Shiripuno lodge, 27.Sept.-17 Oct., 2008

The first few days the camp is full of people: there is a group of French students, a Polish couple (bird-watchers), Harold and Tom, the two biologists, and the staff. Mealtimes are filled with animated conversations (who has seen what) and with latin, scientific names of birds, insects, trees…Fernando Vaca started the lodge around 4 years ago and he likes to keep it low-key, not too overrun with tourists. There is no electricity (although we are experimenting with a new solar-system)(by the way, there is of course a generator, but it is hardly ever used, since Fernando prefers the sounds of birds to the sound of a generator..thank god), no hot water in the shower – but swimming in the river is much more exhilarating anyway (swimming against the current is probably like swimming in one of those tiny pools that generate their own current – you put sooo much effort in it, but you are still struggling at the same place).

early morning fog over the Shiripuno river

early morning fog over the Shiripuno river

After the early breakfast everybody goes on his/her own way. Tom and Harold are off to catch some butterflies and to conduct a study on dung beetles (O.K. there is a funny story behind this / to “lure in” the beetles, they use human shit as bait, and Harold brought some with him, because, as he explained, you never know, if you will be able to go, when you are on a trip; and if not…well, that puts the whole study at jeopardy – so, he brought some of his earlier “achievments” in an old food container – which was opened at the Hotel Auca in Coca by the housecleaner…the lady who cleaned his room looked at him weirdly after that); the Polish couple is off to find some more birds; and we hit one of the few trails (named after prominent biologists) to explore the area.

The first afternoon when the rain starts, there is a spontaneous soccer-game erupting out of nowhere and continues until one of the French girls almost breaks a toe…ecuador-2008-846-kis-kep

The trails go through some different microhabitats ( e.g. swampy, hilly areas). They are well-marked and easy to navigate. Still, when walking alone, “I cannot help but wonder”, when will I come face to face with a jaguar. Even though, it is highly unlikely to see one (there are people who spend months, years in the forest, and do not ever see a jaguar / although that said, we learn, that when the French group was leaving the camp a few days later, they saw a jaguar swimming across the river…how lucky can they be????/) I think there is nothing like being alone in a rainforest, that bring home the feeling that contrary to what we like to believe (that we are somehow separate from the rest of the natural world and we are somehow superior) we are actually part of the animal kingdom, and we can be prey, just as the other animals are. It is a horrifying thought. Still, nothing makes me feel so alive as waking in the forest. I feel as though all my senses come alive – I listen to the smallest sounds, I smell the trees and the animals, I try to take in the chaotic forms of the branches, lianas, trees…while I try not to touch anything (what if it stings me? bites me? cuts me?) the bark of the trees, the surface of the leaves, the mud alongside the river almost call out for touching. Living in a city provides us with so many artificial sensations – the lights, the sounds, the forms, the textures are all man-made, void of warmth and wonder…but when you listen to a screaming piha in the forest, you feel deeply touched and alive…

We do not see a jaguar, though. We meet lots of different monkeys (wooly monkeys, spider monkeys, saki monk monkeys, and on the other side of the river some squirrel monkeys and red howlers). Quite a few times we bump into some peccaries, but fortunately after some angry grunts they run away. (Now, they might seem harmless, but in big groups these pigs can be quite dangerous, too).

By dinner time we usually work up quite an appetite. The candle-lit dining hall is actually quite romantic…

the dining-hall at dinner-time

the dining-hall at dinner-time

The night sky is always amazing. Not just the myriad of stars (and there are myriads of them!) but sometimes the sky is lit up by lightning, even though there is not a cloud in the sky…and once, on Oct. 14, there was a huge black circle around the moon…never seen anyting like it. It was truly breathtaking.

the moon on Oct. 14.

the moon on Oct. 14.

The second week, there was a day when we met quite a few tapirs…First, when I was walking alone, coming back from Lover’s Beach, I have seen something moving in the bushes. I froze, and in a minute a gentle, beautiful tapir walked across the trail like 6 feet away from me…just munching on some leaves. In the afternoon, Ralf spotted one on the Mirador trail…and coming back with the boat, we saw two tapirs, trying to get back on the shore, as our boat scared them away…(sorry, no pictures…each time it was just too overwhelming to see them, we could not even think about our cameras).

Let me just put some pictures here from the trails around the lodge…

off Kolibri trail

off Kolibri trail

this frog lived in the bromeliad next to the camp

this frog lived in the bromeliad next to the camp

off Bates trail

off Bates trail

towards Lover's Beach

towards Lover's Beach

a tree on Mirador trail

a tree on Mirador trail

After 4 days, the others leave and it is only the two of us, and Dona Nancy, our cook, and Jorge, who pretty much does everything (from cleaning up the room to collecting butterflies for a scientific project). The four of us eat our meals together, and I try to follow the conversation, conducted in Spanish. Nancy talks about that logger, that was killed by the Tagaeris. She knew him, and saw him going down with a canoe, and also saw him, when he was being brought up, with the spears in his body. Amazingly, he survived the trip, even to Quito, but he died after the surgery. The loggers actually sometimes even came in to the camp before, to ask for some sugar, or for some food. They are very poor people, who get very little money for this, and who don’t know what else to do to support their families. Of course, it is easy to blame them, since they are the ones, who actually hold the chainsaw or ax in their hands… but who actually demands these trees? Americans, Europeans, Asians…There are such a big demand for the mahagony, for example (which cannot really be raised in a tree plantation) that they soon will be extinct in the Amazon region…I do not think that any certification (that the tree was sustainably harvested) would help, since these papers seem to be easy to falsify (again, corruption is very prevalent)…And of course, with the logging comes hunting, because the loggers need to feed themselves, and they do not carry any food, besides some little rice. So they kill pecaries, monkeys, large birds…whatever they can find. They can literally empty the forest…

After a few days, a Russian group arrives. Now, one would think that after studying Russian for ten years in Hungary (in elementary school and in high school) I would understand some of what they say. But no. I guess the brain has a tendecy to reject everything that is being forcefed to it…All I can remember is that “Tovaris ucsityelnyica, ja dakladivaju vam, szevodnya nyikto nye atszusztvujet…”.

With them, we visit Lover’s beach, which is opposite of a special swamp, the Moretal, named after a specific palmtree, which is fruiting rigth now, and the fruits attract dozens of chestnut-fronted and some blue and yellow macaws. The shriek of the macaws is not the sweetest sounding birdcall ever, but the way they swoop in, is really majestic.

A few days later, when leaving this beach, I almost step on a fer-de-lance, one of the region’s most poisonous snake. Contrary to what other, normal snakes do (slither away quickly), when you come across a fer-de-lance, it seems like it refuses to give up its favorite napping or sunbathing place and rather kill you than move away an inch. This one was just like that, too. Finally, it moved very slowly and reluctuntly off the trail so we were able to pass….

a fer-de-lance on the trail

a fer-de-lance on the trail

The Russians only stay like two nights, then we are alone again….Then a British couple drops by, who are on a kayaking trip. They bring the news, that the financial markets are in even more trouble now, and the stock market has plummeted…all of this seems so inconsequential, so fabricated…like it has nothing to do with life itself. Only what is around us seem real right now. I cannot worry about any of it, even though, deep inside I know, that as soon as we are back in the “civilization”, I will worry about it a lot.

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jérémie Galen said,

    Hello,

    I’m one of the french people from this amazing holidays at shiripuno lodge. I’m pretty sure that you were the german photographer. These pictures are really beautiful. They help me many reminding many things. Your web site is also very nice.

    I let myself borrow you some of them, to show what is the rainforest to my friends and family.

    To complete your text, the toe was actually broken (we went to an hospital in Quito after) and we know we were really lucky to see this jaguar. Great present before going back to civilisation. Of course no picture, sorry…

    See you perhaps one day at shiripuno lodge…
    I’m pretty sure I will go back in the rainforest.

    Jérémie Galen

    • 2

      whereeveryougo said,

      Hey Jérémie,
      it is so good to hear from you! I am glad you have found my blog. Sorry to hear about your toe! I hope it did not ruin your holiday…Still very jealous of that jaguar sighting! Best wishes: Laura


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