Greetings from Jordan, Lucy, and Hannah of Cabin 5!
What a crazy 48 hours this has been! Thanks to torrential downpours in the Andes our original three hour route was blocked, so we experienced a crazy diversion that led us on a six hour bus ride to Baños, the city known for its taffy, thermal baths, and adventure sports. We also were able to see handmade clothing (scarves, gloves, ponchos, socks…), paintings, mountains, puppies, guinea pigs (also known as cuy, an Ecuadorian delicacy), and alpacas. While on our eight-hour bus drive to Huasquila (an eco-jungle Amazon lodge and our home for the next week), we also decided our Green and Yellow Rules for our trip as a group, one of these being not to use our phones for WiFi or social media connection for the remainder of our time together. Upon arriving at Huasquila, we enjoyed a nice dinner and a lovely warm welcome.
The next morning, birds called, frogs croaked, roosters crowed, and we awoke to a true call of nature. After an energizing breakfast, we donned our black, yellow, and white rubber boots and began our first trek into the Amazon. Our amazing Kichwa guide, Miguel, showed us various plants, animals, and sub-ecosystems lining the trail. From herbs that cure sores (and can cause pain), to the most poisonous spider in the world which can’t bite through human skin, to the incredible usage of chili peppers to regulate body temperature during cold nights in the mountains, our journey was filled with learning about fun facts about the Amazon region, as well as reforestation and conservation efforts by the local community. Along the way, Miguel applied clay (found in a creek) onto our faces as a mask! We eventually reached the las golondrinas waterfall where we were able to take a refreshing jump under the rushing waters and dip into the cool pools downstream. After a short hike back through the forest, we journeyed back to the lodge for a delicious lunch and a slight rest before our trip to a local Kichwa community.
A short 15 minute walk later, we arrived at the Kichwa community. We sat down into a traditional bungalow built using Chonta wood and leaves. The name of the bungalow used to be Huasquila, but was changed after the eco jungle lodge was built. Miguel introduced us to the locals and translated the Spanish for us. The Kichwa prepared a series of demonstrations of their traditions. We tried a tea-like drink called Guayusa, ate Chicha, a mash of Yuca (a type of tuber), and danced! There were three dances: the children’s dance, the women’s dance, and the social dance. The children pulled us up from our benches and encouraged us to dance with them. We clapped, danced, and sang Feliz Cumpleaños (the Spanish version of Happy Birthday) to our fellow group member Lucas Hull. The Kichwa were cheerful, welcoming, and happily shared their traditions with us. After the demonstrations, we entered a smaller bungalow and had the opportunity to purchase crafts the Kichwa made. There was an assortment of bracelets, necklaces, bows and arrows, axes, and baskets, all made from local plants and resources. Zora bought a lovely headpiece and matching hand chain-bracelet, while Teah, Tommy, Emma, Lucy, and Jordan took fun group pictures with all the children. Hannah, Jordan, Lucy, and Lucas also handed out chocolates, Jolly Ranchers, small toys, and clothes to the Kichwa children as memorabilia of our amazing time together.
After walking hand in hand with the Kichwa children back to our lodge, we sat down for an interactive group meeting facilitated by our first pair of group leaders, Hannah and Thomas R. We discussed a wide variety of topics, all the way from sharing opinions about sustainability and modernization, to analyzing the pros and cons of tourism in developing and underdeveloped countries, to a compliment circle where we all shared lovely thoughts about the person to our left. After our bonding time together, we enjoyed a lovely meal and night gathering together, as a great conclusion to our first day of adventures in the Amazon.