We’re back in Quito, safe and sound. Off to the Saturday market in Otavalo tomorrow. We have to leave early in the morning because an earthquake a few months ago damaged the main road there, and the detour route takes 3 hours. Ugh. Still, after our busy 5 days in the jungle, we are quite used to early mornings. I think our latest sleep-in morning was a 5:30am alarm. We did see several more monkeys over the days, loads more birds. Some caiman on a night canoe paddle, including one that was 7 feet long. A real monster. Had no idea they could get as large as crocodiles. Went piranha fishing. Well, tried to. I ended up doing more piranha feeding, as they’d nibble the meat off the hook, but not get stuck. Almost got one on the boat but it broke free… Was too small to keep and cook for dinner anyways. One of our guides caught a lovely catfish but it managed to jump off the canoe and swim away. Points for the catfish, I say.
Had an afternoon where we toured the school that the Sani Lodge dollars support. Then we had about 45 minutes to kill before some of the women cooked us a delicious local lunch. So we wandered the community farm and turtle raising project and more farm. Geranio was running out of things to tell us, and we were all melting in the Equator’s noonday sun, the 8 of us trying to squeeze into meager shade patches behind palm fronds or whatnot, not able to get too close to the trees as they’re often covered in ants. Geranio, running out of words, came up with “and here we have…another jungle plant.” Lordy, that could be the subtitle of our trip. Ha. Although it generally was interesting learning all the different uses for plants along our hikes. A large percentage seemed to deal with bedwetting, enough that we speculated whether this was truly that big a deal in the indigenous community or if it had just been a big deal in Gerry’s family. 🙂
Lunch included plantains, manioc, white fish steamed in palm leaves with fresh heart of palm. Yum. And yes, I tried some of the cooked grubs. They were actually quite good. Salty and crunchy and a bit fatty… Not unlike bacon. But I’ll admit I had a hard time biting into them when looking directly at it. Do a Web image search for Ecuador grubs and you’ll see why. Those suckers are U-G-L-Y!!! and quite large. If they’d been smaller it would have been easier. I found the best method was to not look and tear a bit off with my fingers and pop it in my mouth. I got through 1.5 of them, and tried to hide the uneaten half under a plantain skin. *smile* While it was offered, no one in the group was willing to bite into a raw alive one. *shudder*
One of my favorite moments came from a delightful misunderstanding. We’re all seated single file in the canoe, heading out one morning. Erin is the best and would carry the day pack, as I’m busy concentrating on my canoe dismount technique. I’d like to think it improved, as we had to take a canoe to get anywhere, and there were two to three trips a day. Not sure if I actually improved or just started feeling more comfortable. In any case, she was at the very front this morn, and I was at the far back. So had to holler up the line asking her to pass back the sunscreen from the bag, and it was handed off one by one to me. Then Vernon, being cheeky, asks, “Erin, can you pass back the chocolate?” Her reply: “He’s currently rowing the boat.” Guffaws all around as Geranio’s ears turned a delightful shade of pink (but I think it was a pleased sort of embarrassment). Erin tries to explain that she meant, because Gerry’s currently paddling, he can’t pass back the chocolate he keeps in his bag for a mid-hike snack. But I’m not sure the group accepted that explanation. *laughs*
This morning was a bit eventful, as the engines died on the bigger boat that takes us the 3 hours up the Napo River, only about 25 minutes into our journey. At least there weren’t waves (just the occasional wake from other boats) as we were fully dead in the water for about ten minutes. Then limped along to the next dock. Borrowed some tools and the guys went to work trying to fix the thing. And more and more guys come over, offering unsolicited advice as they stare at the engine bits spread on the sand. Our guide was SWEATING bullets because we had a 10:15am flight out of Coca, but we were all in good spirits about it. The others didn’t fly home to the UK until tomorrow and Erin and I have no set plans until we fly home in ten days. It was super chaotic when our repaired boat finally arrived late, and it was a mad dash to the airport. Luckily our flight was delayed by over 1.5 hours so we actually made it.
Well, I was just going to do a brief “we’re still alive” update, but y’all can see how not great I am at brevity. About as good as getting out of canoes, probably. 😛