Hello again, this time from Ecuador our 10th country of the trip!
So as you know, we are driving south to Patagonia, but there are also travelers who are moving in reverse, heading from Patagonia to parts north on the Pan American Highway. When you cross paths with travelers who have just been where you are about to go, it is thrilling because you get to share recent info with each other and get even more excited about what’s to come. It was one of these meetings that convinced us to do the Amazon jungle from Ecuador. We met twowheelnomad in Costa Rica, a couple from the UK who are driving their motorcycles north from Patagonia. When we asked for their South America highlights – they told us about the Amazon jungle.
Heading into the Amazon jungle wasn’t on our original “must explore” list, but it should have been. The Amazon and its murky rivers have always freaked me out a bit. I don’t particularly like large lake creatures, and being in the brown water with snakes, piranhas and alligators isn’t appealing. Hiking through hot jungles with wild pigs, bugs and spiders that can kill you also didn’t seem that fun. Give me mountain hikes and clean oceans to swim and surf in instead. However, besides the spider part, I was way off on my expectations for this region. The lakes and rivers in the Amazon jungle were a joy and even spiritual to swim in and you really feel a special energy hiking through such an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. The Amazon jungle is alive in a way most other places can’t match.
As for my concerns:
The scary lake animals (caimans and anacondas) are all sleeping during the day and the piranhas are only going to mess with you if you are bleeding badly or when they bite your fishing line. Surprisingly, the bugs & mosquitoes weren’t an issue; we’ve been on many beaches in Mexico that were way worse. The rivers and lakes keep the jungle at a nice temperature, and I was never that hot. It was really incredible to be in such raw nature. Another unexpected plus was how affordable the trip was and how the tourism industry hasn’t seemed to dampen the experience.
Our tour was reasonably priced at ~$350 for 5 days all inclusive, we booked with Magic River whose lodge is located in Cuyabeno Ecuador. We chose them because this tour includes two days canoeing the river to the lodge and we got to spend the night camped in a tent in the jungle on the first night. All of the other tours take you to the lodges via speedboats. Spending two days canoeing through the rivers really allowed us to see more wildlife. Although most animals are still trying to hide from you, its a jungle after all, they do so a little less without a motor roaring from a boat.
An added bonus with this tour was spending the day in a native Amazon community of the Siona tribe. They taught us how to make fresh Yucca bread, we learned about Amazon medicine, and we got to spend time with the Shaman – he cleansed our spirits. We even wrapped up the day playing soccer with the kids while in our rubber mud boots.
Our guide, an Amazonian native named Jacob, was just amazing at spotting cool animals and birds that no normal being could ever see. We even got an amazing show one day when 95 monkeys crossed the river above our heads by jumping, or rather flying, from tree to tree.
The Amazon was really special and we loved it.
In other news, after being inspired by the Rich Roll podcast, the movie Forks over Knives, and the book The Good Gut we’ve decided to start eating a plant based diet. So upon entering Ecuador, we ditched the meat and stocked up on the legumes and veggies. Jenine read Rich Roll’s book The Plant Power Way and we haven’t had meat since August 24th, although we still eat fish sometimes. We’ll see how it goes but so far we don’t miss the meat. I highly encourage anyone to check out these books and movie! Next time we’ll be reporting about the Galapagos, which we just returned from, and it definitely lived up to the hype!