Not a standard Amazon Adventure

Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
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Trip End Aug 14, 2010


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Where I stayed
Irshim
Arutam
Fundecoipa

Flag of Ecuador  , Morona-Santiago,
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 46 – Wednesday 9 June 

This was the day I started my mini Amazon adventure.

I had wanted to go on an Amazon trip while I was in Ecuador. I was more interested in meeting some of the people who live in the Amazon than I was interested in seeing the animals and so I decided to go somewhere in Ecuador below Puyo. I found an organisation called Fundecoipa (www.fundecoipa.com) in the Lonely Planet guidebook. It was set up by a Shaur community (called Arutam) and they have a rainforest reserve and community on the road between Puyo on Macas and it is common for people to volunteer there. I read on an internet blog that they can also organise trips to a community in the Amazon, away from the road.

Interestingly, the Shaur are the people that used to shrink the heads of their defeated enemies. That was a long time ago though.

So I got off the bus at kilometre 48 along the road and was met by my guide Enrique. After changing into my wellies (too much mud and water in the jungle for walking boots), we set off on the 4 hour walk to the Irshim Community. To the east of the Puyo Macas road, it is Amazon rainforest all the way into Peru. Enrique spoke English but I asked if we could try and speak in Spanish and I was surprised how well that plan worked. Clearly the 5 weeks of Spanish classes had paid off a little bit.

All along the way, he explained what the different plants in the rainforest were used for. There were lots of medicinal ones and lots of plants and things that could be used for paint.

There was no one there when we arrived at Irshim so Enrique got the fire going and cooked lunch. When the family came back, we all went and washed in the river.

Afterwards, George, the head of the family, appeared with two spears and a blow pipe! After a few spear throwing lessons I wasn't quite as bad as I was when I started. Using the blow pipe was really fun and a bit easier. I can really see how they were used as weapon. We were just shooting at a lime placed on a log though. The darts are made by "peeling" a piece of wood off a palm tree (if I remember correctly) and then sharpening it with a knife and wrapping a piece of cotton wool (not so authentic) around it to make a seal in the pipe.

In the evening we had a typical dinner of plantain, jungle potato (I have forgotten the name), some little fish that one of the sons had caught in the river and lots of chilli sauce for diping everything in.

After that, George told me about the history of Irshim and the stories and beliefs in the area. I did need Enrique to translate for this bit!

George wants more tourists to come in the future and has nearly finished building a rainwater fed shower and flush toilet for the future guests. I was the first tourist to visit this year and only a few have in the past. Hopefully this will change though.

http://www.fundecoipa.com/
 

Day 47 – Thursday 10 June 

 Breakfast was fun today. We had chicken, which was killed about half an hour before, more potatoes and chilli and one interesting addition: larvae. They were just like the things the celebrities have to eat on “Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” (see the pictures below) and it took me a few goes to actually get one in my mouth. Unexpectedly, the taste wasn’t bad at all, but the way they look stopped me from having more. A good experience though! Some of the chicken was cooked with a couple of larvae in a banana leaf so that the juices gave it flavour.

Today was spent walking, for 5 or 6 hours, to a building built by Fundecoipa on a high bluff overlooking the Amazon. The walk was harder going as the path was a little overgrown. George’s machete sorted that out though. The plants and trees grow so quickly that paths become overgrown very quickly.

They had asked me if I wanted to build a shelter and sleep outside that night but after asking a few questions I figured that we’d get wet and probably attacked by ants and so I declined that offer!

On the way, Enrique told me to taste the leaf of a plant because it tastes like lemon. I did. The leaf itself doesn’t taste like lemon, but the ants which hide inside them do!

I was shown that Tarzan really could have used vines to swing through the forest.

There is an amusing type of tree in the rainforest. New roots grow downwards from the trunk a couple of metres off the ground and they look rather rude (again pictures below).

A fun part of the day was spent walking along a river for about a mile, all the time using a stick to check if the water in front was more than welllie deep.

The view from the house, when we finally got there, was fantastic. It was really high up and has great views out over the Amazon. It is hard to appreciate just how big it the Amazon is (but it is getting smaller every day).

Getting to the “shower” was quite an adventure. The shower was a waterfall and we used a series of ropes to climb down the steep rocky slope to it.

Dinner was very welcome with popcorn and fried banana slices (called chifles) to finish. More stories of the jungle and then bed time.

 
Day 48 – Friday 11 June 

Only a three hour walk back to the Arutam community today.

Back at Arutam, Enrique and George showed me around the community. They have a school, crops and are building a lake for fish and maybe for tourists to use canoe in.

The guides were fantastic and I think I got to experience what it is like to live in the jungle today.

After getting washed and changed, I flagged down a bus to take me back to Puyo (1 and a quarter hours) and then got another to Riobamba (3.5 hours).

Fundecoipa takes volunteers in the Arutam community (see www.fundecopia.com) and are I believe that they are working with some of the other communities in the jungle too (eg Irsham) so there are lots of opportunities available. They can also arrange a tourist trip (like they did for me) to include whatever you way. $35 a day for tourists, and much less for volunteers (2010 prices).

I highly recommend contacting Fundecoipa if you want to try something a little different.

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