Thursday, March 19, 2015

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle Ryan Roars Tonight

Somehow when we decided to ‘live in Ecuador’ for three months as a test run to living here permanently, Ron never read the memo. He has again decided on another tour to fill a day. Perhaps it is a nonissue that it is pouring rain the day we are headed to the Amazon Rain Forest. Somehow, this does dampen my mood, which was not in high gear from the beginning. 

Arriving at the tour office at 8:30, we were prepared for a long day. For me, this means no food or drink since 10pm last night. Our guide was Javier, a good-natured Ecuadorian who handles English better than most. One young South Korean woman who has a program planned to visit most of the countries of South America before returning home, joins us on the tour. Her name is Hel-Win.

Nothing is ever close. No matter where we happen to be, it seems that wherever we plan on touring is still a two-hour drive. I think if we were on the edge of the rain forest, we would still need to do a two-hour drive just to get to the correct place to start. For the most part the roads we well maintained and Javier was a decent driver. Just not to sit in the back with Hel-Win, we had her sit in front. 

The first stop was a fish farm. God only knows we were not able to figure out the name of the fish in English and Javier
did not know it. They can reach three meters in length before they go to market. A young woman from the family who own the farm came out to feed them to show us their full size. These things were mammoth, but the way they can jump from the water, you would think they are flying fish. 

Back in the car, our next stop was an indigenous village after another time consuming drive. Walking over these types of bridges raises my fear of heights to red alert. This small self-
contained village included village people who dressed as we do, but we heard about some of their customs. Each of us practiced with a six-foot blowgun. Resisting for as long as I could to avoid humiliation, I finally gave in. Thinking my abused smoker’s lungs would never get the dart out of the rod in my hands, it would be embarrassing. Quite by surprise, I hit the target, but in a very low spot. My second attempt was much better. I am on my way to being a blowgun hunter. Enemies, watch out!

Taking us out beyond the village to show us medicinal plants, we were trying to negotiate the mud. Boots supplied by the
tour company were safely in the trunk of the car, while we tip toed around in sneakers. Sure enough, I went sliding in one fell graceful (I think) rise into the air and then down on my left hip and leg
landing in the mud. Ironically, in the morning, I had decided not to weigh black pants using the rationale that black absorbs heat. I wore my light tan traveler’s pants instead. Now they were dark brown mud on one side and light tan on the other. There was more concern about my pants than any wreckage to my leg. We washed the leg of the pants as best we could with the murky water collected by the tribe. Ryan was not a happy camper.

By now, the rain is coming in buckets. We were given a poncho to put on. What good are ponchos when both sides are open? If it were raining straight down, it may have
helped, but any slight wind sent the water right to our exposed sides.

Drive, drive, drive, we are now at the riverbank where we will be kayaked down the river. The only thing I enjoy less than kayaking or canoeing is being water boarded. You want to punish me, put me in a canoe or kayak. In order to get to the kayak, we have to navigate a muddy slippery rock infested hill with nothing to hold on to along the way down. BAM! Down I go again, the same leg, different mud. My hands were covered trying to get up. Naturally, to make my life totally miserable, I was the first to get into the kayak…the wrong way. The guide tells me I have to turn around. There was no way my muddy hands could get a grip on the sides to pull myself up; my camera bag around my neck added to my loss of a center of gravity. Finally, with a few choice phrases, I twisted on the seat by throwing my legs in the air. All the Ecuadorians were amused. 

Javier assured me that no one gets wet on this trip so my camera bag was safe. Five minutes out, my pants are soaked to the last thread. My long sleeve shirt is drenched. River rapids are flowing over my section of the kayak like invited guests. I am contemplating revenge or at least a trial separate. Okay, divorce did enter in my thoughts by the time we were finished the journey. Ron is having a grand old time. If I were not grapping the sides of the boat for dear life, I could have strangled him then.

When we reached the car, I looked like I had been beaten with the ugly stick, had an attempted drowning, and then was run through an obstacle course by being dragged. With some relief, we were told we were heading for lunch. Of course, there was a glitch. At the lunch spot, there was a mountain to climb in order to see a ‘magnificent look out spot’.  I started with the rest, but after 50 steps, I told them to go on without me. I found a shower and started to wash out my pants.

More driving brought us to the trails into the Amazon jungle. Now it was time to don the boots, apply insect repellent and hike. This could have been the deciding factor in not making it to our first wedding anniversary. I feigned an injured leg and voted to stay in the car. Javier, Ron and Hel-Win set off into the woods for a two-hour hike.

As I sat in the car observing, other groups parked nearby and set off on their adventure as well. There was something strange in that all of the others started on paths, not walking into the woods like Ron’s trio. I could not figure out what was happening. 

The rain had stopped and the car was getting stuffy. I opened the window for air. Before I knew it, there was a
hummingbird flying outside the window starting at me, but staying in mid-air. Suddenly without any warning, it flew into the car. Once it was at the windshield, it did not know how to escape. I thought after a few minutes, it would recognize the route it entered, but apparently not. After getting some photos, I opened the front door to release it. 

When the trio finally returned, Ron was white as a sheet. I have never seen him look so frazzled. Aghast, I asked him what was wrong. He said when they started out, Javier told them he was taking them on a trail that most guides refuse to us. It is more difficult than the paths where I had watched -others go. Ron continued to say that 30 minutes into the hike, he thought about turning back. Then he wondered if MediFlight could make a landing in the brush. The entire time, he spent trying to carefully walk on wet slippery rocks that made the boots ineffective. He looked so traumatized that all I could do was laugh hysterically. Revenge is a sweet nectar.

Thrilled when the day was over, I rethought the divorce proceedings and realized it was not worth it. Next time Ron gets a harebrained scheme in his head, I will just tell him to go it alone.

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