The worldwide Augustana College experience

I Survived La Selva (The Jungle)!!

i survived 5 days in the ecuadorian jungle! it was seriously the most intense experience but also one of the most incredible and amazing experiences of my life! i hope you enjoy reading all about my crazy adventure! :)

WEDNESDAY July 7
Today we embarked on our journey to la selva! Forget about caring about looks because we all looked ridiculous haha. we lived out of a backpack for 5 days and things like make-up did not make the cut for fitting in the backpack. I looked so silly wearing blue striped pajama pants around, but hey they were comfy and that is all that mattered. We left at 8 am from CEDEI-our school in Cuenca. It was about a 7 hour ride total, and there were 16 of us in a big van. We stopped for fresh air at the Hidropaute Dam which was pretty. i slept until lunch in a small pueblo called Mendez. It was soo much hotter here than in Cuenca! The people weren´t as friendly, and it was just so humid and nasty flies were everywhere! We went to this hole in the wall restaurant, and it was so weird to see people wearing shorts and tank tops and sweating instead of freezing in winter clothes like they do in Cuenca. The food was not that great: chicken with like no meat on the bone, rice, and beans. I only ate the rice, and it was so hot I did not want to be eating hot food. Lindsay saw someone drop chicken and pick it up and put it back in the microwave. We were definitely not in Cuenca anymore. Back in the van I slept some more even though the roads were super bumpy. Our guide, Diego, got bit by something and it really burned so we had to stop for ice. Right then I was like bug spray time and lathered on some anti-bug lotion.

Then we finally arrived in Sucua and we checked into Hotel Romanza. Then we went to a family-owned zoologico. We got lost on the way and there were tons of trees around us. We even had to drive over a big tree that fell in the middle of the road! The houses are way more run-down here and we saw some cute little kids playing in the fields. When we finally got there, the zoo was pretty sweet. We saw lots of birds (peacocks!), lions, cheetahs, cute monkeys and spider monkeys, a jungle dog that was adorable, a tapir, the biggest rodent in the world, and snakes! There were huge ants on the ground and lots of different insects everywhere. When we got back we walked around the small town. Then we ate dinner at this pizza place which was so good! They had legit pepperoni like we have in the states (the other pepperoni here is more fatty and greasy and not as good) and delicious cheesy garlic bread. After that we got ice cream of course haha. The rest of the night we just chilled and talked about how we missed cuenca because the jungle hadn´t been that fun yet.

THURSDAY, JULY 8

Today I woke up at 8 am, lathered on my bug lotion and sunscreen and got ready to embrace la selva. this morning we had bread with cheese, mora juice (raspberry juice), and delicious scrambled eggs with green peppers. Then we packed up and drove 30 minutes to Macas which is the capital of the Morona-Santiago province. It was a pretty big town. We saw a statue of a strong woman in the center of the square and went inside the church and saw the virgin which is important to the town of Macas. We climbed up to the top of it and saw a pretty view of the city and the selva behind it which backs up to the border of Peru. Then we had free time and didn´t know what to do with ourselves for 2 hours. It was soo hot too. We ended up going to Pasaje (a small restaurant for lunch). We ate outside on the patio. 45 minutes later our salchipapas (little hot dogs and french fries) arrived. the service was super slow and we got in trouble for being late back to the van.

I slept the 30 minutes to Yuquipa. When I woke up we got dropped off in this field where there was a small stable with cows. We had to hike an hour and a half to where we would be sleeping for the night. Preparing for this hike was super intense. We put on our sunscreen and bugspray and we all looked ridiculous. i was wearing big black boots, khakis, a long sleeve shirt, long socks, a hat, my hair in french braids, sunglasses, and my huge backpack with my tennis shoes strapped on and my 3 water bottles stuffed into my water bottle pouch. I´ve never hiked with so much stuff before!! We waited for 2 kids and a horse to come which carried our sleeping bags and mosquito nets. Then we began our epic journey with our guide, Gustavo. The heat actually wasn´t too bad because we were surrounded by huge trees. It was so cool to be in a real jungle! We were all singing jungle songs and we also sang random songs like 99 bottles of beer on the wall haha. we had to cross some precarious logs that were wobbly and lots of tree trunks were blocking our path. Gustavo pointed out the food that the monkeys eat-these little shelled things- and the trees that the Shuar people cut open to get to the stuff inside that they eat. They also eat some of the leaves and use them as lettuce. Looking down there were tons of hormigas-ants-carrying little green leaves. I didn´t want to touch the trees because there were lots of insects on them and swarms of little bugs were around us. Then all of a sudden I tripped over a root and lost my balance and then the weight of my backpack was so heavy that it pushed me down and I ate dirt. It was an epic fall, but I was up 10 seconds later laughing. We had to cross a few little rivers and much more mud. It was a really cool experience though, and I definitely felt like we were beginning to truly rough it in the wilderness.

An hour and a half later we arrived at a clearing where there was a small river and a small waterfall next to a hut! This would be our home for the next 3 days. The hut did not have doors or walls just a roof made out of some kind of strong sticks and the floor was wood. Downstairs there was a raised platform where some people slept, a little changing room, tables off to the left where we ate and chilled, and a little ladder that led to a loft upstairs where I slept. they were washing the toilet seats in the river when we got here which was interesting. the bathroom is an ecological bathroom and it was about a 2 minute walk away from the hut. There was no door just 3 holes in the ground with seats above them. If you go number 2 you have to cover it with leaves and dirt. at least there were seats though and it wasn´t just a hole outside. We set up our beds-a thin mattress with a sleeping bag on top and our mosquito net hanging from the ceiling. Then we walked down to the big river! It´s so nice, but you have to be careful because there´s places where the current can suck you in. The water is cold, but it felt good. Then the sun set, and oo boy did it get dark. There was no electricity so we lived by candlelight and flashlight. You couldn´t see 2 feet outside of the hut it was that dark. There was a kitchen in the back of the hut where this really sweet family made all of our meals. We played cards and then had dinner which was served to us on huge banana leaves! It was super delicious! We ate some kind of meat with an interesting sauce, broccoli with avocado, yuca which kind of tastes like a potato, and soup with papas de chino (a type of potato native to the jungle). A bug landed in my soup, but I just picked it out and kept eating haha. A huge moth landed in Sam´s soup because we were eating near the flame of the candle. For dessert we had a banana with chocolate and Julia had brought marshmellows so we put those on top. After dinner we heard some screams and it turns out that cockroaches come out here at night!!! Not gonna lie I completely panicked. The little bugs were already bothering me, but cucarachas!! yikes. So we went upstairs to inspect our beds and sure enough there was a cockroach on my bed and lots in the corner of our loft. I was screaming a lot. Then I went out to the bathroom with my friends and we stupidly wore our tennis shoes instead of our boots and while we were waiting in the spooky darkness I looked down with my flashlight and saw ants everywhere!! They were crawling all over our shoes and pants! I hard core freaked out haha. I wanted to go back right then so I didn´t even bother to go to the bathroom. We had to shake all the ants off our pants and shoes. after that ant attack we just chilled downstairs for a while being scared of sleeping with the cucarachas and other bugs. i wanted to go back to cuenca soo bad. i missed my bed, my bathroom, and not having to freak out about cockroaches, the dark, the suffocation of my mosquito net and having to put on bug spray all the time. oh yea and not being able to brush my teeth or wash my face! and only having hand sanitizer to wash my hands. so we all inspected our beds together and then i was afraid to move because the corner by my feet outside the net was cockroach corner. i woke up many a times during the night feeling so stiff and twisting and turning. i was def. ready to go home to cuenca.

FRIDAY, JULY 9

today i woke up to the sound of sam laughing at my nappy hairdo because my hair in braids for over 24 hours was lookin super good. my throat felt weird from not brushing my teeth. so we went to the bathroom and got ready for the day but we still couldn´t brush our teeth or wash our faces. so i went outside to put bug spray on and then i slipped on the porch and fell on my butt and it got super muddy. yay for having to wear these pants for 2 more days haha. then we had such a delicious breakfast-an omelette with green peppers and ketchup and really good bread with butter and jam. after breakfast we went on a hike through the selva! it was super muddy and kind of hot but still fun! our guides pointed out the papa de chino plant and the yuca plant. then our guide picked this red-orange plant and painted war paint on our faces with the liquid from this plant which was super cool! we hiked for a while through some treacherous mud that would suck you in up to your knees if you stepped in the wrong spots. we then arrived at this zipline cage thing and we each got to take a turn riding on it over the river which was fun! then we sat down by the river and i was thinking about how content i was to just chill by this beautiful rushing river. the jungle was starting to grow on me.

then we hiked back through the lodo (mud) and back at the hut changed into swimsuits. we walked 10 minutes down a different muddy kind of steep path to a huge waterfall! we got to bathe in this waterfall which was soo awesome! it felt so nice to bathe even though the water was freezing! we were all screaming and splashing and it was so great haha. then we had a scrumptious lunch of pasta, garlic bread, fried bananas and delicious jugo (juice). after lunch i took a wonderful nap in my sleeping bag and we sat in the sun for a bit.

then we went on a hike for about 30 minutes to the Shuar community. It was a really small village, but it was soo pretty and so secluded out in the middle of the jungle. They live in really small houses, and they speak Shuar and Spanish because they were the only people to not be conquered by the Incas. We saw some kids playing marbles and others playing futbol while some women were washing clothes in the river. we walked around for a bit and met a cute little boy and girl named fernando and lisbeth. then a girl in our group had brought pencils and decks of cards and we gave them all to the children. there were about 25-30 children there, and they were ecstatic to receive a pencil. I was almost crying because I just couldn´t get over the pure joy in their faces from a mere pencil that wasn´t even sharpened! It really opened my eyes, and I was wishing that some kids in the states who are always begging for more and more would be able to see something like this. they also loved having their pictures taken and then looking at the pics. then we started playing futbol with a tattered old ball they had, and it was so much fun. then a little girl pulled me over to the side and wanted to play cards so we sat in the grass and she didn´t know any games, but she just took out all of the cards and looked at them. all of a sudden i had a group of about 10 to 15 kids around me in a circle so i decided to play a game with them. we played wonder ball and doggy doggy where´s your bone with a pencil and they loved it! it was soo much fun! i learned all these games at banner day camp and i just translated them into spanish. they then asked me to tell them a story so i told them the story of herman the worm which became herman the dog because i forgot how to say worm in spanish haha. they were singing along with me and all clapped and said bravo at the end. they wanted another story so we all started acting out los tres cerditos (the 3 little pigs) and they loved it. A cute little boy named Juan was the lobo (wolf) haha. it was seriously one of los momentos mas lindos de mi vida. (one of the most amazing-precious moments of my life.) All of the kids were hugging me when it came time to leave and jumping on me and one boy was wearing my sunglasses. I didn´t want to leave. This was my favorite moment of my time in the jungle, and it taught me so much about the little things in life and how amazing it felt to make such a small difference in the lives of these children who have so little yet who are so happy. It´s moments like this that remind me of my passion for teaching children and that this is truly what i believe to be my calling in life. When we left Sam was like amy you are an inspiration you are in your element girl and it was such a compliment. later our bus driver was like tu tienes una vocacion con los ninos. (you have a calling with children). I had no idea that all these people were watching me play with the kids haha i was just having so much fun and not paying attention to anything else, but it was really nice to hear them say stuff like that. walking back i was amazed at how much my attitude about the selva had changed in such a short amount of time. this experience has seriously been amazing for me and im starting to look past the bugs to see the real tranquility and beauty of this place. back at the hut maren was bathing in the river, others were playing cards, and sam and jamie were playing with the wax on our candle haha. watching the sun set was so peaceful and i love how this place brought everyone together to bond in ways without technology. then we had sopa (soup) with pan and avocado, chicken, tomato, and rice for dinner with a delicious muffin and tea for dessert.

after dinner a shaman came to our hut and we all gathered round in a circle. he had to live for 7 months in solitude to become a shaman! he did this chant as a shaman saludo and then did a dance and sang. then he did a cleansing ritual to sam. he lit a cigarette and had this green plant that he would shake around her head and chant and then he would blow the smoke past her left and then right ear and then in her hands. he was wearing a cloth around his waist and a bandana around his head. it was so interesting to take in this sacred part of the shuar culture and so cool to watch how he gets rid of bad spirits! my life in the states is soo different than this. it´s so crazy! every day here i learn soo much and my eyes are opened to a whole new world i never knew existed! then it was time for some animal crackers and to inspect the beds for cucarachas. we hadn´t brushed our teeth for 48 hours now, but hey life was good. i didn´t even see one cockroach this night! we had so much fun laughing and talking until we fell asleep using pants or shirts as pillows since we didn´t have actual pillows.

SATURDAY, July 10

Today I woke up to the sound of Sam and Jamie laughing at me. Sam told me they had eaten breakfast without me, and I was like WHAT? but it was just a joke haha. then they laughed as i had the struggle fest of the century putting my boots on. i tromped up to the bathroom which was not smellin too good today. here´s to day 3 of not brushing my teeth and showering. yea we were starting to smell real good. then we had eggs with peppers, bread, and mora(raspberry) jam, a cheese muffin, and some really good jugo for breakfast. After breakfast we packed up our beds and mosquito nets, and the cabana was so bare. then we went swimming in the river which was so fun! we sat on the rocks in the water just chillin in the tranquility and beauty around us for a while which was so nice. then i really wanted to lay out and tan on the sand, but there was lots of bugs and little frogs. i put my towel close to the water where there were less bugs and used it as a head pillow. it was nice for about 5 minutes until a mariposa (butterfly) landed on me and i jumped up and ran into the water. then my whole backside was sandy, and it took forever to wash off. don´t worry my friends took pictures haha. back at the hut we had a really good sandwich with ham, salami, tomato, mayo, and ketchup with a fruit salad-apple, banana, mango, grapes, pineapple, and papaya for lunch. the fruit here is so good!

after lunch we packed up and embarked on our hour hike back to the van. it was pretty slick and really muddy and it was raining almost the whole time. when we reached the farm we were like hallelujah we survived!!! we smelled soo bad and felt so nasty, but we were so proud of ourselves! the past few days have seriously been an experience i will never ever forget! we had to rinse and scrub our nasty boots in a smelly barn with cows. in the van it was so fun to listen to music-something we hadn´t had for 3 days now! we drove back to Macas to hotel heliconia where we spent the night. i took a GLORIOUS shower haha and it felt soo amazing to brush my teeth. it´s crazy how much you appreciate the little things once they are taken away! then we went to a chifa (chinese place) for dinner and got cake at an heladeria for dessert! then we were exhausted so we watched some spanish tv and went to bed.

SUNDAY, July 11

Today we drove many hours back to Hidropaute where we went on a tour of the casa de maquinas (house of machines) at the dam that is responsible for 70% of Ecuador´s electricity. It was pretty interesting. We went into this tunnel deep in the mountain to see all the turbines and other mechanical stuff. afterward we went to a nasty restaurant and now 4 of the girls in our group are sick from the chicken. i´m thanking god that i only ate the rice that was dyed purple from the beets that were on top of the rice. anyways we drove and slept some more until we were finally back in cuenca!! it was so nice to come home to my host family in cuenca and my nice bed and shower! i ended up loving the jungle, but i am really happy to be back in cuenca for 4 more weeks!

i hope everyone is having a great July so far!! miss you all!

con amor siempre,
amy

4 Responses to “I Survived La Selva (The Jungle)!!”

  1. Amy, thank you for the entertaining blog of your adventures in the jungle! I’m so happy to hear that all of you made it back to Cuenca safely. Keep on blogging!

  2. Yeah!!! What a neat experience. I bet Jess joined you in the screaming about the bugs!!!

  3. Hi Amy,
    Just started reading your blog and find it so interesting. So glad you are happy with your host family. I want to tell you an old Italian traddition. When you go into a church for the first time make a wish before you leave. Whether your wish comes true or not only you will know! I will continue reading, since it is so enjoyable. As you write you make me feel like I’m experiencing the trip myself.
    Very hot here and humid which will continue into next week. We miss your smiling face but know this is an experience of a lifetime.
    With love, Nancy &Phil

  4. Thanks for the comments Mrs. Kamp, Mrs. Leff, and Nancy and Phil! :) Nancy, that Italian tradition is so interesting! I am going to try it the next time I go into a church for the first time! I will keep blogging to keep all of you readers updated! :) I hope the weather is better at home this week! I miss you guys too, but this is definitely the experience of a lifetime! i cant wait to show you all the pictures!! say hi to the neighborhood for me!

    con amor,
    amy

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