Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Upper Amazon, Ecuador

More photos from the Upper Amazon.  This shot is taken on a riverbank and for some reason butterflies found the area very enticing. There must have been something in the water or mixed with the sand that kept them coming back.
Not too far from our dining hall was an elevated rack which held an entire bunch (like a hundred) bananas. The bananas were green and I wondered why they were sitting out in the sun unattended. After a couple of days I was distracted by a raucous sound...at least thirty monkeys were partying over their 'newly' discovered treasure.  I think I get it now!
After leaving our lodge, we travelled to  Coco a town in the western upper amazon. It was the closest thing to civilization that we had seen in days, and yet it had all the charm of a remote village. I loved walking through the streets with our guide.  Here we walked through an open air market, there were lots of them, but this one had too many interesting things to pass up.
A bowl full of those infamous grubs. Yes, these were still alive too.  They were swimming in water. On the grill you can see a few of them being cooked on skewers...that seems to be the method of choice.
The fish there were amazing, but man does not live by fish alone...so you could grab a chicken or two instead.
This was our mode of getting to the airport.  It was just a big truck with benches installed across the bed.  Climbing up was a challenge for some and the open air added just the right excitement. I got this shot from my seat, it looks as though everyone else was enjoying it as well.
While traveling in the Amazon we stopped at a center that was a haven for hummingbirds. It was a rainy misty day and it was difficult to get a good picture, but  I managed a few.

Grocery shopping is very different here in Eastern Ecuador.
We visited a native family. Yes, we actually had to walk across this swinging bridge in order to get to her house. They live off the land growing their own vegetables and raising their own beef and poultry. The house had a plain wood plank floor and wood frame, but it was clean and very well maintained.

Through an interpreter we learned about her life including the joys and some of the hardships.  Her smile was genuine and it was clear she did not want to change a thing.
We stopped at a local restaurant noted for fish on the way back, so I indulged in my favorite: whole fish in garlic sauce. Fabulous!

This is an ant.  But not any ordinary ant.  This one has been known to attach humans by crawling in any cavity they can ( nose, ear etc) and then eating the skin or membrane from the inside out. They kill mammals this way.  I was pretty anxious to keep movin' on!
The beetles here in the Amazon grow pretty big!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quito, Ecuador -- The Upper Amazon

The thing about creating a bucket list, even if it isn't committed to writing, is that it always gnaws at you. So much so, that eventually you have to act on it. And so, I finally got myself to Ecuador. Okay, that really isn't right. Because it isn't Ecuador that I always dreamed of going to. It was actually the Galapagos Islands, which are owned by Ecuador. Parts of the Upper Amazon are also owned by Ecuador. So the next few posts will expound on what I saw while I visited this unbelievably beautiful place.
There were several days spent in the capital city of Quito, which is at an elevation of 8,500 feet. Some folks had real difficulties functioning at this level. I was one of them, but slowly one discovers how to manage.  Go slow, take time to breathe and use as many Coco candies as needed to feel better. The first real adventure was into the upper reaches of the Amazon. We travelled by bus to a river town. We then boarded a motorized canoe, with a canopy (thankfully since it did rain) and cruised down the river to Yarinda Lodge, our hotel for the next several days. I took the rainbow at the start of our river trip as a good omen. We arrived at the lodge just as night was falling.

One of our first stops in Quito was a display of nuts, seeds, bark, tinctures and various other items used in treating human ailments. None of the items displayed looked familiar to me. Though it was all very enticing.

The medicine man who operated the stand was obviously well respected in the community and he could offer items to treat whatever ails you. He didn't even seem to have to discuss your problem, he could sense what you needed and was ready with a remedy.
In another section of Quito, I visited the General Administration Building and they had their guards, in a fashion similar to the British Beefeaters, they did not speak nor smile. Very serious business.
Quito is not immune to poverty and the fellow below was obviously blind but played the accordian very well. He was grateful for whatever gratuities the passersby would donate.
This is our dining hall at the Yarinda Lodge.  It had a water-tight thatched roof and no walls, to allow for catching whatever breeze happened by.
The cabins were cozy with two beds and a private bathroom.  The windows were screened and the beds had mosquito netting...thouhg I am not sure we needed it. The electricity was off from 10PM to 6AM...but any sane person was asleep by then anyway, so who cares?
Teaching at the local indigenous school
After working with the students at the local school, we visited a local family where we helped prepare lunch. They demonstrated the cooking process -- how to open the banana leaf, take the fish, slice here, slice there, rub salt, wrap i the leaf and tie with strips of the leaf to secure the package, then on to the grill. Pretty easy.

Then they wanted a volunteer for the next step. So I stepped up and all I had to do was open the package. But what is it?  Well, what do you think it is?
I got the feeling that I should be very gentle with whatever it was and so took a knife to open  the threads...
Oh Lordy, I can't believe I am doing this!
It was those palm grubs.  The very ones that you may have seen on the Survivor type shows, where people dig these out of the bark and eat them...just like that.  Ug. I'm done!
So the resident lady demonstrated how to kill the grub by squishing the head and then threading it on to a skewer and placing it on the grill for not very long. Some folks call this jungle bacon.  I don't!
Here's my lunch...half a fish, I got the head and a couple of plantain slices. It was actually pretty good.