Acclimatizing to the new environment has been smoother and more comfortable than anticipated. Much of the concerns surrounding heat, humidity and swarms of mosquitoes have failed to materialize. The temperature has been modified by a fair amount of cloud coverage and although the dry season supposedly started in November, apparently somebody around here did not receive the memo. While not long lasting, there have been a spate of downpours that would lead one to think that they were residing in the Amazon rainforest. Oh yeah; we are.
Since we managed to arrive on the weekend, which is time off from work, we spent the first few days getting to hang out with the volunteers and the staff,learning the ropes, vines and bridges over the streams. Tena, our local go-to town is about 45 minutes away by bus, twenty by taxi. Taxi in Ecuador has a somewhat different definition from the checker cab models that we have grown up with. Most vehicles are pick up trucks with an extra row of seats. Since the number of passengers heading to and fro usually outnumber the available seating, many are relegated to ride in the open sections. What Lori and I have learned regarding local motorized transport is – stop signs (Pare in Spanish) are more for roadside decoration than obeisance. Secondly, the posted speed limits are merely hints of suggestions. The taxis careen down the twisting roads, slowing down only for washed out sections of road. Thirdly, riding in the cab is not as much fun as riding in the payload section.
With the moon almost full and the sounds of the various birds and insects, the exposure lends itself to the adventure.
More time than expected has been spent in Tena since it is our nearest link to the Internet, ATM’s, etc. We have sampled the local dishes, in particualr Maito- a method of cooking fish, shrimp or chicken in a banana leaf that is sealed in a sac-like fashion, filled with a seasoned liquid and boiled over an open charcoal pit. Quite delicious.
Friday evening Jakob and I made plans to arise at 4:30 the next mornning to start a half hour jaunt through the night time jungle, intent on reaching the reserve’s thirty meter high observation tower prior to sunrise. The tower towers over the rainforest, offering up an unrestricted view of the surroundings, which include rivers, mountains and a perspective on the jungle canopy rarely seen by those without wings. A tedious hike along the unlit jungle path was made substantially easier by one of our beter pre-trip investments. Instead of having to hold a flashlight, Lori and I each picked up head mounted lights that allow for freedom of movement and well illuminted paths. It also doubled as a sweatband as persperation poured down my face climbing up hills and down dales as we raced to beat the sunrise. Arriving at the tower just as daylight was breaking, the final frontier involved climbing up this full metal ladder
while my lungs were trying to determine just whose body they’d been lent to over the past few days
All efforts proved to be more than worthwhile as we were treated to a panoply of sensual exitements. As day was breaking, the birds were chirping and each species’ unique calls filled the air. From mellifluous tones that Maria Callas would be proud of, to screaches, squawks and shrieks that were more in line with Lori Anderson. Noises filled the air with acacophony previously unexperienced. A flock of irridescent green parakeets flew to the tree directly below us, perched, and started munching on the recently opened white flowers.
At this point the sun began breaking over the tops of the clouds, illuminating the jungle, the river valley, and the mountains behind, bathing the landscape in a golden welcoming warmth.
Taking photographs was a challenge since Jakob and I were stading on a platform measuring about four feet in diameter one huundred feet up. The slightest movement set off a sway. Imagine a pumpkin atop a car aerial. That was us. Any lateral motion set off a torque more intense than any episode of The Monkees that I’d ever seen. Time atop the world moves at a different speed than at ground level. What seemed like twenty minutes consumed two hours in real time. Realizing that we were going to miss breakfast, and more importantly, the arts and crafts lady, we clambered down the ladder
and high tailed it through the jungle at a greater speed due to the now illuminated jungle floor. Arriving on time for the final vestiges of brecky, we found out that the A+C lady took a powder and did not show up.
Waking up at 4:50 for the preceding adventure was not as difficult as one may imagine. In fact, Lori and I were up at 3:10am due to another adventure that was unfolding in the next room of our cabin. The two Edmontonians, Aaron and Benni, had returned home from one of their regular bird-dogging sorties in Tena, pickled to the gills, with a couple of samples of the local talent in their accompaniment. Aaron, who could rent himself out as a foghorn, has a boisterous and extremely loud laugh. Bennie, deciding that it was time to sleep, recused himself from the conversation and rolled over. The two girls, Maria and Vanessa, who we ended up meeting later that morning, found themselves involved in a situation with varying interests in mind. One would regularly burst into tears, the other had a cough that implied that she was in the final throes of tuberculosis. The crier, it turns out, had a boyfriend in Quito and was having seriously guilty thoughts about spending some carnal time with Aaron. The cougher, on the other hand, just wanted to get laid – and badly. Despite overtures from both her and Aaron, Bennie wanted nothing to do with the situation. As is often the case in alcohol fueled ideas, Aaron, eager to get Vanessa off his back and onto Maria’s as soon as possible, ran out of the cabin and over to the neighbouring one, that housed Jakob, my soon to be climbing partner, and the other German, Mark, a six foot tall red head who, if I understand correctl, had already made Vanessa’s aquaintance, in a carnal sort of way. So it’s now about 3:20, Aaaron is pounding away on Mark and Jakob’s door, thundering voice totally out of contraol. “Mark, wake up she’s here. Do you want to f**k her, it’s no problem, she wants you”.
Realizing that neither of us were going to get any more sleep that night, Lori and I decided to enjoy the banter. Things went from silly to strange as Mark turned down Vanessa’s overtures and Aaron returned to the original scene of the crime. So, through the very thin walls, a mixture of crying, coughing and sex noise permeated into our cabin. Unfortunately I had made the commitment to climb, otherwise I’d have stayed around for the rest of the show. Lori filled me in on the details at breakfast. Seems like boredom won’t be an issue around these parts.