Getting ready to tube the Napo River.
Getting ready to tube the Napo River. Rae Wilson

A peaceful return from the Amazon

I AM lying in a hammock draped below the thatched roof of my Amazonian bungalow.

It has just hit 6pm.

I know this not because I looked at a clock but because the deafening cry of the cicadas just began.

On cue every night, they signal the fall of night as the sun sinks and is no longer visible through the thick canopy of rainforest.

I am only 30 minutes out of Tena, the capital of the Ecuadorian province of Napo.  But I am in the Amazon basin, staying at the Cotacocha Lodge, with thousands of plant and animals species to be seen and heard.

I say heard because it is rare to sight animals here, even the kingfishers and the butterflies are so fast you can't capture them on a camera.

Yesterday I spent time with a Quicha family in the Tiyuyacu community.

They are one of the traditional Ecuadorian folk who live in the jungle.

I watched them pan for gold, successfully I might add, in the Napa River.

I watched how they use clay to make pottery goods to sell at market, using a pieces of bamboo as knives and smoothing implements.

I watched how they colour them using paints from red, black or white rocks.

They use hair from their heads, tied to small sticks to paint patterns and use a hand-made fire to harden them before polishing them with a smooth stone.

I also had a go at their hunting techniques to hit a pretend toucan.

You get three goes and I got mighty close by blowing an arrow through a long tube.

Today I met Marco, who is from the same Quicha community.

He took me through the rainforest and showed me the plants and insects used for medicinal purposes by the local people.

Because Spanish is his second language he actually spoke slow enough that I could understand a lot of the words.

But I still needed my tour leader Johanna to interpret the meaning half the time.

We trekked, with gumboots on it was so muddy, to a small and a large cascada (waterfall).

But the highlight was the trip back, tubing along the Napo River.

There were a few rapids to make it interesting but otherwise it was among the most serene things I've ever done.

The pebbled or cliff-like shorelines were covered in Tarzan-style vines and other dense jungle foliage.

As I arrived back to my jungle lodge, 40-odd minutes later and relatively dry, a cheeky Marco was waiting to tip me over and into the water.

This afternoon we went by motorised canoe across to a butterfly farm where I got to see up close some of the species which had eluded me in the jungle because they were so fast.

The farm had each species in egg, caterpillar, coccoon and butterfly form.

Some of the coccoons are like dried leaves, others green so they camouflage in foliage and some were silver and gold to look like water droplets.

The finished products were amazing.

With a quick dip of the finger into sweet fruit they were anybody's.

So now, I bid you farewell as I roll out of my hammock.

I have to grab my kerosene lantern to shower in fresh water delivered from the river and then head to the main bungalow for cena (dinner).

Pagaratchu (thankyou in Quicha) for continuing to read my blogs.

A Latin Affair is a travel column written by Rae Wilson.

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