Home > Ecuador > A Unique Community Tourism Experience in Ecuador´s upper Amazon Region, Part One

A Unique Community Tourism Experience in Ecuador´s upper Amazon Region, Part One

January 6, 2012

A more than pleasant, yet “déjà-vu” experience wakes me up to the loud sound of birds saluting a new and sunny morning on the remote community of Shayari, in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon basin. The beautifully chaotic concert put on by birds and myriads of other creatures, makes me realize that my bed is only separated from the “real” rainforest just by the thin walls of the native materials with which the community lodge’s cabins are built of.  Rustic and simple, the cabins have good beds, clean linen, mosquito netting, no electricity and yes, a small private toilet and wash basin.
Showers are communal and reachable just a one minute walk from the cabins.  Today, a pump has broken down, so, with due apologies from the Kichwa indigenous administrators, the “Plan B” shower turns to be a natural cascade, walking some hundred meters down a natural trail.  With the appropriate spirit for this kind of adventures, I find it a unique experience and think that, after all, that is and has been the natural shower for the jungle inhabitants, anyway…
Back into outdoor clothes and hiking shoes I join Guido, one of my local hosts, to the community’s main hut, where Guillermo has prepared a delicious breakfast which included yucca bread, fresh orange juice, almost-gourmet sweet plantain patties with melting cheese inside; chopped fresh papaya and bananas, along with a natural tea of fresh lemon grass herbs from their organic garden. The native children peek into the large thatch-roofed dining room, excited with the presence of visitors and bust into smiles, displaying their natural and candid hospitality.
We have a busy agenda so we immediately head for a two-hour nature trail excursion, with Guillermo as our native guide.  The rainforest is madly alive with its millions of creatures of all sorts, colors and sizes, with plants and insects leading the counts in numbers of species, yet closely followed by the bird’s population. In addition to learning the most amazing secrets of the jungle and the inter-relations of its inhabitants, we discover here the unique characteristics of a different ecosystem, being this a part of the Amazonian rainforest which stands higher above the vast plains, set between them and the lower eastern slopes of the Andean mountains.  The community has implemented a “Rescue Center” for several types of forest animals, mainly mammals, which are endangered or were found sick, captive or in precarious conditions.  Guillermo proudly shows us and explains the functioning of the center, which is dispersed along the nature trail and consists of large, fenced (yet natural) enclosures to look after these animals, until they are found suitable to be released back to their fully natural life.
First to be seen are about a dozen collared-pecaris, a type of wild hog, which roams the forests. We can see the large chunk of upper lip that one of them seems to have lost on an encounter with some larger predator. Next are two female tapirs, mother and daughter, who rush to the voice of Guillermo who is bringing their daily breakfast of green plantains. The proximity of these rare and normally elusive animals is exciting, in spite of the fact that they live on a controlled captivity for recovery purposes.  Further along the trail we stop by a large pen hosting a half a dozen of brightly colored green and red macaws who put on their noisy show.  Then the trail gets steeper as we climb and descend the flanks of a small mountainous ridge, passing by small cascades, creeks and ravines.  On one of the ravines, a thin river of crystal clear waters, something catches the attention of Guillermo… He asks us to hush as we slowly approach the small waterway. The reason: a large, thick and unusually colorful (a mix of yellow and black striped) boa constrictor snake is slowly making its way upstream, most likely in search of food… I manage to take some good photo shots, until the reptile suddenly gets annoyed with our proximity and swings back with a threatening move to shows us its head sticking up on a clearly menacing signal…. Guillermo and I rush away as Guido, who is watching the show from a safer position, cracks into laughter at our unexpected scare, while the boa gets back to its whereabouts…. More to be told about this adventure on the next issue….

T   H   E     E   N   D     O   F      P   A   R   T     O   N   E

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