Into the jungle: a travel diary of Yasuní
August 7, 2013
Last weekend, I visited Yasuní National Park in Ecuador: the most biodiverse place on the planet, full of natural and cultural wonders (including different indigenous groups, of which two live in voluntary isolation) (see map below, N1). Due to my work for the Yasuní-ITT initiative (the Ecuadorian proposal to keep oil underground in the park in return for donations to be invested into sustainable development and nature conservation (see The Yasuní-ITT Initiative and Friends of Yasuní (Netherlands)), I went to the park to experience it (again). The following is a summary of my travel diary, with a description of the park and its (human and non-human) inhabitants.
Check the LES facebook page for pictures.
Source: Sangay, 2009
August 2, 2013: A medicinal walk
The first day, I travelled with Carlos Larrea (Professor Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar, Ecuador) and Maria Elisa Terán (Yasuní-ITT Initiative) from Quito to Coca.. While waiting in Coca for a boat to bring us further, it started to rain which you normally find in the rainforest: pouring heavily from the sky, while the temperature did not drop drastically. In the meantime, we could enjoy the view as well as some curious visitors: monkeys and some peacocks. Our guide, Miriam, a Kichwa (indigenous group), picked us up and off we went to a two and a half hour boat trip to Kichwa Anangu Ecolodge and community (through the Napo Wildlife Center) where we stayed for the rest of the days. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and they explained us about the community, its sustainable energy use (solar and biogas) and the plan for the days to come. We rested an hour before our next endeavor: a walk into the jungle. During that walk, our guide showed us some medicinal plants and usage. For instance, she showed us a plant which is good for the elderly and their bodies and a plant which is used by the Shaman during ceremonies. We had an excellent dinner and were all very tired so we went to bed early.
Source: Lavinia Warnars
August 3, 2013: Birds, women, and peccaries
Today we woke up at 6 (yes, days start quite early in the jungle) and we went on a boat to watch some birds at a clay lick (a place where birds find their minerals in clay), but since the weather was bad, we did not see any. So, we went to see a Kichwa women community: they danced for us and our guide explained about their customs and cooking facilities. We all had the chance to buy some of their beautiful artisan. We took of to another clay lick which was supposed to be full of beautiful birds, including parrots and macaws. However, after waiting two ours, we still did not see any of them. We did hear them twittering loudly, but they were scared to come down due to first a hawk which flew by and thereafter a boat with its loud motor. So we went back to the Ecolodge to enjoy a lovely lunch followed by a siesta, which was quite pleasant. After an hour, we walked another trail into the jungle. This time we were lucky: at one point we were surrounded by a group of approximately 50 peccaries! They were running and screaming as they encountered us. This was quite exciting and a little dangerous. But nothing of happened. We also had the pleasant opportunity to see some monkeys on our trail back to the lodge. It was a great day, which had an amazing end: the sky was so clear in the evening that we could see many starts quite clearly, and we even saw the Milky Way. That was amazing and Carlos took some lovely pictures of it (see below).
Source: Lavinia Warnars
Source: Carlos Larrea
August 4, 2013: a (birth) day to remember
Since I would record an interview of our guide Miriam for my book on Yasuní-ITT and for Friends of Yasuní (Netherlands), I was so occupied in my mind that I forgot my own birthday when I woke up! Carlos and Maria Elisa congratulated me, and then I remembered: yes, 28 years ago I was born into this amazing, beautiful and thrilling place called planet earth! So, after the congratulations, I did the interview, which was inspiring. Then, we tried another time the clay lick we were yesterday the first time to see some birds and this time we had more luck. We went to a small river deep into the jungle on a smaller boat (canoeing). There we saw otters which were screaming and panicking while they were afraid of us and a helicopter which flew by. We also saw monkeys (with very little ones, see picture) and some turkey like birds which are called coatzin in Spanish. After lunch we did a jungle track of about 45 minutes as to arrive at a tower in the middle of the jungle to oversee the jungle and hoping to see some animals. We were unlucky however, and the only thing we saw and experienced were tiny flies and mosquitos flying into our eyes, noses and ears. When trying to get those out of your eyes while you just put some insect repellent onto your body and thus your fingers are full of it, is an experience not to do over again. But I tried to remember that Yasuní is so special not only because of its animals and tree species (594 bird species, 80 bat, 150 amphibian and 121 reptile species and 655 tree species per one hectare, more than Canada and the US combined), but also because of its 100.000 insect species per one hectare! We had to rush back to the boat since dusk was upon us and then you better stay of jungle trails due to snakes and the like.
In the evening we had the chance to try a traditional ‘desert’: larvae. Being a vegetarian, I passed for this great opportunity, but Maria Elisa and a man from the Kichwa Anangu Ecolodge office in Quito were brave enough to try. And then, I got a birthday cake with a candle, which I happily blew off while making a wish. A great ending of the day.
Source: Lavinia Warnars
August 5, 2013: Dreaming and back to Quito
Today the wakeup call was even earlier than ever! I think I broke a personal record: 4:30! This was because Miriam welcomed us in a traditional lodge as to tell us an old story and to interpret our dreams. This was a lovely experience since it hypothetically allows you to have a peek into the future. Then we asked for a special tour regarding the 24 solar panels and the biogas installation of the community. This renewable energy installations is part of a pilot project in this park and community. The panels are not yet connected, but they will generate enough energy for the tourist lodges and the school, of which the later has just been built and is funded by the Ecuadorian Government. The biogas installation is filled with kitchen garbage (fruit and vegetables) and is also brand new. After this, we thanked the staff gratefully for their hospitality and the experience they gave us and we went back to Quito.
It was a trip to remember deeply in my heart and it gives me more energy to work for conserving this park and its inhabitants. Experiencing that, and especially gazing at the stars, opens up your mind and I felt quite small being in the jungle surrounded by all that natural and cultural beauty and acknowledging that as a human, we are just a drop in the universe. But, being such a drop can make a difference. As the Dalai Lama once said: 'You think you cannot make a difference? Try sleeping with a mosquito in the room'. And indeed, remember that those little flies and mosquitos made a difference to me on the tower in the jungle! So, let’s make such a small or big difference too and realize our dreams!
Check the LES facebook page for more pictures.
Source: Carlos Larrea