Exploring the Amazon from Ecuador- Day Two
So last time we left off with Jen being completely paranoid about being eaten alive by spiders in the night. Well as anti-climactic as this might be, Jen did survive the night and the mosquito net proved to be very effective. So surviving the night and enjoying a large breakfast we hopped into the canoes once more to hunt down some more of the Amazon’s wildlife and and other secrets.
Pulling up on a riverbank we began our morning hike through some jungle where we learnt a bit more about the native plant life and its unique properties. First up was a strip of bark from a tree which when chewed on tasted a lot like a headache tablet, very bitter. This turned out to have the same chemical in it as malaria pills and is a know preventative and treatment for malaria.
A little further along the trail we lit up a twig from a vine and smoked it, just because we could. And further still we found some tree roots which when ground up act as both a mosquito repellant and a highly flammable fire starter. After deciding lighting up the Amazon was not a smart idea we opted for some Tarzan style swinging in the forest, however quickly learned that the jungle man never actually swung from a vine but in fact from tree roots. You see vines grow from the forest floor up while the dangling from above things are tree roots trying to make more inroads on the jungle floor. (nerd technicality of the day)
Things were going just swingingly until our guide Jairo irritated an ants nest and made me put my hand on it for the benefit of the group. Once my hands were completely covered with the tiny ants he instructed me to mash them to pieces which I happily did as the feeling was unbearable. The result was a strong smell not unlike many insect repellants and guess what, that’s exactly the purpose they served. The locals would actually set the whole nest on fire and the smoke created would act as a large scale repellant in the jungle but since we are trying to conserve the forest these days the guides only permit one-thousand ants to be slaughtered at a time. (I don’t make the rules I just do whatever anyone tells me to do) 🙂
Now there was one more thing we needed to find to make the jungle hike complete and that was the illusive but deadly Ruby Dart Frog. This little creature who secretes poison from its back when threatened and has been used by the locals to hunt down their dinner was not going to be easy to find, but we had Jairo. Jairo has been working in the Amazon for 12 years and knows where to find just about anything that exists here and soon he had us on our hands and knees looking for this little death trap. Lucky for us Jairo found the frog and had it on a leaf ready for a photo shoot. Rapid firing SLR cameras where clicking away frantically to get that National Geographic shot! It was at this point the frog said “f*ck this!” and jumped onto Jario’s arm. Not wanting him to die I took a leaf and tried to lure the frog onto it when the little ninja jumped onto my arm! Now I should have been worried but it presented such a good photo opportunity that I hardly flinched, rather pointing my massive lens in the amphibians face and trying desperately to get the shot. Alas the zoom I had on was way too big for this close encounter and upon realising this I became a little more eager to have the frog away from me. Jen was telling me I was an idiot for leaving it on me and Jairo looked a little concerned but all was good, apparently the frog was threatened enough to secrete the deadly poison.
With the adventure of the day hike over we returned to the ecolodge for lunch and our afternoon siesta before heading out than evening where we would spot pink dolphins and enjoy another spectacular sunset. These incredible sights however, were not the main reason we came out. Our real purpose was a night walk through some jungle similar to our day hike, this time to see all the nocturnal creepy crawlies. In the first few seconds of our feet being on solid ground in the jungle Jairo had found a large tarantula. The hairy beast had everyone on edge from that moment on and we all flinched at the feel of branches, webs, and insects which touched us from then on. Throughout the wal we found more tarantulas, some frogs and a scorpion but nothing was more creepy than the tails whip scorpion. The tails whip scorpion looked more like a spider and hung in Jairo’s hand like a face hugger from the movie Aliens.
Jairo needed another volunteer and thinking he would only want to put this scorpion on my arm I raised my hand. Then the unthinkable happened. Jairo hung the scorpion in front of my face and told me to close my eyes. Looking at this arachnids underside and its pincers I was freaking out and closed my eyes and tried to think about fairies dancing on my face. Jairo then put it on my face and made it run rings around me. The creature crawled over my face and around the back of my neck for what felt like an eternity until Jairo finally got me to put it on someone else. While the feeling itself wasn’t all that bad, seeing the large scorpion crawling over someone else made it all the more terrifying, to know that thing had been doing the same on me.
So after the scorpion experience came to and end so too was that of the night hike. Our last experience though, was to turn all the torches off and let our eyes adjust to the darkness. After a few minutes the jungle floor began to come to life with a green glow from hundreds of tiny mushrooms. We turned our torches back on and returned to the canoe with even more knowledge of the complex nature of this incredible ecosystem. By now we were beginning to feel quite comfortable in the jungle and our bed at the lodge and were having that feeling of not wanting to leave. Luckily we still had more time here.
Stay tuned for Day Three of our Amazon adventure. What more could the jungle possibly offer? How about a local village, a medicine man, anaconda or blow darts! Put your email address in the box up the top of this page to get the next post straight to your inbox and continue the adventure!