I am in the process of updating my current blog with writing pieces completed during my travels over the past few years. This piece was originally written in June 2014, but just now making it’s way to the blog…
The tapping just wouldn’t stop. Normally I love the sound of rain, but as I lay here in my bed trying to doze off, the Ecuadorian rain forest has turned this simple tin rooftop into a piercing snare drum.
Let me back up a little. I’m currently holed up in a small lodge on the ancestral homeland of the Huaorani people along the Rio Napo River. I’ve been in Ecuador a little over a week yet I’m already in my third ecosystem. For a country that’s a little smaller than the state of Nevada, Ecuador’s diversity is quite remarkable. Our excursion has already tackled the steeping peaks of the Andes and soaked in the tropical beaches that line its Pacific Coast, but Ecuador’s dense rainforest is what I’ve been looking forward to most.
To get here we took a bus from Quito to Coca, five hours down some of the windiest Andean roads in Ecuador. Coca is a rather forgetful town, but serves as a jumping off point for tourists visiting the Ecuadorian rainforest. From Coca, we got a ride to Misahualli, a small town built on the banks of the Rio Napo, where we boarded a small dingy and traveled down the river a few dozen kilometers before reaching the Shiripuno Lodge on the Huaorani Reserve.
The reserve borders the Yasuni National Park, sharing wildlife and fauna while benefitting from many of the same environmental protections. Ecuador has a tumultuous history with the oil industry, so it’s refreshing to find a region with almost no human impact. The lodge offers countless guided hikes throughout the Amazon basin, each showcasing an abundance of biodiversity.
On our last night at the lodge, we were treated to the most unforgettable feast of pork with the Ecuadorian staple of white rice and black beans. Following the meal, we were treated to a traditional Huaorani dance, typically reserved for weddings. We were also served Chica, the tea-like alcohol made by chewing and spitting out Yucca root, although they assured us this version omitted the spit for maize. A small pan flute band played while the women of the community danced in a line, grabbing single men by the hand to dance.
The dance was almost symbolic of the Huaorani People, as we later learned their society was largely matriarchal. Although the men carried out chores like hunting and farming, women dominated nearly every other facet of daily life. Everything from fishing to financial decisions were left to the mother of each household. The lodge itself was managed by three women, one in charge of cooking, another in charge of hospitality and communication, and the third oversaw the communities’ finances.
It was hard to leave the Shiripuno community. As we pulled away in the pontoon boat, I realized I’d come away learning more about community than at any other time in my life. Although I don’t have any upcoming plans to visit Ecuador, I can’t wait to return one day.