the nature and swim in the lake. Just a quiet but fun afternoon in the Amazon.
Saturday: amaZOOnico, chocolate and butterflies
This Saturday was a busy, but fun day. Because it was the weekend, and because our teacher had left to Quito, we had no classes. This day was therefore filled with all kinds of activities that we didn’t get to do earlier in the week.
In the morning, we went to the amaZOOnico, an animal rescue centre. This organisation rescues hurt of weak animals from the jungle, and takes care of them with the goal of releasing them into the nature later on. This doesn’t always happen, because some animals are just too impaired to ever return to the jungle and live independently.
In the centre, we saw some monkeys, parrots, toucans, crocodiles, tapirs and an anaconda. Some of these animals were rescued from circuses, where the animals were used to earn money. One of the toucans was taught to sing all day long, even though this is really bad for its voice. Some of the monkeys had been pets from locals.
And the anaconda lived with the locals in the street, as a sightseeing object. Because she was kept on the streets instead of in the nature, she grew to be only (!) 3 meters, instead of the normal 7 to 10 meters.
After the rescue centre, we went back to the lodge, and here we visited an artisanal chocolate demonstration. We were shown how to make chocolate with cacao beans. We helped peal the beans, and grind them. Then, the pure cacao was mixed with soy milk, honey, vanilla and cinnamon. We used the self-made chocolate to dip some pieces of bananas and mango in. Very delicious!
In the afternoon, we went to a butterfly farm. There were a lot of different butterflies, and also caterpillars and cocons. We let butterflies sit on our hands, and we were able to take pictures of them from very close.
Sunday: travel day to our next destination
On Sunday, it was time to say goodbye to the Amazon rainforest, and to spend the day in the car and plane. We left around 9 a.m, and went by car to Quito. This drive took about 5 hours.
From Quito, we took the plane to our next destination. The flight was only an hour long, if not less. However, the drive from the jungle to our new destination would have been a lot longer, and so the organisation chose to book us a flight.
Once we arrived by plane, the manager of the Spanish school waited for us in the airport. He and two other drivers brought us to our host families. A and I were in the same host family, which is really nice! Next week, you’ll read all about my adventures in Manta!