Ecuador 2011 Part 2 - Finding my feet. The Itapoa experience. A trip to the jungle. A cloud forest
We set off from home at 5am for a 1 ½ hour drive.
Immediately out of Puerto Quito we see palm oil plantations and they
continue for the whole journey. Passing though some grubby towns or
settlements as town makes them sound nice. Most people are sitting
around as palm oil doesn't take much work, plant it, wait, harvest it.
Raul says that this area used to be some of the most beautiful forest.
reach a town and have breakfast, or a lunch as this will be the last
food for sometime. Once we reach our destination we meet the mule who is
to take our things to the forest. The car is left behind and with only
water bottles to carry we cross a plank footbridge and enter the
beginning of the forest. This is secondary forest, in that they have
chopped it down but as no-one wanted it allowed it to grow up again.
feature of the path is that it is made from mud, quite hard going. Soon
a wellies are muddy and a lot of our clothes. Gradually the path makes
more rises and falls and the going gets quite hard. Rain gear would have
you sweating as it is a humid place. Not the thing of the films we are
not covered in leeches and hacking through undergrowth. These are often
used muddy paths. We stop for lunch after 3 hours and the mule catches
us up. Sitting on some big leaves we eat a mixture of nuts and cereal
with some chocolate. We have lollipops to keep the blood sugar up and
provide some more energy. At this point half the water has gone from our
There is not much evidence of wildlife, but the sounds
of strange creatures and the odd birds flying past. We enter primary
forest though even then every so often we come across a clearing where
some one has tried to make a go of it, growing cacao, bananas, pigs or
cows. We arrive at the edge of the reserve after another hour. Still
there is quite some way to go with a grueling hill to climb.
the hill is the house. This area was semi-cleared by the previous
owners and the house was built, this has been extended by Raul. By house
I mean a platform on stilts with a roof. The only room is to one side
and quite small. The cooker is a box, open to the top and fueled with
We go down to the nearby stream and swim, bliss after the
heat and mud. Going in with wellies on and clothes in order to clean
Then as volunteers we help to cook and unpack. Two tents
are put into the room. Crockery is taken and washed in the stream. The
fire is got up and after a few hours we have a meal of rice, banana and
fish. In the dark strange glowing objects drift about in a variety of
colours. These turn out to be beetles with two glowing parts on the top
of their shells. Pretty soon there is nothing much to do but bed and a
good sleep after the long walk of the day.
Morning to the sound of the forest full of strange creatures unseen. We breakfast and then explore the reserve.
see Ocelot and jaguar footprints. Banana Toucans and eagles. Some of
the day is spent on a cleared area where the view of the surrounding
jungle is better, in the jungle it is hard to see anything.
The evening we return to the house, bathing, food and sleep.
this time my knees are hurting quite badly due to the paths, going down
hill hurts the most. I am given a sport bandage which helps a lot.
day we track various animals, see a lot of jaguar footprints. At one
point we see spider monkeys. They are killed by hunters easily as a
family as they confront the humans and can be picked off with a rifle.
Later we see howler monkeys who hide more and don’t confront. Looks like
they may be safer for awhile in the future.
All the time we hear
chainsaws in the distance and the world is closing in. The jungle is
regarded as desert by the locals as it produces no product. All of the
land is owned by someone. Many are waiting for the right price.
Indigenous tribes often sell their land and as the chief is in charge
the logging companies only need to bribe one man. Land that has been
cleared costs more to buy than primary rainforest as the owner regards
the clearing as work done.
The last afternoon we all relax a bit.
Next day involves the long walk back and a lot of pain from my knees.
we drive back through the endless palm oil plantations, here there is a
lack of wildlife though occasionally you do see an exotic brightly
coloured bird fly by. It seems that these are only fly catchers by the
road side as the humming birds and fruit eaters have moved away, there
being nothing for them to eat here.
This huge plantations are
mono-cultures and there is a bug that lays its eggs in the palm which
kills the tree, therefore they need to use a lot of insecticide. The old
rainforest soil is poor so it needs a lot of fertilizer.
takes two people to look after and harvest 50 hectares of palm oil. This
means the workers have a lot of time on their hands in which I spend
Back Puerto Quito
Other things being learnt here:
Making coffee by hand from harvesting onwards.
Making chocolate by hand from harvesting onwards.
Harvesting food from the forest.
Making rings from palm nuts.
Learning how to re-forest.
Listing and identifying wildlife.
Recording trees and growth.
Cutting back invasive plants in the secondary forest.
Cloud Forest 26-sept-11
take a trip to a cloud forest owned by a retired chap who wants to sell
some of his primary forest as he only has a small pension to live on.
He seems confused at to what people would want. Seems a shame as I am
sure many would pay to visit his forest if he opened up a path to its
heart. But it seems that the tourists he wants from Quito want a disco
by the stream. Which is not what conservation tourists would want.
trouble with all forest land is that the soil is poor. To grow anything
after the trees have gone needs a lot of fertilizer. The trees grew in
such a way to cope with the poor soil.
All pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/jtuijl