The trip started out with a bus ride to Quito at 9:30 pm. It was funny because half the bus was exchange students. It was a weird ride with in-and-out sleeping and seeing the clock and then the morning came. We were in the mountains at dawn which was really incredible! We got to Quito at about 8:30 am and then went to the little private airport business. We exhausted their sandwiches, juice, and fruit waiting for our flight. Then, we flew for a half hour to Coca on a little plane and then took a chiva for a couple hours. Finally, we boated across the river to the Yachana Lodge. When we got to the main meeting place, they gave us rubber boots and hot towels with some type of essence. We weren't really sure what we were supposed to do because we were hot, but we wiped our faces with the hot towels anyways.
Our tour guide's name was Mauricio. He showed us the various sites - compost site, butterfly house, lookout point. We watched the sun go down over the Napo River. So beautiful! That night, we checked out the store and there were all these tourist-y things. I tested them out and we got some nice pics.
Saturday morning we went to a market across the river. We were just a large swarm of exchange students. The big hit was a man selling a huge pile of clothes - kinda like a Goodwill store. I got this sweet Oxford shirt for $1.
We toured around the Yachana high school which is really cool. The students work and learn farming, recycling, fish growing, microbusiness, as well as the normal subjects. This picture is from the farm - their tomatoes have nothing on Pop's.
We then got ponchos (because it rains quite a bit, if you believe it), and those were pretty AWESOME. I took a bunch of pictures of people in their ponchos looking like rectangles. We also looked like wizards from Harry Potter (see pics).
We canoed across the river and hiked to the chamán (a type of doctor in the jungle). He did this cleansing ritual. He chanted things and blew an herbal smoke around us, then patted us with leaves.
We then practiced the blowgun and javelin. We weren't very good. We aimed at papayas. One girl hit it with the blowgun. You had to really give a hard blow to get the little stick to come out.
Sunday is the Yachana work day. First, some of us carried huge bags of mulch on our shoulders across the campus. I couldn't stop laughing because we had no idea we were going to work, and the mulch was continually spilling out of everyone's bags, and we were having so much trouble. Then, the four boys went with one student back to the campsite. We had to haul huge, heavy wooden tables all the way back to the high school! That was so difficult. The terrain was mountainous, rocky, and slick. It must have been at least 2 miles. We tried so many different techniques (on our heads, on our shoulders, hunched, horizontal, vertical), and not one of them was comfortable. We sweated so much so the table was even harder to hold on to. At the end of the haul, we were so worn out and could hardly carry it anymore (plus, it started raining). I couldn't stop laughing during this, either.
We gathered around a campfire, and the staff showed us different foods. I ate a live worm! It didn't really have a distinct taste. The cooked worms tasted like bacon.
For lunch we ate fresh fish with our hands!
We then hiked around in the rain with our ponchos and boots. I worked on more French, this time with the Canadian (she has such a different accent, though). On this hike, Mauricio showed us how to make a basket and gave us warrior paint.
The stars there were amazing, too! If the sky was clear, you could see so many stars because there weren't many cities with lights. You could also hear monkeys howling in the jungle.
Monday morning, we split up into groups and went to different sites. I was in the group of four that went to the farming. We just hoed the gardens and raked new mulch on. So fun.
That afternoon, we headed upriver on the boat and stopped off at a little sandbar (filled with rocks). We put our life jackets on and went in the ice water. We floated down, having to swim to the opposite side every once in a while. That was so cool. They called it "tubing" but we had no tubes.
We hiked again and saw cayman crocodiles and some birds. Mauricio called the crocodiles. The mama was supposed to come crashing in he said, but never did. We also saw a tree full of little pygmy monkeys!
We went on a night walk on this trail that was the most difficult one we'd walked. Most had flashlights. The purpose I thought was to see nightlife, but we didn't really see anything. Mauricio showed us a frog but that was it.
Wednesday morning we packed up. We had a ton of wet, smelly clothes. Our room (with the four boys) smelled pretty horrid at the end of our stay. Alexis, a boy from Switzerland, asked me why his pants that he left on the floor smelled so bad, and I explained to him the concept of mold. We left the lodge and had a two hour boat ride back to Coca. On this ride, we saw a spider monkey jumping around in a tree. We flew back to Quito and spent the day in the Quicentro mall. That night we ate some Chinese food (I got sick and think it was from that) and then loaded the bus for Machala. This bus looked new and nice, but it was so much more uncomfortable than the ride to Quito. The seats reclined in your lap. Then, we got back to hot Machala.