A Travellerspoint blog

Montañita Project "Learn to surf"

semi-overcast 24 °C

After a month in the jungle for me and 3 weeks in a poor suburb to Quito for Laura, we were exited to be back to travelling. In addition, we had been in Baños like 6-7 times meeting up there on weekends etc. Even though we loved Baños, we were also glad to see something new. I had since a long time ago said that I wanted to have a week of surfing in Ecuador. After debating pros and cons of going more north or even going south to Peru, we decided that Montañita seemed to be the most convinient place to go. Its also the place that has the most consistent surf.

After a though night travelling by bus we finally got to Montañita early in the morning. The place has a rep as a party desitination, and when we arrived at 8am there were still some drunken revellers on the streets. As it was still bank holliday in Ecuador all the places had trippled their prices. We must have gone to 25 different hostals, until we decided to take a bit more luxurious place further along the beach so that we could get a decent nights sleep. Actually the place we got was amazing, a gigant bungalow right on the beach, and the price was pretty much the same as the cheapest skanky hostals we saw. The second night we changed to a cheap hostel right in the middle of party central. We thought as the bank hoilliday was over and people had been partying for 5 days straight it would be quite in town. However, we thought wrong. In addition to the discos being loud, someone parked a car just below our room, blasting out music crazy loud at 5am. After two nights of very little sleep we moved a third time to a more quite place just out of reach for the crappy disco music played in the clubs. Felt like an old man, but after Merazonia, I was just too used being in bed before 22pm.

Anyways, we were here to surf and not to party. In Montañita there is one famous righthander reefbreak out by the rocks. This place looked way to scary for me, but it was amazing seeing the pros having a go at it. The rest are various breaks along the 500meter long beach, which is ideal for real beginers. Actually as the breaks are so irregular and waves break different every time, its not an ideal spot for surfers at my level that are beyond catching whitewater, but not good enough to read waves and paddle strong enough.

I ended up renting a 7 inch board, which is a bit too small for me, but the first board I had was really wide and pretty stable anyway. Rented at the same place for a few days, but when they tried to charge for the weatsuit even though they had forgotten to say that you have to pay for it, I decided to switch place. The first day was obviously tought, but still managed to stand up twice. Unfortunantly this would be pretty much the standard for the rest of the week. Though I have to say in defense that the waves got bigger and more difficult throughout the week. The first 4-5 days I was really sore, but then I felt like I started to build up some paddle stamina. Still the last two days when the waves got too big, I was really struggling to even make it out. Due to a really powerful current, you would have to paddle for up to 10min just to make it out behind the break. There were quite a few beginner surfers together with me that were being tumbledried.

While I rented boards, Laura took some surf lessons. She has never been much for watersports, but I have give it to her that she really kept on trying. She was all bruised up on her legs and some small wounds on her knees and thighs. We ended up getting to know a few people around the second surf rental place on the beach and it was quite fun just hanging out. They had this balance rope thing too which was pretty fun to try. As we started to get to know more people, we started to also like Montañita more. The first couple of days we were actually pretty sceptical to the place, but it definately grew on us.

Laura tried to book a salsa lesson, but the girl that was going to teach turned out to be a bit of an idiot. We have made a reservation for the class, but when we showed up we were told that the girl had had to cancel and that there was another type of danceclass. After that we were told that the girl that was going to teach us was actually participating as a student in this other danceclass. Laura obviously got so pissed off and decided that we would look elsewere for someone a bit more serious. It took a bit of research but we later joined a course together with a german girl/woman. We learned directly that our previous danceknowldge would be useless here as the steps were completely different. Back to square one, but I have to say that I preferred this salsa style more than the one we did in Quito. Ended up only taking two classes, due to the weekend, but we pic up a few funky moves.

Most nights we would have a cheap drink or two at one of the coctail stands (there´s a street in Montañita full with small stands selling cheap coctails). We ended up going to the same place as it was cheapest and quite a crazy guy, El Galan, that worked there. Anyways, on the last night in Montañita we met some cool Colombians by the coctail stand and they invited to have a shot of some cheap sugarcane vodka that they had bought. One shot turned in to two and later on 15 or so. Didn´t realise but they actually had four whole bottles of this vodka thing. I thought the bottle just never ended. We ended up going to some reggeabeach party, where we had more shots and more beers. I was hoping to show my newly aquired salsa moves with one big Colombian girl, but she just said no, no, no and took the lead, throwing me around like a doll. Suppose that Colombia even has a different style of salsa. Colombians are so friendly though, after speaking to them for 10 minutes or so (before they were too drunk) they invited us to stay with their house in Bogota.

We had a great night with the Colombians, partying til 4am or so, but man did we feel hangover the day after...and even the day after that. First time this trip we have had a serious 2 day hangover. After walking around saying goodbye to people and trying to nurse our hangover it was finally time to move on.

Main street Montañita

Main street Montañita


Looked like a festival during the bankholliday, people camping on the beach, bon fires etc

Looked like a festival during the bankholliday, people camping on the beach, bon fires etc


At least I could look like a real surfer when still on the beach

At least I could look like a real surfer when still on the beach


The blue fishing boats of Puerto Lopez

The blue fishing boats of Puerto Lopez

Henrik with his newfound friend

Henrik with his newfound friend

Laura´s new Brazilian look

Laura´s new Brazilian look

Some cool surf art on the wall

Some cool surf art on the wall

Henrik practising his balance on the beach...its harder than it looks

Henrik practising his balance on the beach...its harder than it looks

Mixed seafood ceviche...still can´t believe that Laura eat one after being traumatised in Peru 4 years ago

Mixed seafood ceviche...still can´t believe that Laura eat one after being traumatised in Peru 4 years ago

Waves were amazing on the day we were leaving...oh and this is not me surfing

Waves were amazing on the day we were leaving...oh and this is not me surfing

Posted by hmontonen 17:14 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Volunteering at Fundación Minadores de Sueños

Bailar la vida!

sunny 10 °C

I stopped over Baños and took a daylight bus to Guayaquil (night buses are not recommended in Ecuador, especially if you are on your own) and got there around 2p.m. The hostel was close to the bus terminal but very far away from downtown. I took a bus right after leaving my things in the hostel; the bus ride took 45 minutes into town. The city is noisy, chaotic and too polluted… it wasn’t the best start. However, I decided to visit El Malecón, the newly built harbor and the neighborhood of Las Peñas. These were actually really nice, but….that was it.
Guayas (short word for Guayaquil) is not a touristy place and it does feel a bit unsafe. It did not seem the best place to stay for a month; so, although I was going to visit the kid foundation, I was pretty much determined that I would not stay and that I would go back to Quito to search for more places to volunteer. And so I did. I got to Quito the next day and went visiting another place that worked with children….it sounded well but they were not promising many hours per week, so I decided to hold it with a question mark. It was already the end of the week: I had been travelling a lot and had not met anyone to speak to, so I was starting to feel down.
I met Henrik down in Baños for the weekend. He had had a fantastic week, whilst mine had been too much hard work. But it was good to meet and speak. We also decided to release some adrenaline and did a jump from a bridge 120 m high. I went first. I was really freaking out and backed up twice before I threw myself “to void”. The jump was awesome, but afterwards we swung in there for a couple of minutes before they would get us down; that was still 50 m high and it felt really scary… Henrik, who is normally braver than me with these things, looked quite scared but he did not hesitate. The only thing is that I was trying to get a photo with the jump but the camera got stuck and it would not snap  . Well, at least there is a photo with me jumping…
Still can´t belive that Laura jumped from a 75 meter bridge...

Still can´t belive that Laura jumped from a 75 meter bridge...


That day I also got a reply from a foundation in Quito which needed volunteers. The minimum commitment is normally two months, but since I am Spanish and it doesn’t take long to adapt to the children with the language, you become “effective” straight away, and they said that it would be good to have me there and teach them some dance moves, at the same time that I would do a full dance therapy with them. I would also help them with homework and any other staff that needed to be done in the foundation.
The weekend came to an end and Henrik went back to the center, while I went back to Quito to decide which foundation to choose. In the end I went for Minadores de Sueños. Marco, the Swiss guy who started it, had an apartment for the volunteers in the neighborhood. It is a perfectly ok flat and the price is only USD 6 a day including meals and laundry.
The Foundation is located just downhill from where the apartment is, which is good. You get to experience what’s like to live in the area. It feels truly authentic.
The kids go to school in the morning and come to the Foundation at 1 pm where some eat lunch and the others come afterwards, at 2 pm, to go to the classroom and do the homework.
There are 42 kids in total, from 6 to 12 years old. They have very strong difficulties with their homework. Some are way behind in school so they need to reinforce certain areas, like math or science. On Tuesday, Rafael, the other volunteer from Switzerland, and me accompanied Rosi, one of the teachers, to one of the kids’ school and that was very interesting to see. Since the Barrio doesn't have its own school, kids have to cross a highway everyday to take a bus that take them to the school; the one we visit resembled more of a prison than a primary school; tiny classrooms crammed with screaming kids and a the gym class that was taking place outdoor reminded me of a soldiers march...
Also, the homework the kids got assigned was killing; for example: a kid would have to copy 2.000 times a serie of numbers. There was so much dumb homework that seemed more of way to keep the kids busy, rather that making them use their brains. Incredible!
I started my classes on Tuesday with 3rd grade (kids of 8 years old) and it was very interesting to work with them; I set up five different programs for the different groups.
For the youngest kids (including 3rd) I decided to do more of a creative dance program, whilst for the oldest ones we combined more exercices of Biodanza with a modern dance coreography.
We did enjoy the classes together.
There is also a group of teens who comes every weekend and I prepared a workshop of Biodanza for them, along with one of teachers. That was probabily one of the best teaching experiences for me: we spent 3 hours preparing the programme, selecting the music, arranging the space...the workshop lasted 4 hours. Since we didn't know each other very well, the first minutes were a bit odd but soon everyone got into it. We created a small bubble in that place and each of us were deeply inside.
I also had the opportunity to visit one od the kid's school. Since the Barrio doesn't have its own school, kids have to cross a highway everyday to take a bus that take them to the school; the one we visit resembled more of a prison than a primary school; tiny classrooms crammed with screaming kids and a the gym class that was taking place outdoor reminded me of a soldiers march...
The experience was unique: it was nice to meet the kids, the teachers,Last dance together!

Last dance together!

Good bye to the kids. Estefania and me saying Adiós!

Good bye to the kids. Estefania and me saying Adiós!

Raffael, the kids amn me posing the last day

Raffael, the kids amn me posing the last day

the couple who founded the place and Raffael, the swiss guy who volunteered in the place too.
It will remain in my heart F O R E V E R.

The girls who loved the Shakira moves!

The girls who loved the Shakira moves!

Kids from the youngest dancing class

Kids from the youngest dancing class

The teacher who I made the workshop with!

The teacher who I made the workshop with!

Youngest dancing group!

Youngest dancing group!

The boys from one of the dancing class...

The boys from one of the dancing class...

the trouble makers...

the trouble makers...

Who is the fastest?

Who is the fastest?

Biodanza workshop

Biodanza workshop

David en me, last day in the foundation

David en me, last day in the foundation

p]

Posted by hmontonen 05:14 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Volunteering with animals part 2 – Merazonia

overcast 25 °C

I had already been in touch with Merazonia www.merazonia.org before and from all the animal centres that I had found, it seemed to be the most serious one about animal rehabilitation. The center does not accept tourist, which was one of the things that I had set as a criteria. Also I had ran into some of the volunteers in our hostel in Baños and they seemed to love it.

I got there late in the evening and was a bit overwhelmed by everything. To start with there were already 10 other volunteers there, in addition to the owner and a coordinator that already had their way of talking, acting etc. In addition, there where rules for absolutely everything, even 4-5 rules how to go to toilet (it was a eco one), which made you a bit paranoia about screwing up something (like throwing sawdust where you pee). Too be honest, the first two days or so, I felt like I had made a misstake coming here, however, I was to learn that this was a place that really grows on you.

The two first days we were doing the feeding routines with the Dutch owner, Frank. The animals were getting amazing food served with great care and consideration (too much in my opinión). Each animal had a specific menu, and this menu would even change every meal. We would have different feeding schedules and basically read what animals were in this schedule and what each of this animal would eat on this specific day. The fruit would even be cut differently for each animal. I´ll tell you, these animals were pretty spoiled when it came to food, I felt like eating the food myself. Still once you know the background of the animals and how they were treated before, and how malnutrition they had been, you where happy to just see them eat and fatten up a bit.

We would feed the animals twice per day. However, before that we would clean the cage. Again, I think cleaning the cages twice per day, was a bit exaggerating, but it made me think of the last animal center, where we cleaned the cages that they had, once during two weeks. Some of the animals would make quite a mess in their cage. The kinkajous (half monkey half squirral type of animals) where the worst, and we would normally fill one whole 20 liter bucket with poo and a bit of leftover food, per day. Messy but very cute fellas.

Basically the day would be get up 7am, small breakfast, start feeding and cleaning at 7.30, have breakfast afterwards around 9.30. After breakfast we would do our cleaning task of the day (based on a cleaning schedule), which could also include catching grasshopers with our hands to give as snack to the tamarine monkeys, and then between 11am to 13pm we would do some other random task around the camp. This could be building cages, painting the roof, building walking paths, chopping down a tree and similar stuff. At 13pm we would have lunch, which usually ended up being so long, that we would have to go and start the afternoon feeding and cleaning directly at 15pm. Sometimes we would do some work after the afternoon feeding or the day would finish at around 17pm.

The days were pretty much layed out with this routine. However, during two weeks we also did observation of how some soon-to-be released tamarine monkeys interacted with the wild ones. We had basically placed a cage with two tamarines in the jungle where there were wild tamarins hanging around, and we would sit there and write down any observation on their behaviour. Usually the wild ones did not show up and I ended up studying spanish for an hour. Still it was always nice just to sit by yourself in the middle of the jungle, listening to sounds and relaxing.

The tasks were in no way as fun as in the last animal center. However, you did really feel like you were volunteering and helping the animals here. I really missed having the close contact to the animals which I´ve had in the last center (where monkeys would jump up on you even), as in this center all animals were in cages and we were trying to minimise all human contact so that they could be released back into the wild again. I realised more and more how poorly run all the other animal centers are and how un-serious they are about releasing animals. I mean how do they even expect to rehabilitate and release animals when they allow hordes of daily visitors to touch them.

After a few days in the center, all the rules and regulations started to make a lot of sense and after a while I did not even think about them. You could also see that the owner Frank is really serious and passionate about the animals wellfare. There was information explaining in detail explaining animal behaviour such as how you can mess up the monkeys natural hierarchy by touching them (this being seen as grooming which is done to the higher ranked monkeys). In the center there were Cappucin and Tamarine monkeys. There were Kinkajouws, loads of birds and a cat, sort of like a small tiger. I´ve never been much for birds, but some of the birds, especially the blueheads, were great fun. After a while you started to see the personalities of the blueheads. There was one appropiately called “Slutty”, would get up close to you and preform some mating ritual.

In addition, I really started to like the other volunteers. Everyone was superfriendly and it felt like we were a big happy family. We would all eat dinner together every night, taking turns to cook. As there was no electricity, hence no fridge, the food would be vegetarian except twice a week when they went food shopping. I definately have never eaten so much veggi food in my life and would crave for meat some days. Still even though I got a bit fed up off tuna and avacado sandwiches for lunch, the food was great. For some reason, people ended up baking loads, so we had cookies and cakes almost every day, which was amazing luxury being in the jungle and all.

With no electricity we would only have candle light in the evening which was definately contributed to the cozy factor. Though I noticed that it also made us go to sleep earlier. Most of us being in bed some time after 9pm on most of the nights. A funny, but quite crazy French guy (who told us he had masterbated a few birds for reproducting purposes) was scaring the shit out of everyone with scary stories about some dead little girl walking around. Occacianly he would hide under someones bed and jump out. Once he even lit candles around one of the girl´s bed and wrote “Die bitch, die” using variuos items. The setting in the jungle was scary enough in the night and with this guy around, most people chose never to go to the toilet in the night.

Some of us go out on some mini adventure by the end of the day. We went two really cool waterfalls where you could swim. The last one we went to was amazing, the pool below the waterfall was so deep that you could jump from the top of the waterfall down into the pool. We also went to a gigant tree, where we were playing Tarzan and swinging in the lianas. Great fun!

There was not really crazy stuff happening in Merazonia. It was mainly just a really good vibe around the place. I would definately recommend Merazonia for anyone truly interested in animal rehabilitation. However, remember that you will not get much of an animal experience as you would in the other centers. The best place and most famous is Amazoonica www.amazoonico.org but then you´ll have to book a place months in advance. Otherwise, www.yanacocharescue.com is a decent place. They have much more vararity of animals then Merazonia, but do accept visitors and as such are less serious about rehabilitating and releasing animals.

Me in my jungle outfit, with my macheta off course

Me in my jungle outfit, with my macheta off course

Ruth and Federico enjoying a swim under one of the waterfalls

Ruth and Federico enjoying a swim under one of the waterfalls

Trying to take picture of a tamarin through the cage

Trying to take picture of a tamarin through the cage

One of the tamarines eating

One of the tamarines eating

The main house

The main house


Ruth la mexicana, at least I could practise my spanish with someone

Ruth la mexicana, at least I could practise my spanish with someone

The surrounding

The surrounding

Frank the owner haning out with the vet Louisa

Frank the owner haning out with the vet Louisa

Main jungle intersection

Main jungle intersection

The gang getting ready for some jungle adventure

The gang getting ready for some jungle adventure

One of the doggies, Puppy, joined us on our trekk, here posing up with Sarah

One of the doggies, Puppy, joined us on our trekk, here posing up with Sarah


Gemina and Martje glad to finally get out of the jungle after 1 hour of chopping our way through the bush

Gemina and Martje glad to finally get out of the jungle after 1 hour of chopping our way through the bush


Geert the Belgian guy posing up

Geert the Belgian guy posing up

Me posing up in the river

Me posing up in the river

This water was so clear

This water was so clear

Spiderweb

Spiderweb

Some wild tamarine monkeys coming closer to inspect the ones in the cage

Some wild tamarine monkeys coming closer to inspect the ones in the cage

The big bird cage

The big bird cage

Capuchine monkey sitting still for once

Capuchine monkey sitting still for once

Capuchines inspecting the camera, superclever monkeys, could probably learn to take pictures themselves

Capuchines inspecting the camera, superclever monkeys, could probably learn to take pictures themselves

Me das un beso!

Me das un beso!

Posted by hmontonen 16:25 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Volunteering in the jungle Part 1

sunny 27 °C

After quite a bit of research I came across this volunteer/eco tourism agency. Normally I would never want anything to do with any agency as they just rip people and volunteer organizations off. However, the price for this volunteer place was just 225 dollars per month, which was way lower than any other place. After some emails I really got a good feeling about the place as they were really aware of the issues with many animal centers being run like zoos and how animals were treated etc. In this place the animals were all free to run around as they want and it was run by Ecuadorian, something that is very unusual (all other animal centers are run by Dutch or Germans).
Anyway, we still had to wait for Laura to get a response from her volunteer places with children. We had nearly given up, when finally Laura got a positive response from a foundation in Guayaquil. As there was a girl being picked up in Puyo we decided to move very quickly. After running around like crazy for two hours, I had payed the organization, sorted out other things like buying food for a week (was surprised how difficult it was to buy food…I mean all food, breakfast, lunch dinner etc, you need for a whole week).
It was hard saying goodbye to Laura after having to travelled together 24 hours a day for nearly 6 month. Disaster did not wait though. 30 min after we had separated, I realized that I had Laura´s bag and she had mine. It was not too bad for me, but she did not have any money, no passport, nada. Took a taxi back and run around like crazy asking people if they seen a little Spanish looking girl. Finally found her and gave her stuff back.
I was picked up by the owner of the animal center, a very excentric 50something year old Ecuadorian man named Meduardo. Really crazy this guys, singing load the whole journey, stopping occationaly to scream “animal prison” whenever passing another animal center (there are loads in the region, and he hates them all for putting animals in cages). The center was way over expectations, there was electricity in the house we stayed in, I even got my own room. In addition, to me and the Irish girl that I had come with, there were two Ecuadorian biology students, volunteering there. They warned us that in the night, an strange animal might come in the house….scary.
Late in the evening, something scraped on the window, and in came a sort of half monkey, half squirrel type of animal. It was anything but scary looking, but I suppose that I am glad that they warned me, as if it would have crawled into my bed late I night it would have scared the hell out of me. I later learned that this is called a Kinkajuo. It came around almost every night and hanged around in the house until we threw it out before going to bed. They had named it Maria Cielo (sky in English). One evening it curled up on my stomach and played with my fingers for hours, super cute. Its like you keep thinking it’s a cat, until it all the suddenly stands up on it back legs or climb upside down.
I slept like a baby in the center, super comfy beds, together with some crazy jungle noise. Actually in the morning about 5ish it’s a bit weird as the parrots and budgies wake up and scream like little children. Took some time to get use to that sound. The first morning the Irish girl came down and told me that there was a spider in the bathroom. I thought, I could catch it easily, but it was a bloody tarantula moving super quick., I was way out of my head here and we had to wait for the Ecuadorian to wake up. Luis, had no trouble scooping it up with a paper and putting it under a glass, crazy man. Later learned that it had been in their beds earlier and that it was piousness…nice.
Later Meduardos wife took us around the center, explaining the feeding schedule, some background about the animals and stuff. She is supernice and you can see that she really loves animals. Almost all animals are running free, except the ones that need to be in cages due to illnesses. It’s amazing to get so close to almost wild animals. We were actually hand feeding all the monkeys that jumped down from the trees as we walked in the jungle. Amazing!
The afternoon chore we not so glamorous. It basically was just carrying back bags of dirt for the reforestation project. We would do something hard and often quite pointless work every day, like making paths. Unfortunately this part of the work was very disorganized and it seemed like they would just invent things to keep us occupied rather than something that was actually needed. Anyways, it was always fun chopping some stuff with machete and you feel great after a hard days physical labor.
The owners are not really much in contact with the volunteers, we lived separately and they were doing their own thing, which mainly was searching for their beloved tapir Bambi that they were playing this hide and seek game with. It would run away for a few days and then finally when they found it in the jungle they would bring it back to the center where it stayed for half a day, only to run back into the jungle again. They were very happy that it was free, but also concerned that it could get killed by hunters in the area.
On the second day we got to see the big woolly monkeys, that come down every 4th day or so to eat. It’s a family of 5, with one big fat Alfa male that looks like a small gorilla, two females, and two kids. Actually this is one of the few centers that successfully have managed to reproduce woolly monkeys. One of the females with her child on the back, sat in my lap eating for 20 minutes. Was probably the most amazing animal experience I have had in my life. The mom even allowed me to pet the child and everything.
The Irish girl, Ylona, did not speak any Spanish and the Ecuadorian guys almost no English, so I ended up translating all the time. Never spoken this much Spanish in my life. Was improving so much in the center. Anyway, we were having a great time together. The two guys had relaxed a bit now and were so funny, singing, dancing around, joking etc.
After a few days, I was invited to come look for Bambi with Meduadro. Fun I thought at first. However, it turns out that Meduardo is even more crazy than I though and he’s not really a people person. He just loves being out in nature and does not really give a damn about anything else, the volunteers included. He would not have waited or cared if I lost my arm along the way. Also I found out in the middle of the jungle that he´s got no sense of directions and we got seriously lost. In the end he started to ask for my opinion on how to walk. After 4 hours hiking in horrible heat through bushes, and I do mean through bushes, no paths, we came back. We never spotted Bambi the tapir.
When we got back everyone was shouting. It turns out that the Irish girl Ylona had gotten bitten really badly by the Alfa male woolly monkey. She had a 2-3 cm deep wound in her arm, with flesh and fat hanging out of it. Must be one of the worst wounds I have seen in my life. They had managed to hitch a ride to some type of medical center and gotten three stitches to keep things together. She was doing really well considering what had happened to her. Actually though she was more in a chock stage and was worried that she would freak out later. I didn´t really want to leave her, especially as the others did not speak English, but Meduardo was insisting that we had to look for Bambi the tapir again (shows his view of animal vs people priority eay).
We left again for the jungle in the afternoon. This time we drove a car to a nearby village and would walk back to the center from there through the jungle. Again Meduardo got us really lost from the start. You still sort of rely on him that he knows what he is doing, but when it started to get late and we still had not reached a place where he had been before, I was starting to get nervous. Finally we recognized a path that we had taken in the morning. It did not take long though before it got too dark to follow the paths and in the end we had to resort to climb into the river and walk back. We walked waist high in river for nearly two hours. It was so difficult walking in the river at night and we kept falling over. I thought it would never end, but finally we came back. We were met by the others that had decided to try and go look for us with torches. What an adventure, but I would definitely bring my headlamp with me the next time.
The owners son, David was also living in the center. He is a real jungle kid, never lived in a village in his life, he was not afraid of anything. If he saw a spider he would run up to it and grab it and give it a kiss. He was only seven, but knew 10 times more than me about how to survive in the jungle. He joined us on a search for Bambi one day. Sometimes he would disappear from the path straight into the jungle and his dad would say, “don´t worry he will come out somewhere later” which he obviously did somehow. I was thinking if there was anything that could scare or hurt this kid, when suddenly he started to scream and cry a lot. Apparently some giant ants were biting him. We all (except his dad) ran up to him, trying to figure out where they were, when he screamed “aaahh mis huevos”, which basically mean, aaahhh my balls. Got his trousers off and was pouring cold water between his legs until he calmed down. Later I got bitten by one of these ants and it was seriously like a bee sting. This was on my back, I can´t imagine how it would have felt being bitten on the more sensitive parts.
Actually David did one more classic that I have to write down. They were selling some sovounires in the house, some tacky Ecuador t-shirts and stuff for tourists. One day David´s mom was in the house explaining something to us, when David feeling that he did not get enough attention, put on one of the Ecuador t-shirts and screamed “mirra mama soy un gringito” (basically means, look mom I am a little gringo).
We had the weekends off, and I decided to come back late Sunday evening by myself. I had been told that it was a 6 km hike from the bigger road to the center. On the local bus, I started to realize that this was a bit too crazy. I didn’t really even know where I should get off. In the end the bus driver dropped me off in the middle of nowhere and there I stood lost in the dark. I had managed to ask the driver if this was Km 28 (where I had been told to get off) just before he closed the door he managed to shout “no km 28 was a few km back from where we came from”. Great I though, now I´m lost and alone. Luckily a guy came walking by in the dark and although he was not sure, he knew that there was an animal center an hour and half away. He was walking almost the same way so we set off together into the jungle. The problem was that he was carrying almost nothing, while I had 15kg of food in plastic bags. I was simply that I had to suck up the pain in my arms as I really did not want to be left alone in the jungle. After we had separated I kept walking for another 40 minutes or so. Somehow I had this calm feeling that worse case I could just sleep in the wild, I had food and everything. It really looked like this was the most likely scenario when I suddenly stumbled across the center. It was so dark, that I was close to walking past it even though it was just a few meters away. I have to say that deciding to walk back by myself in the jungle was pretty stupid, but it really gave me one of the first real adrenalin/adventure feelings I have had on this trip.
The only thing missing at the center was to see the tapir Bambi, who I started to think only existed in the crazy mind of Meduadro. Finally news spread on the camp that Bambi was back in the center. I finally got to see the 250kg half elephant, half horse. Really great to see a tapir up close.
One of the evenings a bat had managed to get into the house. It was flying around like crazy, with David and Luis trying to catch it with their t-shirts. They joked that they would eat it, something that I could easily believe after Luis had told me that the locals eat some giant ants that we had found in the ground.
There was three new people that came to the came, one German girl Anja, and two guys both named Chris. Having been there when Ylona got bitten by the alfa woolly monkey, they didn’t really know that they had to be very careful around them. I started to warn Chris when the monkeys were all around him trying to get food, but he did not react in time and all the suddenly the Alfa male jumped down from the tree, walked over and bit him in the foot. It was not nearly as bad as Ylonas wound, but still they left the center to go to a hospital to check it out. In one way it really sucked that one more got bitten, but in one way it good to see that these animals have become almost completely wild again.
All in all, the center was a great jungle experience. It was amazing to be able to get so close to the animals, to even touch them. I also really liked the two Ecuadorian guys, and my Spanish was improving a lot. Still I decided that I would try to work in one more animal center as it still did not feel like we were really rehabilitating the animals. I said adios to the people and left.

Tarantella cought in the bathroom by our brave Ecuadorian friend Luis

Tarantella cought in the bathroom by our brave Ecuadorian friend Luis

Our nightly visitor, Maria Cielo dropping by for a banana

Our nightly visitor, Maria Cielo dropping by for a banana

Henrik and the daily feeding routine

Henrik and the daily feeding routine

So photogenic these clown monkeys, they just freeze and stare at the camera

So photogenic these clown monkeys, they just freeze and stare at the camera

Clown monkeys posing up for a photo

Clown monkeys posing up for a photo

One of the clown monkeys showing me the tongue

One of the clown monkeys showing me the tongue

Hanging out at the river after taking the weasle Anastasia for the daily walk

Hanging out at the river after taking the weasle Anastasia for the daily walk

Jungle boy David aka Mowgly just back from school...the other kids go with clothes

Jungle boy David aka Mowgly just back from school...the other kids go with clothes

The jungle crew...Anja, Chris and Chriss, and mi pannas, Eduardo y Luis

The jungle crew...Anja, Chris and Chriss, and mi pannas, Eduardo y Luis

Me and the newly found 250kg jungle babe Bambi

Me and the newly found 250kg jungle babe Bambi

Miss Bambi showing her best side

Miss Bambi showing her best side

Going in for the kiss closure, but Bambi pulled away last second

Going in for the kiss closure, but Bambi pulled away last second

Polly did not want a cracker, she preferred bananas

Polly did not want a cracker, she preferred bananas

Ylonas wound

Ylonas wound

The house was full of 7 cm cockroaches

The house was full of 7 cm cockroaches

The big wolley monkey alfa male showing who´s the boss in this part of the jungle

The big wolley monkey alfa male showing who´s the boss in this part of the jungle

Posted by hmontonen 09:58 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Ecuador, first part

From Quito to the Amazon

sunny 25 °C

We flew from Rio to Quito on the 25th of September.
From the start, we didn't want to stay in Gringolandia area (La Mariscal), so that we could experience a bit more the real Quito and picked a hostel from our guide which was located a bit more closer to old town. Lonely Planet described it as one of the best hostels in the city; turned up to be completely the opposite. The staff was nasty and completely helpless: first, they changed the price of the room twice, and then they gave as a single room for two. The last day they decided that they had made a mistake giving us that room and had to change in the middle of the say. While our stay, many people were complaining about different things, some people came with reservation and all the suddenly there were no rooms available and many other crazy stories… The hostel was called Casa Bambú; it should definitely be out of all guides; it has been in the last two editions of Lonely Planet; however, since they do not update the information yearly and they do not physically visit the place, many people go there and get deeply disappointed.

Regardless the experience with the hostel, we had a great time in Quito. Old town is very pretty: there are several very interesting photo exhibitions to look at, the streets are perfect to wander about and the arquitecture is gorgeus. The beauty of its patios pervaded us!
We also visited the church La Compañía de Jesús, which is absolutely stunning, definetly worth a visit. It took 160 years to build it. Once you get inside, you understand the difficulty of the making. It is fully covered of gold plated motives and it has impressive pictures. A masterpiece.
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus

Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus


Quito, old town. Pretty!

Quito, old town. Pretty!


Me and the gorgeous views of Quito

Me and the gorgeous views of Quito

After Quito, we travelled to Baños. I had found a child foundation that sounded very good and it was also reasonably close to Mera, where an animal center that Henrik found was located. So it sounded like a good option both of us.
Baños is, on another hand, very nice, in a good setting surrounded by mountains, makes it a good place to hike, cycle, do rafting, and for those who wish, do bungy jumping...

La Ruta de las Cascadas

La Ruta de las Cascadas


Crossing the bridge towards waterfall twins

Crossing the bridge towards waterfall twins


Laura under a waterfall

Laura under a waterfall


Cycling ruta de las cascadas

Cycling ruta de las cascadas

Huge hail storm on top of one of the mountains around Quito

Huge hail storm on top of one of the mountains around Quito


We visited the child Foundation, but it turned out to be a different thing from what I expected: it was the first library founded in the village; however, none of the kids who went there were poor; it is only a place to provide with books and do activities for the kids. The families even have to pay to have access to the library, and the place was sustained by the volunteers who would come and stay with them in a shared apartment. Although it sounded nice, it was not a place to help out or to make a difference on children with needs, but a place to develop your skills and put them in practice with the kids. It didn’t sound like the place for me so I finally decided not to work with them.

Henrik wanted to go to Merazonia, that animal center close to Mera, but simultaneously he got in touch with a guy that worked with another center somewhere between Mera and Tena; and he finally decided to go for this one. It sounded very professional; they cared a lot for the animal rehabilitation with the goal to release them finally.

We did two bike rides in Baños: la ruta de las cascadas and a ride to Mera. For the second route, we stopped in Rio Negro for lunch. That very same, all it was on news was the coup attempt to Rafael Correa (the president). Everyone would talk about the same thing and it was interesting to hear people's opinions.
We stayed in a lovely hostel in Baños, a family run place with a home feeling and good price: Hostal Casa Maria.

After three days in Baños we decided to head towards Puyo. There we took the opportunity to find out a bit more about animal centers, whilst I was waiting for a reply from another child foundation in Guayaquil.
Puyo has nothing special, except for a nice riverfront that has been recently built up. It is also the start point for trips into the jungle...
We also heard from an animal rescue near Puyo, called Paseo de los Monos and went and visited...the place was great, but the contact between the monkeys and the visitors was excessive. They had volunteers but they also allowed tourist to visit the place. There hardly seemed to be any rules, which made the place a bit unserious. Regardless, we did have a great time with the monkey felows!
Henrik, getting used to having monkeys around

Henrik, getting used to having monkeys around


The inhabitants in Paseo de los Monos

The inhabitants in Paseo de los Monos


Playing with monkeys

Playing with monkeys


The bush man

The bush man

After a couple of days, once I had received an answer from the foundation and Henrik had confirmed to start with the animal center, we said good bye to start our adventures separately.

Posted by hmontonen 19:52 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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