Pigs balls and witchetty grubs
29.10.2011 - 01.11.2011
On the 28th November I started the second leg of my tour of South America, Quito to Lima. Only three of the previous 9 passengers were to continue on for the second leg and we were due a full truck of 23 passengers plus three crew. We ended up being one less due to a lost passport situation but that will hopefully get resolved at some point.
So I awoke on my second day in Quito and spent most of the day with the old group, wandering around the old town. I was then relocated to a different room where i was to share with one of the new passengers. This turned out to be Anna, a londoner who works in the National History Museum and who would be joining us until Lima.
We had the usual welcome meeting malarkey where we have to pay kitty etc and meet everyone and then headed out for dinner with the new and old passengers. One thing led to another and the next thing we
Knew all the tables had been shifter and we were making idiots of ourselves dancing the night away again. A very funny evening. Anyway, off we went bak to the hotel (no muggings this time although some of the new passengers were attacked with machetes and sprayed with poo but that's a differed story), got home went to bed and was woken in the early hours by a completely unknown random man sat on my bed. I'm hoping it was a case of wrong room and he seemed as freaked out as I was but it's fair to say I didn't sleep too soundly that night! Quite sadly we were all glad to see the back of Quito, although I'm sure there are some really nice parts, I think we just got a bit unlucky.
After quito we left to head the the jungle near a town called Tena. We had no idea what to expect of the accomodation as the shangri la which dragonfly normally uses ha burnt down only a week before. We were told to expect basic, and it was certainly that, but completely bloody amazing at the same time! We arrived after dark as the 4 hour drive took us 10 hours, so we didn't know what we were about to find. We were due to have lunch in the lodge but owing to the 10 hour journey, we stopped enroute for food. What was being cooked up at the roadside was unknown initially but after a few pieces of the meat we identified our meal as some kind of testicle, most likely pig. It's fair to say they were absolutely disgusting. They didn't taste bad but had a horrible grisly centre that you couldn't chew through. Wrongness.
We stopped at Tena to be issued our welly boots and then started the 40 min drive to our accompdation. The truck could not get too close so we offloaded our stuff and carried them along the rocky path to the lodge. We were ushered straight to the kitchen for dinner so we still had not seen our rooms, but the communl area was candle lit and just a wooden shack in the middle of nowhere with no Walls and some hammocks to chill on. This is also where we met Dave the Labrador puppy who was amazing and very funny biting at our ankles all the time. We also met the family who would be our hosts gor the next few nights. After dinner we were shown to our lodges, three to each wooden hut Which was a similar set up, no Walls, just a tin roof and three beds covered in mosquito nets and no lighting etc. All around you could just hear the sounds of the jungle which was so nice to fall asleep to.
A few people stayed up for drinks and there was the infamous speech made by little chris who managed to drop the c bomb all night and offend absolutely everyone, but I took the opportunity to settle in to my room and enjoy the sounds.
The next morning after an amazing breakfast of eggs and plantain we headed off for the "hike" in the jungle that we had all been waiting for. The hike turned out to be pretty extreme and quite scary at times. We were walking through and around hundreds of waterfalls and there were a few that we had to climb up also with only a rope to help us. It freaked me out but I loved every minute of it, and despite the lack of swimwear, I enjoyed a shower under the waterfall too. Leggings and vesty not a good loom wet after 5 weeks of heavy eating!!!
When we eventually got back to the lodges we had some time to chill on the hammocks and that's when the witchetty grubs made an appearance. They were brought out raw by the owner of the lodge and he was joking about adding them to the dinner menu. He wasn't joking. Uncooked these guys were huge. About an inch wide and two inches long. They felt pretty weird and looked absolutely disgusting. Cooked, they were about a quarter of the size. I decided I had to try one and wasn't to grossed out. A nutty flavour and quite creamy with a really chewy outside. Some people struggled with them but I thought they were alright. Well I did until someone reminded me they are the lavae of some kind of beetle. Yuk.
The following day we started off by visiting an animal sanctuary. Was great to see all the monkeys and birds but a shame that most would never be released into the wild. We saw loads of spider monkeys there too just hopping about in the wild which was pretty cool. I love them!
After that we were driven off to see the accommodation that had burnt down as it's in a really cool place on the edge of a cliff. We were all a little distracted there though as it was at this point we'd been told to get into our bikinis and walk in our bikinis to a local community. We were all a bit wierded out by this concept but we had to run with it. It actually turned out that after getting bikini'd up pretty much in front of each other we were to get walking boots back on and sit back on the bus for another hour to where we were to start our tubing on the amazon. This basically involved tying 5 inner tubes together to make rafts, of which there were three and then diving our group of 25 between the three rafts and floating down the river. It was so much fun. We went over lots of rocks and down rapids and needed to lift bums at some points because the water was so shallow. We were on there for about an hour before we got off and walked to see the local community. We were taken into one of the homes where they told us about how they live and what they eat and drink etc. We tried the local drink which was pretty bloody disgusting. Basically the ladies chew on yucca then spit it into a pot where it's left to ferment and then it's mixed with something (I think water) and you drink it. We tried it mixed and unmixed. Unmixed it tastes of yeast. Mixed it tastes of gone off yoghurt. Pretty nasty. We tried this palm tree stuff too which was so good, a little bit like cabbage but with a nicer texture. After we were done with that and a quick pee stop in their garden, some of us played football with the locals before heading back to continue our tubing.
The return journey was very slow and we ended up seeing sunset and all the stars when we were floating down there. It was beautiful. Forumately there was no sign of the anacondas that we were told come out after dark. We did go through a few low hanging trees though. It was such an amazing experience but it got so cold we were all glad to be back on the bus at the end.
When we got back to the lodge, we were supposed to have a shamen come talk to us, but he never showed up so the family talked us through it all instead. Lots of dancing that we had to join in with and then we had a wedding ceremony. Fortunately the honeymooners were picked for this although I did have to be godmother and join in. Basically lots of backwards and forwards walking and hand holding. One of the guys went through the cleansing ritual which to me looked like being hit with a tree branch for several minutes before being spat on. It was a great night and a great end to our stay in the jungle. One final night of amazing outdoor sleeping before heading off to banos the next day.....