Tag Archives: Iyarina

Iyarina to Puyo, Ecuador

Jun 26 – So, life continues here in Iyarina. One morning we had no hot water, the next day no WiFi, then last night the electricity went out entirely. Small inconveniences when you consider how well we are living in the middle of the jungle!

Jim taught his last class yesterday, so our official duties are over. We continue to walk every day and find new things to appreciate. The sky has been very blue, with no rain for the past few days. Our clothes dried on the line! As we near the end of June, the rainy season is coming to an close.

Walking down the road, we encountered a maintenance crew cutting brush with machetes to keep the jungle from overtaking the road. Not sure if the dog is part of the crew.

A man told us that if we took a side road, we could climb up El Mirador – a scenic overlook. Of course we had to check it out. As soon as we started walking up, we were joined by Flora, a barefoot nine year old with a lot to say.

She took a liking to Jim, and kept up a stream of chatter as we ascended the hill.

The view from the top.

We walked back to the house of the shaman, and spoke with his wife Maria. She showed us the herbs she grows, and told us which ones are good for back pain, and which help if you have an open wound.

More wildlife.

Don’t hug this tree!

There are many little huts erected at the roadside. Bus shelters? This one is also a shop. There was not much on offer, mainly warm bottles of Big cola.

Some beans set out on the pavement to dry.

Pretty fungi.

Papaya, I think
Pineapples growing on the ground – I always thought they grew on trees
Huge heart shaped leaves – so pretty

More student sculptures – water women (mermaids) are a thing here.

Jun 27 – After one last delicious breakfast, we bade farewell to Iyarina. Janis had hired a cab to take her back to the airport in Quito, and because the bridge is still out due to last week’s floods, she has to take the long detour, which goes past our next stop, Puyo. She graciously offered to let us share her taxi. Luisa also came along, as she actually lives in Puyo.

An hour and a half later, the jungle is gone, and we are in Puyo.Our very nice hotel is right on the main street, which is full of little shops and eateries. We will be here three nights, which should give us more than enough time to see what Puyo has to offer. This is not a tourist town, so we will see. Stay tuned!

More from Iyarina

Jun 20 – So, I haven’t really talked about the weather here. It is not hot at all considering our proximity to the equator, perhaps in the low 70s during the day, but very humid. Pleasant walking weather. After sundown it gets chilly enough for a sweatshirt and long pants. The river provides a constant background noise as it roils along, soothing white noise. We are sleeping very well here.

Morning mist on the hills

More pretty flora.

Jim is busy teaching the anthropology students about Asian shamanism, to enable them to compare it to the Quechua shamans here. He also gave a hypnosis demonstration so the students could better understand the trance state. Here is the open-air classroom where most classes are held. I enjoy the contrast of the thatched roof and the flat screen tv.

Tod, who owns Iyarina, is the son of American doctors who brought him to Ecuador as a small child; he was raised here and married into an indigenous family. He maintains an academic career at Arizona State, while concurrently running this center. His extended family works here in all capacities. He explained (and I oversimplify) that in the Quechua culture, a person’s sense of self includes his entire family, and not caring for family members is thought to result in illness or misfortune to the children or elders of the family. A big responsibility.

The Quechua derive their power from the mountains that surround them, and, in times past, sacrificed animals or children to keep the mountains happy. In a land of many volcanoes, you can understand how this belief would arise. If a person experiences illness or misfortune, shamans are still consulted to determine the source and remove the misfortune.

We went with the anthropology students to observe a shaman ritual.

The shaman, named Bartolo, drank a cup of the hallucinogen ayahuasca, then chanted to various animal spirits. His wife Maria sat behind him. The round stone in front of him has magical properties and was described as female. He encouraged the students to touch the stone and the section of ayahuasca vine.

There were two smaller dark rocks described as male, that looked like faces. They served as protectors.

The shaman had a hand rolled tobacco cigar that he used to blow smoke over all the objects to cleanse them. The bunch of leaves were shaken throughout the ceremony and used to brush away negative effects. The shaman’s chant was calming and beautiful. Quite an experience!

Jun 21 – It rained so heavily through the night that the sandbar we could previously see in the river was submerged. Charles and his daughters are leaving today to travel home to Utah, and he received word mid-morning that the bridge back to Tena was washed out, and they would have to take a long detour. Safe travels home, Charles!

Jim and Charles

We continued to explore the campus.

The rain muddied the river

Huge fragrant gardenia

Logs used as seed starters

Tomorrow, an adventure!

A Day in Iyarina

Jun 18 – So, the first thing you should know about the Amazon jungle is that the WiFi isn’t great, so my posts will be less frequent. But isn’t it amazing that we have WiFi at all?

Inchplant, growing wild

The second thing is that so far this place is really wet, all the time. It is the rainy season, and it rains in the afternoon, and sort of mists on you even when the sun is out. It rains at night. Towels don’t dry. Clothes mold on the line. Everything is sort of musty. This isn’t such a problem for the professors and students who arrived with fat suitcases full of clothes. But for us poor backpackers with only two outfits (one to wear and one to wash), these two weeks will be a challenge!

There are about 50 students here, mostly post grad, pursuing different courses of study in anthropology, linguistics, biology, sociology, pre-med, and I’m sure other disciplines that I haven’t encountered yet. The ones I’ve spoken to so far hail from Pittsburgh, Arizona, Utah, England, and Washington state. They are mostly here on government FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) grants of $5000. per student for a seven week semester. They are an affable bunch, mostly female, happy to spend time talking with a non-academic like me.

We eat communally in an open-air dining area, with food prepared by native cooks. Lots of fruits and fruit juices, fried plantain, dough fritters, rice, beans and manioc. The main meal is served midday, with a light supper in the evening. Burrito night is the favorite meal, and banana covered in chocolate is the favorite dessert, according to the students.

Janis introduced us to the strong woman of the local Quechua village, Luisa.

Janis and Luisa

She says she is 90 years old, and still labors with her sisters and daughters. She patiently answers student questions about nuances of the Quechua language, and tells them the stories of her people.

Other Quechua women run a pottery class, exposing the students to ancient pottery techniques. The pots are dried on the cooking fire, then glazed and decorated with vegetable extracts. They are very fragile.

Jun 19 – Tod, the owner of Iyarina Lodge, showed us where to pick up a trail through the jungle. It is the trail his family used before the road was improved. The trail is sopping wet and muddy. There are beautiful blue morpho butterflies here. This is a small one resting on a wall.

On the trail we spied a pair of large ones, bright electric blue, each wing as big as your hand. Their underside is brown to blend with the tree bark.

Try as I might, I couldn’t capture the large morphos in flight with their wings open. Here’s a pic from Google to give you an idea. They are breathtaking.

These are tiny spiders that build communal webs, which the students tell us is unusual.

Lots of cieba trees, huge ferns and flowers.

Near the road are some lava formations, although there are no volcanos nearby.

Wall art!

Let’s see if I can post this. Stay tuned for more!

Iyarina Research Center, near Tena Ecuador

Jun 16 – It rained all night and into the morning, reminding us that we are indeed in a rain forest. Here are some more of the beautiful plants growing all around us.

At mid morning, Jim’s colleague Charles and his wife Janis picked us up and drove us out to Iyarina Lodge, an educational compound about half an hour from Tena. Iyarina is in the Amazon jungle, right on the Rio Napo. Charles and Janice are both professors at Brigham Young University in Utah, and have been coming here every summer since the 1980s to study the Quechua people who live here. Janis is the authority on their language and Charles is a cultural anthropologist.

The center hosts college and post doc students studying linguistics, anthropology, and biology. It seems that some very interesting spiders 🕷 and frogs 🐸 live here. We have a beautiful big room overlooking the river. Here is our view.

Here is our bathroom!

There are hiking trails and lava formations, and perhaps a trip to a local village nearby. Jim will present some sociology and shamanism to the students. It should be an interesting two weeks.