Alright, let’s talk about the Amazon. It was soooo green! Like after making everything else, the earth still had to fit in half the quota of the plants and animals somewhere, so it all just squished into a narrow, tropical strip around the equator. I saw spiders the size of my palm, puzzled over the forms of new flowers, and gorged myself on every stage of the cacao fruit up to delicious handmade chocolate. In less than four days, it became clear that I am going to live in the rainforest someday.
My group toured in and around the city of Tena, Ecuador as part of the cultural component of the program. We hiked across gushing Amazonian rivers, through jungle mud that sunk like quicksand, and learned about the medicinal properties of plants used by the indigenous tribes along the way.
One interesting cultural experience was when we went to an Amazonian Quichwa Tribe, Shiripuno, that has preserved a traditional way of living. After watching the women of the tribe perform their dance, we joined in the indigenous dance along with a random group of French people! The women didn’t give us instructions or anything, they just showed us how and away we went.
On the second day, we also happened to feed some monkeys, before hitching a ride in the canoes. Motor canoeing in tropical rivers is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION! Even so, I was more than happy to jump in and swim for a bit before we arrived at the Animal Rescue Center. It was like a zoo, because we saw a lot of larger animals at the rescue center that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. But the cool part is that the animals that arrive at the center only stay until they can be released back into the national park.
I’m really grateful for our knowledgeable tour guide, incredibly friendly driver, and steadfast teacher who all worked so hard to make the experience as amazing as possible!