Amazon Adventure Part III

Earlier on in the week Ramiro had talked to us about a photography competition he was running in Napo. The prize was a handmade, artisanal necklace and a daytrip to one of the regions’ tourism gems – Cascada Pimpilala. By the end of the week, he had chosen his winner and invited us to come along for the day.

We arrived at Pimpilala with Ramiro, the winner (a girl from Ambato), a Spanish woman, a local woman and her daughter. My impression was that we would be spending the day peacefully bathing in the gushing waters of a refreshing waterfall and its pools. How wrong I was!

As we started walking along the entrance path, the way became steeper and steeper, rockier and rockier and I soon realised that a hike was on the agenda. Little did I know that a hike would turn into a climb…up the waters of the torrential waterfall.

Before we started climbing we were all digging up courage for what lay ahead of us when, a deadly snake decided to sunbathe in our path. Not to worry, Ramiro picked up the serpent with his bare hands, grabbed him by the mouth and flung him deep into the forest while exclaiming that if it bites you, you could die. That shook me for the rest of the day, but nonetheless, we carried on.

Our next challenge was the hardest of them all. We arrived at a vertical point in the falls, and while the park’s owners used to have climbing gear attached to the adjacent rocks, they had decided to remove them. So we were all to pretend we were Spiderman (or woman) and up we went, one by one, over the sharp rock face, water gushing down the front of our bodies and into the deep pool below. It wasn’t (luckily) until after we had all made it, knees knocking, that Ramiro told us recently at least three people have fallen from here.

At the top of the falls we revelled in the glory of having survived a waterfall climb, and relaxed a little by an invigorating dip.

To celebrate Ramiro and Ruby taught us all to make Kichwa crowns, from nearby plants. Kichwas used to makes similar crowns to grace the heads of their kings and queens.

Although our adventure had been an authentic one, we hadn’t yet seen any monkeys or panthers to complete the trip. The former would suffice. So we took a daytrip with one of the girls from our host family to Misahuallí to see the famous Capuchin monkeys.

The town is known for these monkeys that hang out in the town square and by the ‘beach’, but during carnival time, the place hots up with a sandy fiesta right along the shores of the Napo river.

We hopped on a ‘taxi’ from Jatun Yacu – a ute that travels these parts to Tena and charges $1 for the ride for anyone daring enough to jump on the back – and then an hour-long bus from Tena.

Many tourists go there and feed the monkeys with chips, biscuits and all the good things we like to eat. But this isn’t good for the monkeys who only get sick from it. What’s best to feed them with is red onion, which they love, and it also acts as a mosquito repellent and coat conditioner.

When we visited the monkeys that hang around the park in town, we were told to take off all hats and glasses and hang onto our valuables. The monkeys love to take things, as demonstrated on cheeky fella who jumped on the head of a woman next to me trying to get hold of her glasses and raid her handbag.

Heading to the ‘beach’ to picnic, we relaxed our grip on our valuables a little until we spotted a cheeky little monkey swinging through the trees and onto the sand. His friends followed but luckily didn’t manage to grab our things.

So after ten days in the jungle our mission here was complete and we managed to do everything that is on any good jungle list:

  1. Climb a waterfall: check √
  2. See a snake and get very frightened: check √
  3. Wear a grass headdress: check √
  4. See cheeky monkeys in the wild: check √
  5. Eat jungle food: check √
  6. Get eaten alive by bugs: check √
  7. Gather, roast and grind real cocoa to make chocolate, Kichwa style: check √

It was now time to leave and head to our next destination…Paraguay

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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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