On the Wednesday before Easter we got out of school for a week and a half Spring Break. For the first part of the break our program had planned for us to go to Tiputini, a biodiversity research station in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon forest.
On Friday morning we took a 30 minute flight to Coca, the closest city to Tiputini. Then we took a 2 hour motor conoa ride through the Napo river until we reached a petroleum station, where we had to identify ourselves with our passports. It was so weird to see the station right smack the middle of the forest where the only people around where the oil workers, and the local indigenous children (who although probably don't realize it yet, are being affected very negatively by these oil companies -destroying their environment and little by little their culture). We then took a 2 hour Chiva (open bus with no windows) ride through the forest passing both the Quichua (largest Ecuadorian indigenous nation) and the Huaorani (who until just a few years ago discovered clothing -effects of the oil companies) territories. Finally, we hopped on another motor conoa for a not so pleasant, rainy 2 hour ride down the Tiputini River (on the Amazon basin).
Shortly after arriving at the station we were fed a great dinner (suprisingly enough they have pretty good food there) then we had a PowerPoint presentation on a night camera project that detects heat and movement, so we saw a lot of cool pictures of various Amazonian animals like giant armadillos, jaguars, and deer.
Saturday morning we walked around one of the trails, led by Ramiro who talked to us about the various plant and animal species. It was a hot, sweaty, and muddy walk (coming from AZ I'm not used to so much humidity, about 95% if I remember correctly), but luckily we had cool rainboots to help us our walking though all the mud. We saw all kinds of cool insects, including lemon ants, which were quite tasty. :) The highlight of our first trail was definitely the spider monkeys. We had to get off the trail and chase around the forest to watch them in their natural habitat (Bernie you would have loved it! They were so cute and ocol! I was so excited that all I kept thinking was "Mira! Mira!" kinda like we say with fireworks?? haha).
That afternoon we got an a motor conoa and rode down the Tiputini River to go swimming, or floating really. It looked kind of gross because the water is so brown, but really it was probably better so we couldn't see the many species that lived there (like the caimans we saw the following night, yikes!). When we got back we were pleasantly greeted by a family of wooly monkeys right outside our cabin, very cool! That night we had a presentation from a guy doing his PhD research there on adolescent monkeys and their social organizations. It was super interesting yet all I could think about was, this guy is actually going to live here for like 4 years, don't know if I could do that.
Sunday morning we climbed a super tall tower to try and see the birds and monkeys from high above. Unfortunately, it was bad timing because the only view we got was that of the rainforest from above. We then took a little canoe ride around a little lake where we saw birds and turtles. On our way back to the cabins we saw more wooly monkeys and pygmy monkeys, the cutesiest baby monkeys ever! Actually they aren't babies, they just look like it because they are the smallest species of monkeys in the world. It was really funny because Ramiro pointed out the tree where they live and after about 10 mins of several monkey calls we were disappointed to not see them, but just when we were about to leave, Jessica was able to spot a pygmy and show us all. Needless to say, Ramiro was proud.
That afternoon we climbed up high again, but this time on a canopy walk. It was scary to climb up but the sights were definitely rewarding. I saw the 3 most colorful mccaws ever while I was high above. They were bright blue, red, and green. After another great dinner, that night we got on the conoa again to see nighttime species. This is when we got to see the caimans, and various birds. It was very shocking to see how easily our guide was able to spot these tiny creatures in the night.
Early Monday morning, we made our boat/bus/boat/flight trip back to Quito, ready for our next Spring Break adventure: la costa!