Archive for October, 2012

My Trip so Far

Highlights of the last two-ish months

My Trip so Far


This is the link to a slideshow I made. I’m gonna try to get the video itself on my blog, but if I can’t you can still watch on youtube.

Liza’s Birthday (but mostly the days surrounding it) Adventure

While we were on our last adventure, hiking through a trail in the jungle, our guide told us he does multi-day tours deep in the jungle, and he was planning one from the 22nd of October to the 25th. Liza seemed interested and her birthday was the 23rd so we decided to go! We were counting down the days because we’ve been at the same place for a long time and we were feeling a little cabin fever-ish with the owners (mostly with them speaking French all day). Finally it was Saturday the 20th. Tomorrow we had to go to his office to pick up some supplies for the trip. We couldn’t wait, and all that was left for the day was to clean the cages which Liza and the other volunteers had to do because I can’t walk to the cages for fear of Sambo. I was sitting on the patio waiting when I heard a scream and Yvan, the owner who was taking a picture of the monkey in the cage Liza was cleaning  yelling, “Sambo, Sambo.” Uh oh. I ran inside to wait. After what felt like forever, I saw Liza, almost in tears, walking toward the house holding her elbow. I ran outside and wrapped a t-shirt around her arm and walked her upstairs. Once I heard the screams I assumed the worst and prepared everything the way I wish things were when I got bit. Liza was in shock so I lied her on her back in the bathroom with her feet up on the sink. When she seemed more in it we cleaned her bite (we took pictures first, of course) and wrapped it. We then decided we’d have to cancel our much awaited trip. Liza spent most of that day lying in bed watching Lord of the Rings (her favorite movies). After the movie, I went downstairs to get water. While I was there Yvan asked which days we were going on the trip. I told him we had to cancel. Then he asked if we wanted to go to Cuenca Thursday to deliver stool samples to the biology lab at the university because he didn’t want to leave until he figures out a safer place for Sambo. We agreed. Then, Monday morning, on our way to get Liza’s rabies shot, Yvan said that last time Sambo bit anybody was because a female was pregnant, and he thinks that’s the case again. He said if its a boy it’ll be Tom and if its a girl, Liza. Then Tuesday came. This was Liza’s birthday so we got ice cream and candy and a cake and stuff. Then we went back to Paseo los Monos to rest before going for steak dinner. When we got home Yvan asked if we were still going to Cuenca today. English is his third language, and he mixed the word for Tuesday and Thursday. We still said yeah! We got the late ticket so we could still go to dinner. Yvan clearly felt bad about what happened to us because he bought our ticket, said take as long as you need, and gave us money for “necessities.” Then we left on our overnight bus ride. We slept off and on, but not great. When we got to Cuenca at 7:30 AM we went to breakfast at a nice little cafe. We then tried to call Caroline, the biology student who interned at Paseo los Monos to see where to meet her. Yvan gave us the wrong number, as we discovered when we tried call. “Looks like we have an adventure!” I said to Liza. We then caught a cab to the university and walked around until we found the biology building. Then a lady asked if we needed anything so we told her who we were looking for. We couldn’t find her so we just dropped the stool sample off in the lady’s office. The only problem was that she had the keys for Yvan’s apartment in Cuenca that we could stay at. We were writing her a note with our phone number and where we’d be to leave with the samples when we heard her voice. She was down the hall telling Yvan on the phone that she hasn’t heard from us yet. Then to her amazement, we ran down the hall and caught her attention. We went to the apartment for a quick nap, then walked around town. We decided to stay in a hotel because we spent Liza’s birthday on a bus. Since then we’ve been walking around town and looking at hand woven alpaca products at the market at eating some good food. Cuenca is the most beautiful city in Ecuador, and we’re having a blast!ImageImage

My alpaca sweater!

Baby Chono

Baby Chono

This beats the pictures that I have of monkeys at the zoo

Hola Vida!

Hola Vida!

Rope Swing!

Rope Swing!

Talk about facing your fears!

Sambo the Alpha Monkey

Sambo the Alpha Monkey

One day when I was giving the monkeys breakfast (the same monkeys that I fed everyday for 6 weeks) the Alpha Monkey, Sambo, jumped through an electric fence and attacked me. He took a good chunk out of my leg. I got my rabies shots and antibiotics, but talk about scary! Now whenever I go outside he bangs on the fence at me. One of his females was chattering her teeth at me earlier that morning which is a sign of affection. I don’t know what the monkeys see in me.

Patty the Woolly Monkey

Patty the Woolly Monkey

Patty was the best monkey ever. She got sick and we took very good care of her. Then she seemed better, but a couple days later she mysteriously died. We are all very, very sad.

Adventure Day

So things have been going pretty great here! Its hard to believe I’ve almost been away from home for 6 whole weeks! I still get a bit homesick, but I don’t miss what you’d expect like cable or my (grandparents’s) car or my phone, but I miss cold drinking water and hot showers the most. We’ve been cooking some good dinners and spending a lot of time with monkeys! We’re really getting good at understanding them and dealing with them when there’s a problem. The one thing that bothers me is the tourists. They are no brighter than the average American tourists, and I spend a good portion of my day chasing down monkeys to recover things they stole from the tourists because that person really needed to bring a big thing of make-up to a monkey sanctuary. Its weird though because people who live in towns near the forest in Minnesota all hunt or fish or camp or do something with nature, but it seems like people in Puyo want nothing to do with the jungle and have no idea about any of its inhabitants (monkeys).


Each week more volunteers show up (I’m still the only guy with 5 other girls). But the couple weeks before there were only three volunteers in total so Liza and I had to take separate days off which meant we really couldn’t do anything exciting. Last Friday, though, we finally had a chance to do something fun! Liza has been wanting to see a waterfall so we called a guide about seeing the Hola Vida Waterfall that is supposed to be beautiful. The guide said that he would pick us up at 8:30 and have us home by 6. I thought it was weird that it’d take all day to see a waterfall, but I was excited nonetheless. When he picked us up friday morning, he said we had a lot more to do that just see the waterfall. Our first stop was at a fish reserve where they had the biggest species of fish in the Amazon. I think they were called Paiches, but I can’t remember if that’s right. Then it was a fourty minute hike through the jungle to get to the waterfall. It was cool because the guide knew about all the trees and how they’re used, and he knew a lot about the animals that live there. We saw some frogs and a taurantula in its nest. Then he picked these fuzzy leaves that he assured us made great toilet paper. These leaves had little bumps near the stem that he told us to break open. I was shocked to see a family of tiny ants living inside. I was even more shocked when the guide began licking the ants. I was even more, even more shocked when I did it, and they tasted like Lemon Heads. Finally we made it to the waterfall. It was beautiful! We jumped in for a dip and the water was very refreshing!


Our next stop was called Altos del Pastaza, a big cliff overlooking the jungle. It was a half hour canoe ride there. It reminded me of an Animal Planet show when they go out on the river in a little canoe. It looked exactly the same with dense jungle on either side. The view point was awesome too! There was jungle as far as the eye could could see. Then, to my dismay, there was a rope swing over the ledge of this cliff. Liza did it, and I didn’t want her to show me up so I did it too. It was terrifying. My leg was shaking for half an hour afterwards.


Our final stop was at an indigenous community called Cotococha. It was cool to experience a bit of the native culture. We drank chicha which is like wine made out of Yuca. My mom asked the other day if I had heard of it, and I said no. Then a couple days later I was drinking it! Hopefully my picture uploads, but it gives a pretty good idea of how it tasted. We also got to try blow darts. Liza and I had deadly accuracy! Liza also got dressed up and her face painted like they do for ceremonies!


Sorry I hope I didn’t ramble too much! Friday we’re going to a hotel with wifi for my birthday so I should be able to post more pictures!