This concludes the tale of the Hamilton Outing Club's three-week trip to Ecuador over winter break. Many thanks to Dani Forshay '11 for sharing her experiences and photos.
We took a long bus ride to Tena, and from there rode down a dirt road in the back of a pick-up for about two hours. We eventually reached Gareno Lodge, where we stayed for three nights. The first evening, we went on a brief trek through the jungle. We saw a rare bird, scrambled up and down steep slopes covered with decaying matter, and swung on a vine. We returned to our cabanas, where the buzzes and bird calls of the jungle lulled us to sleep.
The next day, we were greeted by two Huaorani men who painted our faces with red berries before we set off into the jungle again, this time with a Huaorani guide who pointed out various interesting plants to us, fashioned bags out of palm fronds, and climbed up trees to cut down fruits from which the cook later made juice. For the rest of the day, we relaxed around the lodge, napping in hammocks and taking mud baths in the river. That evening, we learned to play cuarenta, a somewhat complicated Ecuadorian card game that quickly replaced our old standbys.
For our final full day in the Amazon, we took a boat ride down the Napo River to Amazoonica, an animal refuge, where we learned about many different local critters. Afterwards, we stopped off at a beach along the banks of the Napo. There was a zipline that dropped its riders into the river, and despite the thousands of sand flies biting our ankles, we had a wonderful time. That evening, we saw a scorpion and a cricket that was about the size of a human hand. Following this, we went on a tarantula hunt and found six in about five minutes. They all lived under the boardwalks that led to our cabanas and were sitting right out on the ground, so it was pretty surprising that we hadn’t spotted them sooner.
The next day, the Saturday before classes started, we returned to Quito and prepared to fly back to America. It felt like we’d been away forever, and yet the three weeks flew by in no time. It was an incredible experience that was vastly preferable to sitting around the house during winter break, and I know I can speak for the group in recommending it to any underclassmen who will be around the next time it is offered.
Dani Forshay '11 is a graduate of Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.