21.05. - 25.05.2002: Tena & Jungle Trip

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Tuesday, 21.05.2002: Baños - Tena

The truck got very dirty as we travelled North on bad roads to a place called Tena from where our jungle trip would start the next day. We arrived there at 4-30pm and we had to unload the truck in the pouring rain. The streets of Tena literally turned into rivers!

We got our wet bags up into our rooms and then had a meeting with Julio (nutter with terrible laugh) - our guide for the three-day jungle trip. He also provided us with wellies and we decided to buy a plastic rain poncho for $4. After a nice and relaxing dinner at a restaurant across the river we packed our bags for the jungle trip and called it an early night.

Wednesday, 22.05.2002: Tena - Amarongachi Camp - Shangri-La

It was Denise´s birthday today and we sang Happy Birthday to her when she came down to the reception. All the local ladies at the reception clapped delighted too.

The weather was beautiful and quite hot in the morning and we all climbed on the back of a couple of pickups for a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride to our first jungle camp called Amarongachi. We dumped our stuff in comfortable cabins and went to a meeting to find out who wanted to do what during the day.

At about 10-30am we left the camp and went on a walk to a lagoon. Some had to carry tubes others paddles. The group was escorted by a baby coati and a small puppy. So cute! We went swimming in the lagoon and we could also do a 10m dive into it. There was also a water chute over the rocks. The baby coati bit a hole in our waterproof dry bag whilst we were swimming ... little rascal! Somebody discovered a hand-sized spider on the rocks where we had dumped our stuff. Ooaaaahhhh!

Swimming at the lagoon

Then we went tubing - 7 people sitting on 4 large inner tubes tied together with ropes - and had great fun going over the rapids. Bridget thought she might lose her slip-on sandals so she had to stuff them down her life jacket - quite a sight!

After a yummy lunch and a really short siesta Kirsten, Helen and Peter were the only ones who went on the 3.5 hour waterfall walk. We had been given wellies to go walking in and at the first river crossing Helen found out that she had a large cut in her right boot and her foot got really wet. "Oh no" she thought, but then 15 minutes later we were wading through waist-high water so the hole didn't really matter any more!!

We had a fantastic time, getting totally soaking wet, as we were rock-climbing up the waterfalls themselves. Well most of the time, Kirsten and Helen were being pushed up by one guide (Markus - a German guy who was there as a translator) and pulled up by another (Enrique)!! It was really tough going and at the 3rd waterfall we had to have a rope to get us up!!

We climbed 4 waterfalls altogether and then walked further up to some vines where we did Tarzan impressions. On the way back the local guide's nephew (about 9 years old and who didn't need any help climbing up the waterfalls!!) decided to hide in trees, undergrowth etc. and kept jumping out at us and scaring the living daylights out of us - well we thought it might be a snake or large wild animal!! He had great fun with the 3 of us!

Climbing waterfalls and getting really drenched

The whole walk was extremely tiring but superb fun. We really can't understand why everyone else in our group just wanted to relax in the hammocks all afternoon. Afterwards we only just had time to have a quick (cold) shower, eat, and pack up our stuff to drive to Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is a superb jungle camp with small wooden cabins on a high cliff overlooking a river and the beautiful jungle. Snow capped volcanoes are visible in the distance.

View from our Shangri-La cabin

We all loved it there. Since there was no electricity in the cabins we had to use torches and candles. Very cosy! Thanks to Denise´s birthday we stayed there for two nights instead of one.

Prue had organized another good birthday party. We were all provided with party hats and a small local band played music along with a birthday cake. Unfortunately the celebration was a bit flat as everyone was so tired! But its not everyday you celebrate your birthday in the jungle!

Denise´s birthday party

Thursday, 23.05.2002: Shangri-La

The next day we went canyoning in the morning again with our wellies on. There was a steep, muddy climb down to the river and then we had to climb through various gaps between the rocks where the river went through.

Muddy jungle walk

Sometimes we were up to the top of our wellies in water and we had to straddle between the 2 rock faces using our hands and feet to get through. At one point we had to use our backs to press against one rock face and our feet on the other to get sideways through (and quite a drop below!).

This time we were accompanied by an adult coati called Pepe who is basically mad! The guides had tried to stop him from coming with us in the first place and put him in a cage, but Pepe wasn't having any of it. So he came along. He wasn't a problem until we got to the part of the canyon where we had to straddle the water below and waddle from side to side between the 2 rock faces to get through. The guides warned us that they had to get Pepe up to the front as otherwise he would try to jump onto some ones back to get a ride - digging his claws in!! They managed to get him up to the front and when he realised that he wasn't going to get a lift on anyone's back, he actually went through himself, waddling from left to right, using all 4 paws! It was so funny watching his little bum waggling as he went through!!! Again it was 3.5 hours hard work but great fun.

We got back to Shangri-La for lunch and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. We had a log cabin style room with a hammock on the balcony and fantastic views of the rain forest with the mountains shrouded in dancing clouds in the background.

At 4pm we spent 1,5 hours making bracelets out of local dry seeds and berries. Even some of the lads joined in!!

That evening there was more musical entertainment from a local family. The 5 children, aged 3 to 12 were dressed in their traditional clothes which looked very African - straw skirts and head dresses and were the dancers for the evening. The music, however, was exactly the same for every song they sung!! They introduced every song and told us what it was about (e.g. a woman´s undying love for her husband, another till-death-us-do-part kind of song and a song about a rabbit!!).

Friday, 24.05.2002: Shangri-La - Tena

Today we went to visit a local community in the jungle. We crossed the river on mokoros - boats hollowed out of tree trunks - and got our last dry clothes wet! Then we waded through the rain forest, over tree bridges spanning the river below, and through some extremely muddy places to get to their village. On our way we passed loads of beautiful jungle plants and colourful beetles.

The Indian village was really interesting. The wooden houses were built on stilts. The main square was a football field. We were greeted by the kids and our faces were painted with the red seeds of a plant to ward off bad spirits - Grant looked like a clown and Max looked like an Inca ruin!!

We visited their school, played football with the kids (Peter was the only Gringo, but his team won 6-5!) and went into one of their "houses" on stilts - the kitchen.

Visiting an Indian village

After learning all about the local jungle life we walked back through the jungle to Shangri-La. Again we had to go on a wobbly mokoro ride across the river. It was very hot and we had to climb up all the steps back to camp in the searing heat. It nearly killed us!

That afternoon we went tubing again and supposedly a relaxing time down the river!! By the time we'd finished Helen´s arms were red-raw from all the desperate paddling to keep the tube from getting into the various currents and getting swept into the wrong places!

After our final dinner at Shangri-La we left on the trucks to get back to Tena where the hotel staff put on a surprise birthday party for Prue. It was a surprise because it was 2 days early!!! Prue got a huge birthday cake along with Champagne and Cuba Libre. Two elderly men - friends of Prue - came to play on their guitars. They were excellent!

Later on we all went over to a bar called Bilivar. They had a disco in the back room and we were practising our salsa steps on the dance floor. The army came in and raided the place at about 1am. We thought they were evicting prostitutes but apparently they were checking out under age people. Since the music had stopped we went back to the hotel and straight to bed.

The jungle trip was definitely the best part of the whole 15-week trip!

Saturday, 25.05.2002: Tena

It was pouring down with rain in the morning when Helen and a few others left for the full day river-rafting trip. They weren´t looking forward to the cold water, particularly as there were no wet suits, just life jackets.

There were 3 rafts, one full of the lads (Jason, Graham, Greg, Dave & Darrell) who threw each other into the water before they even started! Helen, Max and Prue had quite a few battles with them after the lunch stop where they kept trying to board our raft and eventually they did get us all in the water!! Although the rapids weren't as difficult (only grade 3) as the time in Pucon, it was still great fun!

At 7pm we went over the bridge to Chuquitos for food and then downstairs to the bar and sat with Flo, Carole, Zoe, Markus and his girlfriend and had cocktails.