Thursday, February 22, 2007

A week in the Jungle

I am back - I have just spent a fascinating week camping in sub-tropical Ecuador, with the family and friends.

What a wonderful week.

We arrived late afternoon last Saturday and started pitching up our tents and organizing what was organizable.

We were received by our guide and his wife, a special forces officer who is just starting this business. A very nice couple who haven't yet learnt how to organize tourists who range in ages from 6 to 52. We can't all trek at his normal speed.

The first impression a "tarantula", received equally by words of wonder, amazement and admiration; and words of shock, fear and near hysterics. I wish I could have filmed it all.

A quick run down of activities, included:
  • Crossing the Pastaza River on a kayak; there were 21 of us, and as usual one of the group was the typical loud mouth, complaining about everything - from the weather to the organization, to getting wet, the bugs, the world and even politics. He went white as a feather when chosen to be the first to cross the river.
  • Swimming at the Gringo River, a small stream that feeds the Pastaza. Note: The Pastaza a few hundred miles later on joins the Amazon River on the other side of South America.
  • Rafting a 3 point river (the Pastaza) in the afternoon. I loved it, and was absolutely thrilled.
  • Exploring three caves, with bats, slime, stalactite and stalagmite columns. Loud mouth grumbling away and finally nobody paying attention to him.
  • The younger kids kayaking, rolling over in the water by accident and then provoking the roll over accidentally on purpose.
  • Trekking through the jungle for hours each day.
  • Finding a legionnaire ant's nest. These guys are the equivalent to the African soldier ants that go through everything that stands in their way. We followed a platoon until our guide identified the nest. We left pretty damn quickly.
  • Bugs galore, in different colours, sizes and shapes. We all enjoyed the 8 inch centipede. As we thought it was poisonous nobody touched it. Later on we found out it is totally harmless, but when touched by a human hand it curls up and dies.
  • Amazing birds, the only one I could more or less identify was a hawk. But colourful and noisy individuals.
  • A band of brothers - monkeys followed us for a couple of hundred yards in the forest.
  • A full blooded tropical storm; with lightening and thunder flashing and roaring above us - until our tents were completely soaked.

All in all a spectacular camp out; in an amateur way this was great fun and an adventure to remember.

As we returned home the kids began to demand the next one. I just wanted a warm bath and to relive the week.

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