From deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon
As we write, we are cowering in the foetal position near the bank of the Napo river, silently but desperately hoping that we do not become prey to an approaching anaconda. Just kidding.
Seriously, the three weeks we have spent in the Yachana in the Ecuadorian Amazon have been an assault on the senses, surpassing our every expectation. The transition to jungle life was less than smooth to begin with. Specifically, waking up in the middle of the night proved difficult for the first week or so but we have now settled into a routine.
Sam wakes us up just after 5am and half an hour later we are trekking through dense rainforest on our daily commute to the technical college. Breakfast is at 6am and is unfailingly some combination of rice, beans, plantain and yuca. We then help in one of the practical classes, either micro enterprise, agriculture, tourism or animal husbandry, until 10am. We use “help” in the loosest sense of the word, as in reality is the students who end up helping us! Occasionally we will then refuel with a fried snack.
It is now that our real work begins. Save for a break for lunch – usually a slight variation on breakfast – we spend the rest of the day working on our project. In essence, this is to build a greenhouse enclosing a raised plant bed that will protect vegetation from flood damage. The project is intense and, when we´re not working on it directly, we are either carrying huge planks of wood or digging up and then carrying enormous sacks of soil. Moreover, on the first day, Gabi was unwittingly lured into teaching an English class, an activity which we now take turns to do for a couple of hours each day.
Evenings are usually spent relaxing and doing very little, testament to the physically demanding nature of the work. Dinner is usually a slight variation on lunch! If we´re feeling slightly wild, we might even pay a visit to ¨Club MondaÃ±a¨, a small hut that provides a winning combination of beer, pool and oreos, if little else.
It is impossible to adequately condense the highlights of the past few weeks into a few short paragraphs. What we can say is that our time here has given us an ability to adapt and to meet new and varied challenges. Travelling by dugout canoe on an almost daily basis is an incredible experience, evoking indescribable feelings. Twice we have tubed down the Napo river. On our second trip, what normally involves simply floating down the river on tyres turned into an adventure, which saw us dragged by the current in the wrong direction, hitting trees, rocks and who knows what else and Tim almost breaking his leg. We´ve eaten a meal of ¨jungle bacon¨ (palm heart larvae) and ¨jungle spinach¨(stinging nettles), witnessed students, with almost no prior knowledge of English, complete full sentences after a single lesson, and seen our own fitness improve immeasurably.
Expedition phase, here we come!