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Another Tragedy for AmaZOOnico

I just found out that Angelika, the co-founder along with her husband, Remiggio, of AmaZOOnico and the heart and soul of the refuge died a few days ago in a car accident. She was traveling with her family for vacation and the car collided with a bus.

Angelika first travelled to Ecuador around 20yrs ago where she met Remiggio, a local guide, they fell in love and she gave up everything in Switzerland to move to his remote village on the edge of the Amazon. Together they built AmaZOOnico and spread the word of wildlife conservation to foreigners and locals alike.

Her indomitable spirit and love of the jungle will surely be missed, and we hope that AmaZOOnico can survive without her vibrant energy. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and everyone who is/has been involved with her amazing project and legacy.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Baños to Rio Bamba to Guayaquil – Day 85

April 1st 2011

The Transport gods’ April Fools Joke
As much as I loved Baños and as much as Asef tried to convince me to stay, mainly to be his paparazzi on a bungee jump, I headed off on the 11.15am bus to Rio Bamba, a 3 hour drive. The plan was to meet up with Flavio and Iho (Kichwa volunteers from AmaZOOnico) at the bus station, hang out for the afternoon and then take the overnight bus to Guayaquil and onto Puerto Lopez.

The Transport gods apparently have a great sense of humor, for when I got to the station they all said there was no bus at that time and the next one only left at noon. Please note I had double checked the times yesterday. So I bought my ticket, found an internet cafe and sent a message. Then I wondered around watching the candy makers pulling their taffy type candy and picking up a few delicious treats. One guy even gave me a taste of the hot gooey taffy he was pulling.

Finally it was time to board and as the bus pulled away I figured out I had scored and got a row to myself. Even if the guy in front had reclined his seat so far I could almost see his middle parting. Before we got out of the parking lot though, 3 people jumped on and wouldn’t you know it one sat next to me. I must admit that even though the Transport gods seem to be having a blast they did give me a little compensation this time, as my seat mate turned out to be a very handsome young backpacker from Israel. He made me guess his home and was very impressed when I guessed correctly. Then we mulled away the time talking about everything from travel writing and volunteering to the political situation in Israel. You never know who you are going to meet and what interesting conversations the meetings may lead to.

All to soon the bus pulled into Rio Bamba and I was deposited on the sidewalk. I figured waiting inside the bus station was the best option but after an hour of waiting I became concerned. Eventually I saw Flavio walking up. Turns out there are 2 bus stations in Rio Bamba and the initial bus I was supposed to be on went to the other bus station. This day just keeps on getting better and better.

It was great hanging out with Flavio all day, we walked around, went to a small craft market and then met up with his friends in time to see the parade celebrating the city’s anniversary. It was fantastic fun with dancers performing all forms of traditional and modern dancing.

At the end of the parade we went and had pizza and beer and then headed back to the bus station. My bus only left in 3hrs but I didn’t mind waiting and they had some others to meet up with. The ticket lady allowed me to come in the back and I was able to squeeze in a quick nap.

Now this is where the true April Fool’s Joke was performed, courtesy of a deity with a great sense of humor. I had been told by friends that the trip was 15hrs and so, in my great wisdom, I bought 2 seats allowing me to sleep. However, they overstuffed the bus and I wasn’t going to make the little old lady sit on the floor, I also, however, was not going to let her pay for her ticket as I had already bought that seat. She tried to pay me but I said to keep it. Then the trip turned out to be only 6hrs and the driver did it 4hrs, leaving me at the Guayaquil bus station at 2.30am…

Luckily my good karma with the old lady’s seat guided me towards two other foreigners. But again, the sense of humor of the powers that be prevailed, they were from Spain and spoke only Spanish… At least we were able to make ourselves understood and had company.

Some random pics of Baños:

Funny thing was there were nightly buses taking tourists to the top of the volcano in the hope that it would errupt. Maybe we were the sacrifices.

Some Pics from Rio Bamba:

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Baños – Day 83 – 84 – the Ecuadorian Town of Extreme Sports

March 30th to 31st 2011

Detox Steam Bath
At the hostel you could get what was termed a relaxing detox steam bath for only $2.75, so I figured what the heck after 2mths of jungle grime build up that sounded downright fantastic. Little did I know what exactly it entailed:
– strip to swim suit
– have strange guy in just swim trunks place you in large wooden box
– box lid is slid closed exposing just your neck
(due to a failure in height this involved a bit of neck stretching and my feet didn’t touch the ground properly)
– steam was pumped in for at least 5minutes
– guy frees you and you follow a precise routine of dousing yourself with towel soaked in cold water (following circulation pattern)
– repeat hot box
– repeat towel soak
– repeat hot box
– sit in shallow pool and massage your stomach clockwise while guy splashes freezing cold water over you
– repeat hot box
– repeat towel
– repeat hot box
– get doused with bowl of cold water
– then walk to other room and have guy hose you down with high pressure hose.

Absolutely hilarious, invigorating and fantastic. The hardest part was when he hosed down the under side of my feet, I am very ticklish and nearly collapsed in a pile of giggles.

I felt so good after I went out to explore, got as far as buying an alpaca sweater/jersey/jumper (had nothing warm after being in the jungle) and having a cup of coffee. Almost as soon as I finished the coffee I felt an overwhelming need for sleep and spent the rest of the day in bed. There is a certain point where the body just realises it needs a vacation and it decides to take it.

After a good 5hr nap I was able to function enough to explore some of the surrounding adventure offices and find an activity for the following day. I was leaning towards horse riding as it has been many years since I had the opportunity. I decided on one that had a very friendly lady and offered it for $30 for 4 hrs. Sounded perfect (I would suffer later).

Airline screw up, it had to happen sometime
Then up to the roof top terrace of the hostel to try and figure out the screw up with my ticket home. I had decided to surprise my parents for easter weekend and had purchased 2 tickets on Allegiant air about 2weeks ago during one of my trips to Tena. I am anal retentive when it comes to confirming these and made sure the 2 one way tickets were correct before clicking the yes button. I didn’t have time to check the email confirmations until I had arrived in Baños and thats when I discovered the screw up. Instead of one way from San Fran to Eugene and then Eugene to LA, I some how had 2 one way tickets from Eugene to LA on the same day, same flight. I tried to email, no response, tried the online live chat, no help, finally I loaded up my skype account and called. The best they could do was to change the one ticket, but I would have to pay a change fee… luckily it was only $10 so I decided to grin and bare it.

New Friends and Local Baths
During the process of fixing my ticket I had an audience/peanut gallery. Asef, Israel, gave an amusing commentary the entire time I was trying to change my ticket and helped lighten the moment. Shortly after sorting it out his mate, Rob from England, showed up and we decided to head out to the local baths.

The baths are located at the end of town and cost $3 to get into. You put your gear in a tub and hand it in, have a rinsing shower and then head to the pool. Everyone getting in is grimacing and acting in pain and you assume that this pool must be the freezing cold one. It was in fact boiling hot, just short of bubbles. I think I could have poached a nice piece of fish in there. Once you finally slide in it feels good, almost. Eventually though it is time to get out and try a dip in the cold water. The heat makes you not feel the cold as bad, if you get in quickly, then the numbing cold makes you not feel the heat as bad. It ends up working out well, but you can only do it for so long and I headed out after about 3 hot and 3 cold dips. The others were going to meet up for dinner later.

Dinner involved very cheap pizza (edible, barely), then sitting on the terrace playing card games and drinking rum and coke. When it reached the magic hour of heading to the bar (about 10.30pm) I went to bed. I think I am getting to old for bar hopping…

A Horse Named Maria
The following morning I was driven to the horses and introduced to my mare, Maria. It turned out this little sassy lassy was a perfect fit for me and also exceptionally stubborn. She liked to be in the lead and kept walking in a wavy line to prevent my guide’s horse, Benito, from getting ahead of her. We headed out of town and up into the hills. Renee (my guide) gave me the option of 2 routes and I said which ever she preferred. She decided since I appeared to have experience we would take a less used route. This involved steep inclines and declines and rough terrain. It was fantastic but I feared my knees and rear may never forgive me. At one point we had to get off and walk down and a long decline as my knees did protest too much.

The best thing about Renee was that she loved the fact that I was traveling alone and wasn’t attached. She herself was divorced and had 3 kids. Her philosophy was to do something you love, have kids but try avoid acquiring a husband as long as possible, they were more trouble than they were worth.

I had to walk the 10minutes back to town and after a nice hot shower I discovered that sitting was quite a challenge. It appeared as if all the trotting and up and down had bruised my sitz bones which created quite the problem. The solution was to lie down and have a nap, a perfect solution if I say so myself.

Vegetarian Lasagne at Casa Hood
For dinner I finally got to go to the famous Casa Hood. It has a fantastic backpacker hippy feel and the food was incredible. I wish it had been open every night I was there, as I would have loved to work my way through the menu.

Returning to the hostel for another rum and coke evening with Asef and Rob and a jenga challenge. After collapsing the tower numerous times the game turned into a block building challenge to see who could make the tallest tower. A great way to spend the evening. When they headed to the bars I headed to bed.

Tomorrow I head to meet up with friends in Riobamba and then the bus towards Puerto Lopez…

Some good quotes from Casa Hood:

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Tena to Baños – Day 81-82 – Farewells cont.

March 28 – 29 2011

The final hitch
As I stepped out of the canoe, the only one that had arrived on time and even early for me in 2mths, realisation that my time in the jungle was over set in. New adventures await but some adventures you wish could last longer.

Nora and Yvonne (Germany) had managed to get the day off and so were coming with me to Tena for my last night. We hoped to get hitch a ride but it was not to be. The only car that past was a small truck, these are always filled with stuff and so we didn’t even try. Go figure this time it was empty and by the look on the guys face he would have stopped for us. Oh well. The bus arrived after an hour and a half and we headed into Tena, for my last time.

Laundry Lady
For the last 2mths I have dropped my laundry off at the same lady. She even learnt my name by the 2nd load, much to the annoyance of a volunteer who had been going there for the past 5mths. On this occasion we showed up and she immediately admonished me for not showing up last week. (I had not come into Tena for my last 2weeks). She said she was worried something was wrong but was glad to see me back again. Then I had to explain that this would be my last load with her and thanked her profusely for her great service. She was very sad to hear that and gave me a hug goodbye. I do love living in an area where you get to know people to this point.

My old lady store
After checking into the hostel, A Welcome Break, and breaking the news to the owner that I would be leaving from tomorrow we headed down to have the traditional pizza and fanta. After dinner we headed up to pick up the weekly bottle of water and to do a final browse of the candy counter at my favorite little hole in the wall store. The Old Lady who runs it immediately gave me grief for not showing up last week, she was also worried something had happened. I explained that I had not come out of the jungle for 2 weeks and this was my last night in Tena. She threw up her hands in despair came out from behind the counter and gave me a huge hug. Then she took my hands and pronounced to everyone the following (luckily my friend was there to translate for me):
“This girl is so loving and caring and kind, she is beautiful and has a kind heart and I want her to marry my son”. Then she gave me another huge hug. Its times like this you wish you lived in this place. And to think all I did was buy 2 small bottles of water and browse the candy counter once a week. Imagine the farewell if I lived and visited her everyday.

We then headed for a final look at tradition, or rather drink of tradition. CocoRon is nectar from the gods and a weekly ritual for any and all AmaZOOnico volunteers. Essentially it is a coconut milkshake with rum in it and it is pure heaven. Its right up there on the top 5 things I will miss about being in the jungle, along with canoe rides, great friends, cool animals and relaxing in hammocks.

Final breakfast at Tortuga Cafe
Another regular stop during visits to Tena is the Tortuga Cafe (tortoise cafe). It is run by a woman from Switzerland and they have fantastic grub at decent prices (which is Ecuadorian speak for slightly expensive but ridiculously cheap by western standards). I will definately miss the yogurt, granola and fruit bowls that became a regular part of my morning routine.

Mail Glorious Mail
Friends and family had timed their mail perfectly. As I had received a package full of fantastical goodies from my mate, Deb, in Australia 3 days before leaving. There was also a package waiting for me at the post office that needed my ID. Deb’s package had been full of yummy goodies, a hand crank torch (perfect as my other one had just broken), a stubby cooler for my beer (ever practical for the hot forest) and many more goodies. I couldn’t wait to see who had sent and what had been sent.

When we got to the post office the lady found a package or letter for almost every other volunteer except me and I started to fear that my mystery package would lay in wait for ever. But luckily the regular showed up and found it almost immediately. Due to its weight I had to pay an extra $5. It turns out it was my easter package from my mummy. And it was full of the most delectable goodies. She had also modified a polar bear card so that it appeared the bear was wearing bunny ears, I think it was the best part of the package. I so love my mummy and I owe her lots of coffee and floor cleaning when I return for all her help and support during this trip.

Baños bound
So for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, the word Baños means bathrooms. So I was essentially heading for the town of bathrooms. But the name really exists because of the natural hot springs located in the area, and the healing properties found there. Then again saying you are heading to the bathrooms is kind of amusing too.

Of course, when you are heading to a new location it means you have to say farewell to the present location and the friends found within. This meant an emotional farewell to 2 of the most amazing girls I have met, Nora and Yvonne. Nora always had a calmness about her in crazy times and made the best jungle pizza ever. Yvonne was like a younger version of me and at times we wanted to kill each other, but her fun lookout on life also helped to make light of things when it was pissing with rain, hot and everyone was grumpy. I will miss both of them very much.

Police checks, ewwww and a great hostel
The bus ride from Tena to Baños was around 3hrs and half way through we had a police check. Everyone had to deboard, stand in a line and produce ID. I am rather certain one young gentleman did not have ID on him and could tell the cops were giving him a bit of a hard time, but in the end let him back on the bus with a warning or something along those lines.

Pulling into Baños around 6pm, feeling quite drained, I got my bag and discovered the one time I didn’t zip the straps up (have a cover that zips them up and protects them), they were lying in some foul smelling liquid and stank so bad. the only good thing is that I could tell it wasn’t some kind of human or animal waste. Just most likely very stagnant water. But the ewwwww factor was there in high levels.

As I was adjusting straps and trying not to purge the contents of my stomach due to the smell, about 10 cabs drove past. As I stood up and moved to the curb its like they could smell my bag and all fled the scene. Luckily the info sheet I had on the hostel had directions, so I headed towards the general vicinity and hoped to come upon it. People were very helpful and most of them knew exactly which hostel I was most likely heading for. Eventually after walking almost 10 blocks with my huge bag (guess I am stronger after lugging buckets of yukka around the jungle), I found Hostel Plantas y Blanca (Hostel of plants and white). It is a fantastic hostel with great staff and a roof top terrace and morning cafe. The bed was comfy and as soon as I had consumed a dinner of bland, but good, quesedillas and nachos I past out for the night.

Till midnight when new people were brought to the room and the night staff put the lights on, then realised I was there so switched it off, but the girl behind him switched it on, then suddenly off, then her friend did the same. Eventually I just moaned “just leave it on will ya!”

Ahhh the joy of hostel living again…

Random pics from Tena:

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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