Updates from the Amazon

Greetings from Tena, the Ecuadorian Amazon’s most agreeable city. Actually, we’re about 4kms outside of Tena at a lovely lodge on the banks of a crystal clear stream. Tomorrow we’ll go rafting on the Rio Jatunyacu, enjoying one of Tena’s most popular activities for which whitewater enthusiasts from all over the world come. But first, let me recap our last week in the jungle.

After our first full day hiking through the primary tropical forest (see the previous blog post), we spent our next day visiting the local school on its graduation day. The Yachana Foundation started the school in the neighboring Mondaña community in the early 90s and has since graduated dozens of students who have gone on to pursue additional education and professional once unheard of in this remote region. Our guide Abelito, is one such graduate. While at the ceremony, we had a chance to speak with some of the recent grads and their plans for the future.

Yachana Students
Elise and Jamie speaking with local student Kevin on his graduation day, and Sophie speaking with Diego
Dugout Canoe Ride in the Ecuadorian Amazon Photo
Camille, Clara, Joe, and Sophie in the dugout canoe returning from the graduation ceremony. There is no road access to the school, the only access is by the river
Climbing the Ceiba Tree Photo
Elise climbing the big Ceiba tree near the Mondaña community. The indigenous Kichwa that owns the land the tree is on wanted to sell this glorious tree for $20, but the Yachana Foundation was able to save it and the many species that inhabit it from the chainsaw
Clara and a local Kichwa girl photo
This curious Kichwa girl that lives in the area quickly befriended Clara while we were waiting for a ride back to our lodge
Riding in a back of a truck in the Ecuadorian Amazon photo
The back of a truck is the only practical way to move around the dirt roads on the north side of the Napo river

On Friday morning, we visited a Fair Trade cacao farm that specializes in high end cacao beans for the European market. Here’s one of the farmers, Jofrey, explaining the difference between ‘clone’ cacao and ‘national’ cacao. The former produces in only two years, but is of lower quality and the tree only lives for twenty years. The national cacao takes five years to begin producing, but is of superior quality and lives for forty or fifty years:

Cacao farm photo
Learning about cacao in Ecuador
Eating Cacao Photo
Kevin, Serena, Camille, and Elise trying some fresh cacao fruit. The seeds, hidden beneath the white sweet flesh of the fruit, are what ultimately goes into making chocolate, but the fruit is pretty tasty right off the tree too.
Cacao beans after fermentation and drying photo
Cacao beans after fermentation and drying
Beussent Lachelle Chocolate Photo
The end product, which is actually made in France. Of course, this is typical of many agricultural exports. The raw ingredients are purchased cheaply from farmers whereas the exporters, manufacturers, and distributors of the finished product capture most of the profit in the value chain. This particularly manufacturer, a French company called Beussent Lachelle, however, pays fair wages and benefits to the cacao farmers, although they still manufacture in Europe.
A Road in the Amazon Photo
After touring the cacao operation, we headed down the road a few minutes to a local waterfall and swimming hole. Roads like this only very recently opened up access to many parts of the amazon region, which has been a boon for local farmers who previously had to bring their crops to market by dugout canoe.
Descending to the waterfall photo
Descending through the jungle overgrowth to the waterfall
Waterfall photo
The waterfall
May and Arwen taking it all in photo
May and Arwen taking it all in
Yolanda and Serena reveling photo
Yolanda and Serena reveling
Camille enjoying a little jungle grotto photo
Camille enjoying a little jungle grotto
Sophie showing off impeccable form while cliff jumping photo
Sophie showing off impeccable form while cliff jumping
Arwen teaching Enrique how to swim photo
Arwen teaching Enrique how to swim. His first ever time in water over his head was earlier in the week while tubing down the Rio Napo!
Rio Napo at sunset photo
Rio Napo at sunset

3 thoughts on “Updates from the Amazon

  1. I wish I was with you guys, parents should have a program like this. You have experienced things in 5 weeks that others live a lifetime to experience. thank you :))

  2. gorgeous folks having fun in a gorgeous land. what a great program and experience of a lifetime

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