Jun 29 – Today was our day to visit Tarqui, and see the animals that have been rescued from being illegally trafficked. Tarqui is not a zoo per se, but a refuge for animals that cannot be returned to their native habitats. As many of the animals are African in origin, I’m not sure how they got to Ecuador in the first place.
By U.S. standards, the animal enclosures were small, and there was a lot of the compulsive pacing that indicates animal distress.
Lots of noisy birds.
Lots of big cats.
The lion sleeps today.
Plenty of monkeys, both inside and outside the fences.
You lookin’ at me?
A bit of political commentary – the muddy pen of peccaries (pigs) was labeled ‘The Trumps’.
We enjoyed a pitcher of Wayusa tea at the refugio restaurant. Very sweet and caffeinated.
Remember I told you that the currency here is the U.S. dollar? Well, the smallest bill used here is the $5. If you pay with a five, you will receive $1 Sacagawea coins as change. Now you know where all the dollar coins went!
Jun 28 – After a good night’s sleep and a very good breakfast, we ventured out to find the Omaere botanical park, on the edge of town. And just like that, we’re back in the jungle!
Omaere means ‘nature of the rainforest’ in the language of the native Waorani people. The park (once a cleared field used for grazing cows) was purchased by two French women and one Schuar indigenous woman almost 30 years ago, and planted with all the medicinal plants important to the nearby indigenous people. It now looks like the jungle it used to be, lush and green and teeming with life.
We met Chris, a biologist from California who came to Ecuador to complete his dissertation 30 years ago, and never went home. He provided a bilingual tour of the medicinal plants, telling us what each one was good for, and how each medicine was prepared.
Chris explained how the Schuar and Waorani people lived and hunted (with blowguns and curare darts), how a fierce hunter could have as many as 15 wives, and how they maintained an ecologically sustainable life over the centuries. He also had tinctures, shampoos and handicrafts to sell.
Chris expounded about the eco-friendly toilets he created for the park. Urine flows out a pipe right onto the forest floor to nourish the plants, and poop is covered with soil and stored until it turns to compost. We agreed that it makes no sense to use our precious fresh water resources to flush away our waste, but are not sure that folks back home will be willing to store their poop for a year…
Then we were treated to a native cultural performance by a Waorani family – a man named Yeti, his wife Rosario and her sister. They offered to perform in their native costume – stark naked with a single string tied around the waist – but we figured that we could get the gist of their dance without their full disclosure, so they just wrapped themselves in ropes and put on headdresses.
They chanted several songs in a flat repetitive tone, and shuffled back and forth. Rosario offered to paint my face with the red mask that she wore, but I politely declined.
Then Yeti asked if anyone would like to get married. The college kids in our group all declined that offer, so Jim volunteered that we would get married in the Waorani way. We all got up and shuffle danced, then everyone gathered in a tight circle around us and chanted. And just like that, we were married (again!).
We walked out of the park to find some lunch and found ourselves in the tourist part of town. We were the only tourists in sight.
After a fine meal of pollo y papas (chicken and fries), we walked home. The roads are being torn up to put new pipes in. Unlike our experience in Guatemala, most all the roads we have encountered here are paved.
After a siesta, we went out for dinner and found that almost all the restaurants we had seen in the afternoon closed at 4pm. Dinner out isn’t really a thing here. Way down the street we found an Ecuadorian Chinese restaurant – not your typical fare, but not bad, considering.
On our way home we heard music, and walked over to the sports stadium. There, under the lights, was the biggest community Zumba class ever! How fun!
An ad at the pharmacy – I’ll have what she’s having!
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.
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.
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!