Hola a todos!
This weekend, I spent time in a whole new world— the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Yasuní National Park. It’s crazy to think that I even had the opportunity to go to the jungle. The whole trip, my friends and I kept saying to each other, “Wow, we are actually in La Oriente in Ecuador.” This trip was unlike anything I have experienced before.
On Friday, we all met at the Rio Coca bus station at 4:30am. From there, we took an hour bus ride to the airport, where we took a 40 min plane ride to our next destination. After a short bus ride, we arrived at a hotel on the river. We then proceeded to take a 1.5 hour boat ride. After that, we hopped on a chiva, a wooden bus that wasn’t enclosed, for a 2 hour ride. Following that, we boarded another boat that took us on a 2.5 hour journey to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. After a daylong journey and amidst sporadic downpours, I was so happy to finally arrive. As you may be able to tell, this place is in the middle of no where, but it is certainly beautiful!! All around our cabin (Sophia, Elissa, Courtney, and me. It was like I had college roommates again!) is lush jungle—picture a real life Jurassic Park. The sounds of the jungle, between the rain, bugs, and the birds is so soothing. Needless to say, dormí a pierna suelta (slept like a baby).
Saturday, we had a 6:30am wake up call. We ate pancakes with peanut butter (clearly we have been a little deprived of my favorite food) and fruit. Unfortunately it was torrentially down-poring so we had to head back to our cabins for a bit until the rain “died down”. The rain did not die down, so at 8:30am we went on a 3 hour group hike. On that hike we saw many unique bugs and plants. We even saw this one species of tree that has a symbiotic relationship with a species of ant. The ant produces toxins to prevent any other species of trees from growing to close to this tree, and in return, the ants get food and shelter from the tree. These tiny ants are edible, so we gave them a taste. They have a really tart lemon flavor. I never thought I would eat bugs, but I guess why not if you are in Ecuador? My favorite part of the hike was seeing two different types of monkeys hopping from tree to tree while they socialized and ate. That moment definitely solidified the fact that I was indeed in the jungle.
Later, we went on another hike. It started off very hot and sunny. We were able to catch a glimpse of a giant exotic bird. Afterwards, we chewed up a plant that made our tongues turn blue. Our last adventure was scaling this huge tower to overlook the canopy. The view was incredible! However, it started to downpour again, so we had to hike back in the pouring rain. The last event of the night was taking a short night hike in the jungle. On that hike we saw many LARGE bugs, and a beige and grey snake. We even turned off all our lights and just listened to the jungle in complete darkness for 3 minutes. That was insanely cool.
Unfortunately, I happened to get very sick over the course of the night (l lived, for those of you who get that phrase). Everyone was very generous with their medication, and I spent Sunday morning recuperating. I felt better in the afternoon, and I managed to keep food down, so I decided to go with the group on a boat ride down Río Tiputini to look for wildlife. After a while, we had the opportunity to swim in the water! There definitely were piranhas, anacondas, and other terrifying creatures lurking around, but don’t worry, we were all safe. This probably was my favorite part of the trip. I don’t know what it is with me and water, but whenever I am in water, I feel better, happier, and more free. Later that night, the group went to a night boat ride. I decided to stay back because I wasn’t feeling great. I heard they saw a jaguar, though, so that must have been pretty cool. The crazy thing about the jungle is that the researchers spend years trying to study the animals here, and some animals like the jaguar are very good at not being seen. At Tiputini, they have several hidden cameras around the camp to try to capture the animals that inhabit the jungle. I wish I had more time at the Tiputini so that I could learn more about the fascinating work being done here.
On Monday, we left Tiputini nice and early at 5:45am. Luckily, someone gave me more medicine, so I felt a lot better, although not completely cured. First it was back on the boat for 2.5 hours, then the chiva for 2 hours, a boat for 2 hours, and then an 8 hour bus ride (It was horrible, but I survived). When I got home, I took a nice hot shower (There was only cold water at Tiputini.), took some strong medicine, and relaxed.
Tiputini was an amazing adventure, and even though I did get sick, valió la pena (it was worth the pain). I mean who knows if I will ever get to visit the Amazon again?! It was the most unique trip I have ever been on, and I will remain as one of the highlights of my time in Ecuador.