Trip Dates: August 4-8, 2003
Guides: Jenny Getty, Lorena Pérez, Hilario, and Yawá
Ferdnand Bolly, the Cheng family, Lucy and Kim Hammerberg, Sue Heineman, Dion Maas, Fred and Anderson Mclaughlin, Joost Pullens, Sari Taicher and family, Jeff Weisner
The ecologically sustainable resort at Kapawi is in south-east Ecuador, and consists of twenty huts sitting over a lagoon on a tributary of the Amazon river. The surrounding area is inhabited by the Achuar people, who were only "discovered" about thirty-five years ago. Although they wear western clothing and have (sort of) embraced Christianity and Catholocism, the Achuar mostly live as they used to, following old customs and residing in open huts made from local materials (palm, mostly). We stayed in Kapawi for five days, making day trips into the rain forest with Lorena, our Ecuadorian guide, and with Hilario, our Achuar guide. Our guiding was cast in a somewhat depressing light because one of Hilario's baby daughters had just passed away the week before, but he didn't really show any emotion during the week, other than generally being silent. We were really unable to get close to most of the wildlife we saw -- except for the insects, which were plentiful and large. Still, we had a fantastic time! My journal follows, accompanied by photographs from each day.
Monday, August 4, 2003
11:35 - The sound of insects and birds surrounds me here in this wooden cabin. We boarded a small Cesna Grand Caravan -- a small, 12-passenger airplane -- at 8:00am this morning and are now settled into our huts at Kawapi, which is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest in territory owned by the indigenous Achuar tribe. The flight over here showcased the amazing ring of volcanos surrounding Quito (snowy caps towering over us even though we were flying at 13,000 ft), but not long into the flight our plane was swallowed completely by the clouds. After nearly an hour of flying, pockets of lush, textured green began to float by in holes in the billowing white below. Handfuls (bucketfuls, really) of mud splashed around and onto our plane as we touched down. Having never landed on a strip of mud, I was fairly surprised! We were escorted to a powered canoe (very long and thin), and after chatting with some prior guests who were on their way out, we boarded our floating ride and motored down the river to the "hotel," a mere 10-15 minutes up the river.
17:52 - We are extremely lucky. As soon as we landed this morning, it started to rain. A second group was scheduled to land immediately after us, and they only just arrived a little while ago due to weather!
We had a nice lunch (some kind of broccoli-like soup, breaded and fried fish, rice, and veggies) and then went out on a three-hour hike with Fred and Anderson (from Nashville, Tennessee -- they were on our flight over), naturalist guide Lorena (who I really like), and Achuar guide Hilario (stoic and quiet). We saw: leaf-cutter ants, army ants, lots of great trees and plants, a tamarin monkey jumping from tree to tree, squirrel monkeys (our guide saw these), and fresh tracks of a few mammals: tapir, pecari and some sort of big rodent. Hilario stopped to point all sorts of great plants (mostly, palms), and illustrated their use in traditional Achuar life. One palm was used to grate things, one for thread, one for blowguns, beds, and other furniture, and one for shaving (its little burrs could be run along the skin, catching little hairs and pulling them out!). Lorena taught us about epiphytes, which are plants that live symbiotically on other plants. In this case, they live on trees in order to reach the sun high above the forest floor, which providing things like moisture to the trees they grow on. But I'm a huge dork and kept thinking of Epiphyte Corp. in Cryptonomicon. :) In any case, we were lucky again and made it through the hike without so much as a drop of rain falling on us. As soon as we made it back to the hotel, rain started falling.
It's pretty dark for 6pm near the equator; the sun is still up, but it has dipped behind the row of trees that line the lagoon we're staying on