Rumbles in the Jungle..
07.05.2008 - 11.05.2008 33 °C
As I stepped off the plane in Lago Agrio, I was greeted by searing heat and the smell of burning rubber.
The town, known as Lago by locals, is a festering pit. Primarily an oil town, it is deep in the jungle and about 30km from the Columbian border. On most weekends, it plays host to bands of roving FARC guerillas, cocaine smugglers and prostitutes. It was to be my gateway to the Amazon.
A couple of days before, I had decided that a trip to Ecuador's slice of the rainforest, otherwise known as the Oriente, would be a good idea. Practically everyone I had spoken to had said that it had been one of the highlights of their trip. What's more, with what can only be described as a stunning lack of foresight, I assumed that the horror stories I'd heard about snakes, spiders and parasites weren't true.
Over the next few days, we were lucky enough to see an amazing amount of wildlife: anacondas, caimans, 8 different species of monkey, tree frogs, 2- and 3- toed sloths, macaws, toucans, river dolphins and lots more. There were also a couple of fun extras:
- Piranha fishing (they are cunning little bastards, but taste pretty good pan-fried)
- A visit to a native Siona shaman, who performed a 'purification' (a bizarre ritual involving lots of singing, several palm leaves and a cigarette) and told us about the history of the shamans. Apparently, in order to become a 'real' shaman, a man is made to drink a special hallucinogenic liquid: this drink then puts him into a coma, which many 'wannabes' never wake up from. If he does wake up, he will continue to drink a diluted version of the substance for the rest of his life, as it apparently reveals all sorts of amazing things, such as the location of fish, the medicinal qualities of plants and the future. I personally think that this would have been much more legit had the shaman not tried to sell us this stuff afterwards ('20 dolares! Magic! 20 dolares!').
The downside to all these shenanigans was that life in the jungle was like being a contestant on an extended episode of Fear Factor. A massive Wolf Spider came out of the drain while I was showering, there were bullet ants under my mattress and even cockroaches in my washbag. There was also a little (when I say little, I actually mean that it was bigger than my hand..) Goliath tarantula living under the dining table.
Thankfully, I managed to get out alive and am now whiling away the hours in Lima and waiting for Jess to arrive and the real fun to begin!