My name is Austin Pickup. I’m a second year Chemistry/Spanish major with a minor in Biology at Luther College. I hope to go on to medical school and then work primarily in other countries. For our second day in the rain forest, we went on a couple excursions on the Amazon river. It was amazing to see such an exotic biome and spend more time outdoors.
After breakfast we departed on foot to a nearby river, carrying inner tubes under our arms. We walked for about fifteen minutes until we arrived at the river, where a long and skinny canoe was waiting to transport us, 7 at a time, across a 30ft wide water barrier. Getting in and out was difficult, but exciting at the same time. Thankfully no one fell in!
After another short walk we found our main transport: a giant motor canoe with benches and space up top for the tubes we were carrying. This is how we made our way to several places along the amazon. The first place was a stop at a rescue zoo, where they kept animals who were recovering from different types of abuse, whether they had been kept as pets or injured by hunters. Unfortunately, by this time we were in the middle of a torrential downpour. I doubt there will be any good pictures from this trip because we were completely soaked. As a consequence, too, all the animals hid underneath their cages or anything that would give them shelter from the rain. We didn’t get to see much, but it was still very interesting to hear the process of rehabilitating the animals so they could survive in the wild. For example, with the parrots we were told never to talk to them, because the purpose of the mimic response of the parrots is that if a jaguar is hunting them, they can mimic the jaguar roar and the predator will go away, thinking there is no food. However, if the parrot repeats back “Hello” to the jaguar it won’t survive long.
Next, we stopped in a roofed eating area for lunch, followed by a tubing excursion down the amazon. This was a great excuse to get out of the wet clothes and into clothes that were supposed to wet, our swimsuits. Rapids and wild monkeys made this trip the best part of the day for me. I may have almost capsized a couple times, but that’s what made it fun! At the end of our route, we found a rope swing that we used to jump into the river. It was tied to a tree, and our tour guide told us to watch out for the “Congas”, or the very dangerous ants. It may have been a joke, but I kept an excessing distance from any vegetation after that…
After drying off and changing back into normal clothes, our last stop was in a small village where a woman showed us how native ceramics are made. It’s a several day process using clay and seeds to make different colors. The woman told me that they actually have success selling to tourists and shoppers all around the world. It’s surprising how something handmade can be just as competitive as factory made products. Once I saw their shop, however, it made more sense. The bowls and plates were beautifully decorated and their prices drastically undercut the factory made plates. Unfortunately, I was out of money, but I really considered buying some for my room back at Luther.
Then we returned to the hotel: up the river, 20 minute walk, cross the small river, 15 minute walk and we were there. Things were relaxed the rest of the night until about nine, when were had a spontaneous going away celebration, filled with party games, a native beverage, and dancing. It was great to see us all together after a whole month: friends that I had grown so close to over four simple weeks, and we were all there and all dancing together. It was one of those moments I hope I never forget. Even our professor jumped in and danced with us for a little bit! Thinking back, I hope we can get together again, but our time in Ecuador will always be unique. Nothing will ever be quite the same, but I think that’s the way it should be. We made some great memories, even if they weren’t all perfect, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.