Feb 27, 2009

Banos, Ecuador: Round 4

What do you do after your Amazon tour where you have held a alligator, eaten piranha and spent the night with a drunken Shaman?  Easy choice........you take the red eye bus to Banos and keep the adventures coming.  With 4 days left of vacation, that's exactly what Christian and I did.  Check it out:
After having cow stomach and rice for breakfast, which does not fall anywhere near the descriptive word, "tasty", we spent the morning hiking up the mountain side for this view of Banos, below.  We then rented a go cart for the afternoon and drove around on the back country roads.  Yes, in the picture above, that is Christian driving without his helmet buckled and rocking out on his ipod.  Safety first does not apply to two guys traveling during Carnival.  Note to future go cart renter's: be sure the headlights work before entering long, dark tunnels with cars coming the opposite way who think it is safe to pass because they don't see any oncoming traffic.  I'm pretty sure I saw angel's with golden trumpet's.   
The next day was spent taking a mountain bike tour of the area's many waterfall's.
Another great trip in the books.

Amazon Adventures

Carnival break.  17 hour bus ride.  6 hour canoe ride.  5 days in the Ecuadorian Oriente.  3 night's tent camping without sleeping bag or pad.  1 night sleeping on a tarp in the jungle, while a Shaman chants all night long.  3 Alligator's caught by hand, at night, in the dark.  1 Alligator consumed in a soup.  1 false encounter with evil spirits.  2 psychedelic dreams.  1 Pirahna breakfast.  1 too many sips of the infamous Chicha, a mildly alcoholic drink made by the village women who chew up corn and then spit it back into a bucket of warm water and then let it sit for a few days before consuming (refusing to drink would have been disrespectful).  4 river swims with Pink Dolphin's, Pirahna's, Alligator's and Turtles.  Number of time's I pee'd in the river's- 0.  1 amazing adventure.  Check it out:  
After arriving in Lago Agrio via a 17 hour bus ride, Christian and I take our first motor canoe ride to Fidel's (our guide) village.  We spent the afternoon at his home, pictured below, with his family while we waited for the rest of our friends to arrive the next morning.

That first night we camped at Fidel's 2nd home, the river camp.
I made a new friend who was very interested in my digital camera.
Our first Oriente sunset which was pointing the way to the next day's 7 hour canoe ride into the jungle.
Our long canoe ride ended deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, near the border of Peru and only 25 miles south of the Colombian border.  On our way we spotted the very rare fresh water Pink Dolphin and spent some time watching it feed.  We set up our base camp on this small island in the Cuyabena Reserve.  
The next day we spent the afternoon canoeing through small water ways, hiking, and watching monkeys, turtles, beautiful birds and another spotting of a Pink Dolphin.  This river pictured above is where we would  later spot alligator's, fish for pirahna and yes, go swimming.

Equipped with rubber boots, we went on a hike through the forest.  It was full of lush green vegetation, insects, birds and the canopy floor was covered in sitting, mosquito breeding water.  
During our hike we found some Tagua nuts (black and tan nuts at the top) which we cut open and drank the water from the little pockets inside.  If left alone, the water eventually turns to a gel, which we also ate, and then hardens into the Tagua nut that is commonly used for jewelry.  The red seeds above are from a different tree and used by various tribes as dye and body paint.  Of course we created our own tribe and painted each other for this photo below.  
Grrrrrr!  Each evening we went alligator hunting by canoe in the dark blackness of the night.  With Fidel in the front scanning the river bank with a flashlight, we would motor along quietly looking to spot the bright orange eye's of an alligator.  Once spotted, we would motor over to them, turn the motor off and glide the canoe right next to the alligator.  Mr. BAACH (Brave A$$ Alligator Catcher Man) would then lean his entire upper body over the side of the canoe, steadily hover his open hand over the back neck of the alligator and then...........all hell would break loose.  In an instant, he would strike at the back neck of the alligator.  Both alligator and Mr. BAACH would thrash around while murky brown water would splash everywhere.  It always took a couple seconds to determine which one would be the winner.  Let me remind you this is in the dark, with a hand held flashlight and BARE HANDS!  In total Mr. BAACH caught 3 out of 4 alligator's and kept all 10 digits.   
Yeah, that's me holding a feisty alligator.
The next morning we tried our hand at fishing for Pirahna.  As you can see, it was very uneventful.  Our biggest catch, pictured below, was a sardine.

Here is some mystery Amazon fruit that grew on some of the trees.
Here we are returning back to Fidel's village during a 7 hour canoe ride.
This old guy was just hanging out on his dug out canoe watching the Amazon world go by.
After arriving at Fidel's village we opted to spend the night with the Shaman and experience a healing ceremony.  We had no idea what we were getting into.  We took a canoe ride into a remote section of the Amazon and started hiking.  Fidel stayed back with his family and sent us with a different guide, who, as luck would turn out, got lost.  After leaving us in the middle of the forest to go "find the way", he returned and guided us to this open air, grass hut.  It was pitch black, the Shaman was smoking in a hammock next to a small fire, chanting.  We were told to spread out the black tarp we brought and that is where we would all sleep, without tents, sleeping bags and jackets for pillows.  As we shined our flashlight around our newly spread out black tarp, we spotted tarantula's, scorpions, cockroaches on steroids, and all sorts of other insects.  No joke!  
The Shaman, who was drunk, kept smoking 1 cigarette after another, chanting in his hammock for about an hour while we rested on the tarp waiting to begin.  Once he was ready, we each sat in front of him 1 at a time while he performed a small ceremony to clear our minds and drive away any evil spirits.  We were then offered a form of cactus juice which would, through that nights dreams, show us how to resolve any problems we had.  The next morning there were stories of outer space, endless free falling and living life without being able to speak.  Unfortunately, there were no stories of resolved problems.  3 others and I did not drink the "happy juice" as we offered to protect the others from the rumored side effects.  Looking back, it was I night were I most felt alive while camping, totally exposed to the Amazon elements.
A morning photo of us and the Shaman before hiking out through the thick forest (below).
This is what we were lost in the previous night.
Once we arrived back at Fidel's village, we were each handed Pirahna for breakfast.  It was a tasty little nibbler. 
Fidel's familia, amigos y perro.

Feb 12, 2009

Fever Proof

In preparation for my upcoming Amazon trip, today I went downtown and received my Yellow Fever shot.  My experience: Entered front door which was in an alley.  Door opened into a small room which contained 2 plastic chairs (the nurse was in one and I sat in the other), a black file cabinet, glass bottles with dark brown liquid and hand written labels and a midget sized bed (no offense if you are a small person.......but even you might think it was small).  I simply traded my Passport number for a shot which looked to come from a "sterile" wrap.  I have not yet determined which is the greater risk.......... not getting the shot and getting Yellow Fever or receiving the shot and becoming infected with ibby-jibby Ecua alley germs.  Check it out:     

Feb 5, 2009

Employment Hazard

Working with 3 year old's has its risk's.  The other day while playing an "organized" game with the nursery class, one of the kids came up behind me and wrapped himself around the back of my leg.  This particular boy has made a habit of getting a free ride on my leg while I walk around but this time, he added a new surprise.  After taking a couple steps, he took a bite out of my ass!  The sharp pain of 3 year old lock-jaw sent me into the air.  The little twerp quickly bailed off my leg and ran around with a big grin on his face.  If I was 29 years younger, I'd return the favor.  These kids make me laugh everyday and leave me feeling very lucky to get paid for playing games, receiving hugs and chasing birds with my little buddy's.