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Amazon Update: Gran Canyon, Community Stay, and Rafting

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7/1:
Setting out for our last full day at Huasquila, we got into cars to go out to the famous Gran Canon hike. The hike was just 4km, but descended a muddy jungle trail through primary and secondary forests. We arrived at our first destination: a bridge along a beautiful river, decorated with walls of green decorated with all colors of the rainbow on either side of us. We continued along into the canyon and reached the most beautiful swimming spot. We scaled our way around a cliff in order to get into the little laguna, which was fed by two small waterfalls. Eagerly, most of us jumped into the water and explored the area around, first by getting a back massage by one of the waterfalls and then by climbing up the second one and into the small cave it came from. It was a perfectly sunny day and the most beautiful way to end our series of jungle hikes throughout the area.
7/2:
We set off on Monday morning with our guide, Alex. We were sure to pack lightly – just one set of wet clothes, and a set of dry clothes for afterwards – everything had to fit into just 4 dry bags! While we went through the safety talk and protocol with Alex, our other guides Byron and another Alex tied all of our gear into the rafts. After being sure we’d covered all the safety concerns, we got on our way on the Jatunyacu river. Some of us were nervous, but we were all excited to see what was ahead! Our first stop was just a couple minutes down river, where we pulled the boats over to a small river leading into the Jatunyacu. We hiked along a short trail that went upstream and led us to a green-blue waterfall with a perfect swimming pool. We went with our guides, Byron and Alex (the second one) and the showed us how to get back down the river by climbing on rocks and jumping off them in to small pools at the bottom. When we got back to the rafts, stomachs growling, a burrito lunch was set out for us ready go to!
Then we truly headed out on the rafts through the rapids, waves so big it felt like our raft was flipped up on one side! We laughed and screamed with excitement as the rafts took us riding through the craziness of the Jatunyacu river. Soon we arrived at another small river leading into the one we were on, and we pulled aside. This one was much warmer, so we got out for a swim! The kids of the community members were also out for a swim, and they had brought with them their pet baby howler monkey! It was so cute, and some of us even got the chance to hold it. The beauty was indescribable, sunlight pouring through the leaves and lighting up the river, lush green mountains towering in the background. This would be our home for the next two nights, the Sinchi Pura community! We were treated to a delicious and traditional dinner, but possibly the best part of the day was walking out to our cabins afterwards and looking up at the night sky. It was impossible not to feel the power of the Amazon as we looked up at the milky way. We stood as a group enjoying the view, our eyes too tired to stay away yet unable to look away from the most incredible stars any of us had ever seen.
7/3:
We started the next morning with a jungle hike up to a lookout. Our host, Oswaldo, brought us through the jungle pointing out more medicinal plants and telling stories of his shaman grandfather who used to care for the whole mountain on his own. When we returned, it was time to focus on the river again. Alex taught us about the basics of the river, what to look for and how to start reading the water. Then we split into two groups: half of us learned to raft guide, and the others got in the kayaks! After some exciting moments of flipping rafts and kayaks both, we switched groups. We ended the day with a campfire, where we had some extra special visitors including a scorpion spider and a small boa, both of which became our friends after just a shot time! The spider even crawled across some of our faces, and by the end of the night was given the endearing nickname Joseph.
7/4:
Today we left Sinchi Pura community to embark on the final day of our rafting trip. We divided up in to two different rafting groups and began our journey at 10am. As we paddled and worked on commands and teamwork, our guides also provided us with fun activities on the raft. Every so often, we were able to get out of the raft and float with our life jackets along the river, cooling off from the Amazon heat. At around 1, we stopped on a little beach along the Napo to have lunch. Our guides graciously provided us with a scrumptious meal, with brownies and guayusa to top it off! At this point we were able to relax our arms and rest up before getting back in to the rafts and heading all the way down to the port of Misahualli. Now we’re back at Huasquila, exhausted but it feels like home to be back here after the nights away.
Tomorrow we head back towards Quito with a stop at the Papallacta hot springs!

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