Quito –> Tiputini

In all seriousness, where did this week go?

I guess a constant flow of meeting new people, having new, exciting cultural experiences and staying up late to finish homework will make the time fly. 

This past weekend I went to what I like to call the grownup zoo: the Amazon. 

My university has a biology research center in Tiputini, Ecuador, tucked away close to the Peruvian border deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Only researchers and groups with my university can stay at the station. 

After that statement, I would just like to take a second to count my blessings.  

We missed school on Friday and Monday for this journey because… man it was a journey! First we took a 25-minute plane from Quito to Coca. Then, it’s about an eight-hour drive. 

The Andes Mountains are truly a beautiful gift, and I still haven’t gotten used to the view which simply don’t compare to the Rocky Mountains or other ranges back home. But, they can make travel difficult sometimes. As someone from United States, I am now more aware of often I took highly developed infrastructure for granted.     

After the flight, we took a two-hour boat ride down Río Coca followed by a two-hour, open-air bus ride and to top it off a second two-hour boat ride down Río Tiputini.

We arrived at a remote camp with about 10 cabins filled with bunk beds and a covered patio that doubled as the cafeteria. The next couple of days were exhausting, sweaty, educational, unique and just all around fun. 

I swam in a tributary of the Amazon River, which according to our guides had piranhas but they told us not to worry because the piranhas were sleeping. I wasn’t eaten, so I guess the gamble turned out okay. I climbed to the top of the rainforest and walked across bridges suspended above the trees. I took in the views; I breathed in the surprisingly fresh air; I prayed in thanksgiving. 

We learned about the animals in the forest and saw quite a few wild monkeys! We saw trees with roots above the ground taller than me. Our guide explained the healing properties of the plants in the jungle and painted some students’ nails orange with the juice of a leaf. 

The experience was truly remarkable for all five senses. The views were breathtaking. The fragrances were constantly changing. The textures of plants were often shocking. The food was surprisingly incredible. The sounds were fascinating and at times terrifying.  

I suffered through a fear of spiders, but I went to their house, so what could I expect? 

My experience was one I will never get to repeat. The saddest part is that the Yasuni — the part of the Amazon in Ecuador — is filled with oil. Much of the land has already been sold to oil companies and even the land where my university has the research station will probably be sold soon.

I’ve never been a person really concerned about the environment, but after my trip to the Amazon my heart broke a little for Pachamana— the indigenous way of saying Mother Earth.    

Ecuador has a knack for making me look at my world differently and giving me a different perspective. I don’t doubt that this diverse little country about the size of Colorado will continue to open my eyes.