sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2011

In the Jungle

After returning from Banos at midnight, I had to be at the university at 6:30 to head to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon.  To get to the middle of the jungle, we took a bus to the airport, flew ~25min to Coca, took a 10 min bus ride to a hotel on the Napo River where we took ~1.5-2 hour boat ride to an oil rig where we got off, got on the Maxus Road, a road built by the oil companies and the only one out in the jungle, and rode on it for over an hour to the Tiputini River where we got on another boat which we rode 2 hours to get to the station.  The station is across the river from the Yasuni National Park, an area where the Waorani Indians lived untouched until the oil companies arrived in the 70s.  The Yasuni is also one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.  The amount of species found per hectare is phenomenal.  Walking up the stairs from the river to camp was like walking into a different world.  We walked straight into the dining area, an open air room and looking out the arches into the forest seemed more like we were looking at a mural, than real life, until we heard the woolly monkeys jumping from tree to tree above us.  It was absolutely incredible.
Once we had some snacks and orientation we walked to our cabins which were rather far away.  They were super nice, aside from only having lights from 6-9:30pm and only cold water in the showers.  We had nice bunk beds and everything was super clean.

We spent the whole week in Tiputini and went on some very long hikes through the jungle with local guides who were awesome.  They were really good at speaking slowly and explaining things simply so we could understand with our limited Spanish, but they were so knowledgeable.  We'd stop at a tree and they'd explain how it can be used to cure stomach aches and then we'd go to another similar looking tree which was toxic.  I was amazed at how they knew all this.  We also got to go up in a tower built on an emergent tree (a tree that rises above the canopy) which was amazing.  All you could see in every direction was tree tops.  We also got to go on canopy bridges- rope bridges at the canopy level and there were monkeys all around us.

Wednesday night we went out in a boat to go caiman watching.  Caimans are like small alligators.  We saw a few small ones as well as a bunch of capybaras.  Capybaras are the world's largest rodents, but they are super cute.  Then Thursday afternoon we went on a flotada- floating down the river with life jackets on.  We didn't see anything, but included in the animals that live in the Tiputini are anacondas, piranas and dolphins.

Friday we left at 7am to head back to Quito, which was a fun adventure.  The first boat's motor was a bit sketch and we didn't think it was going to start, but thankfully it did.  Then it was raining and everyone curled up in the middle of the boat to stay warm and dry.  I stayed on the seat along the edge and laid down and pulled my hood over my head to try to stay warm and dry, but the water sprayed up under my rain jacket and my shirt underneath was rather soaked.  The rain cleared up towards the end of the boat ride and when we got out at the Maxus Road, a bunch of Waorani people met us and were selling jewelry and I'm pretty sure bananas  and a few other things.  Then we rode back to the oil rig where we waited forever.  Finally one boat came, but I'd just started a card game, so I waited even longer.  Our boat came another hour later and was a little yacht-like boat with airplane-style seats in the cabin.  They started the boat with a lot of trouble and all of these awful noises were beeping and after five minutes they stopped and we were on our way.  That is until after 25min part of the motor failed and we were just floating along.  Luckily, another boat came rather quickly and gave us a propeller and they quickly repaired the motor and we sped back to the hotel in Coca.  Once we arrived, our professor informed us that our flight had been cancelled due to rain.  It was sunny and hot in Coca, so there must have been awful rain in Quito or something, I don't know.  So we hung out at this hotel for a while and Esteban was on his phone pretty much the whole time.  I felt really bad for him having to organize with the airport, university and hotel.  The airport put us up in another hotel for the night, so we got a bus to take us there and got to spend the night in Coca.  Then we got up this morning and flew back to Quito without any problems.

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