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Biking, Rafting, and the Jungle

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I arrived this afternoon in Lima, Peru, after a 27 hour bus ride from Guayaquil. But despite being filthy and cracked out, I thought it best to update the blog again, as I am still behind and want to be on track for my upcoming visit to Macchu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and other famed Peruvian jewels.

After my Galapagan adventure, I decided I couldn’t leave Ecuador without a foray into the jungle. Anybody who knows me knows that living among anacondas, crocodiles, bugs, and things that go bump in the night is not really my style. So I reached a compromise with myself by heading for Puyo, which, although still certifiable “jungle” is close enough to civilization to make it slightly less threatening for the outdoors-impaired.

My “Extreme Jungle Tour” (the official title) began with a 17 km bike ride out of Baños, the town where I booked the adventure. We biked through gorgeous countryside and got to view the lovely cascades that surround the town:

Jungle 1

Jungle 2

After 17 km my ass was sore, but I decided to make things fair by making sure my arms got sore as well. Rafting was awesome! About five minutes into the trip a girl fell out (my partner actually, so I was the one responsible for pulling her back into the boat), but otherwise we were okay (there were still enough huge waves and close calls to make it fun, however):

Jungle 3
Wet suits are so flattering!

Jungle 4

After about another 17km in the water, we entered the car portion of the journey and drove another hour and a half to our jungle refuge, which was amazing and perched in the trees:

Jungle 12

My bug proof bed (and you can bet I conducted a thorough search every night before sleeping in it):
Jungle 11

The view from our hammock perch:
Jungle 7

The jungle was full of all kinds of interesting creatures, medicinal plants, and lovely views:

Jungle 5

The appropriately titled “pornographic palm”:
Jungle 6

The dragon’s blood tree, which makes this awesome paste that you put on cuts to cure them:
Jungle 9

We waded through this river as mosquitos feasted on my body:
Jungle 10

Jungle fashion:
Jungle 13

Canoe ride down the river with the Australian couple who were also on the tour:
Jungle 14

This view was worth the arduous, sweaty hike up to it:
Jungle 15

Jungle paint and my guide’s idea of a joke:
Jungle 20

As our jungle was relatively close to civilization, we also got to visit a sugar cane farm, and even perform the manual labor needed to bring forth the juice (although just chewing on cane also tastes amazing):
Jungle 18

The fruits of our labor:
Jungle 19

The trip ended with a visit to a wild animal reserve. Sort of Ecuador’s version of a zoo, only the animals are for the most part free to roam (including an anaconda that the keeper claimed she had seen snaking around the day before).

We caught up with this gorgeous maucau:
Jungle 21

This beastly tapir (the biggest mammal in the jungle):
Jungle 22

And upon leaving, this pesky little monkey who stole a pack of cigarettes and put on a show:
Jungle 23

After surviving my adventure unscathed (except for mosquito bites), I am almost sorry I didn’t go for the really scary jungle. Then again, there’s jungle and Peru and Bolivia as well…

More to come from Incan ruins….


Monday, April 23rd, 2007

At last, my long overdue post on the Galapagos (jungle to come soon). I’ve been out of civilization for a while (first on a boat, then in the rainforest), and that combined with bad Ecuadorian internet service has made me a bit lax.

My eight days in the Galapagos was amazing, beginning with the friendly crew and excellent cuisine of my boat, the Friendship:


The Friendship was labeled a “Tourist Superior” class boat (at least according to the travel agency I went to in Quito), but it still had its share of cockroach stowaways. Still, the excellent guide, crew, and cook made up for any shortcomings in the boat’s cleanliness.

The main draw of the Galapagos is of course the fabulous wildlife, of which the sea lions are probably the most prominent. I got to spend a lot of time with them on the various beaches where we landed:





We saw the lions playing, nursing, yelling (mostly the males), and sadly even a few dying (they abandon their young when there isn’t enough food). The little ones are adorable though, and come right up to you to smell your ankles. The only thing we didn’t really see with the sea lions was them mating, but there was plenty of funny business going on with other animal life:

Iguana lovin

They let you get real close

The albatros mates for life:


The blue footed booby creates a nest of doodoo. But first the men attract the women by strutting, whistling, and offering the gift of a branch.


Booby love

The frigate bird male inflates a huge red sack around his neck to seduce the ladies:

And then of course are the famous giant tortoises, who live to be about 200 years old like this guy:

I think one that actually knew Darwin died only recently.

Besides the diversity of animal life, the islands are cool for their gorgeous beaches:

At this beach I actually snorkeled with “vegetarian” sharks, but those pics will have to wait until I develop the underwater cam.

The volcanic scenery is also amazing. Basically the Galapagos came about via a series of volcanic eruptions (not unlike the Hawaiian islands) about 5 million years ago. Things continue to erupt however, leaving this dramatic, desolate landscape on many of the islands:

Thus, survival of the fittest creatures who can live without much water.

One of these was our guide, Cesar, who is about to turn 70 and has been guiding tours in the Galapagos for 30 years, longer than anybody else:

I could put up a million more pictures of wildlife but then I would run out of room! The Galapagos is definitely the most pricey thing I will have done on this whole trip, but it really is a once in a lifetime experience (or hopefully more than once). Apparently the only way to establish permanent residency in the Galapagos is to marry a Galapagan (?). I think the captain had his eye on me…

More to come shortly on the jungle, smoking monkeys, and anacondas….

Cuenca, Cañari, and the Parque Nacional Cajas

Monday, April 9th, 2007
This will be my last post for about a week as tomorrow I leave for the Galapagos islands! Giant tortoises here I come. Since my last entry, I spent much of the Ecuadorian Semana Santa (essentially the week ... [Continue reading this entry]

Otavalo – Baños – Nariz del Diablo

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007
I write from the town of Cuenca where I've just arrived after a 5 hour bus ride on flooded and slightly treacherous roads. But the last few days have been full of fun (and even the occasional treacherous journey ... [Continue reading this entry]