Thursday, July 25, 2013

Entering the rain forest

It's true what they say about the tropical night. Here at the equator the sun sets at 6pm (every day of the year),... And within 30 minutes it is full dark. We slept last night in our little casita that lies between a river tributary of the Amazon River and the rain forest. The music we went to sleep by was an orchestra of frogs, night birds and insects...the sweet musty smell of the rain forest enters our screened-in window. But I need to go back and start at the beginning.
Monday morning after traveling across Ecuador from the coastal lands through the mountains to the edge of the eastern region, We reached the edge of the rainforest. Here we found an airstrip with 3 small planes. Our 5 passenger plane loaded and took us on one of the greatest adventures of our lives! We flew for over an hour over the amazing unbroken rainforest... Looking down from above it was a study in biodiversity and plant dispersal. Judy and we like two happy kids writing notes to each other about what we were seeing. The roar of the engines made it impossible to speak. This rainforest has been called the "lungs of the planet" Earth, because of the enormous importance of this great forest in absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. We flew at 4000 ft until encountered clouds, then dropped to 2000 ft, which put us right above the forest. We landed on a dirt strip that had been cleared in the jungle Our welcoming committee was a group of indigenous kids that stood watching alongside the track. A more official group of local village folks from the eco-center led us to the lodge. I can't think of another time in my life when I have had a greater sense of awe and amazement than this first trek through the rainforest 'jungle'. The sounds are amazing... Birds, insects, frogs, unknown bleeps and peeps... The air is warm but pleasant. The smell of the air is that of blossoms, growth and decay coming from the forest. We have been happily surprised to encounter few mosquitos. We will live for a week in a simple "house" made of local materials built using local methods of nails are used. Inside we discovered comfortable amenities and our neighbors are "muy simpatico" our house is built on pilings that extend over a pond, an offshoot of the nearby river. There are great noisy frogs that Sing their varied songs throughout the night...One giant lives under our house! Judy and I are like two small children as we discover one amazing thing after another. To walk through the jungle is to experience a new and wonderful world.. Everything...plants, mammals, insects, birds, fungus...everything is in constant competition for living space and light, competition for getting nutrition and defenses so that they may survive. Everywhere we turn we are amazed and delighted by new and curious (to us ) forms of life. To stand alone in the jungle and be truly there is a humbling and spiritual experience. We feel a great peace in this place.
This Eco-lodge was developed to make it possible for more people to experience the great rain forest of Ecuador. It also serves as an opportunity for training indigenous people into how to provide eco-tourism which improves the life of the local people by providing employment for many without disruption of traditional life.
When the life on our planet was destroyed under the ice of past ice-ages, this region continued to thrive and evolve from ages past. The products of the rain forest are of immensely greater value than the short time profits that would go to a few if the rain forests were cut or minerals in the ground extracted. If the forest were destroyed the great genetic wealth found in the organisms of this place would be lost.
The developers of this place have turned over full management to the local indigenous people. And they are well trained and doing a fine job. This is not a luxury resort where one comes to relax... Days are filled with strenuous hikes through the remain forest, visits to indigenous villages, wildlife viewing from
"dugout" canoes, an leisurely kayak treks down small rivers Meals are gourmet if sometimes made from unfamiliar foods... They are always delicious. We feel a bit like this is summer camp for adults.