The Amazon rainforest in Ecuador from the sky looking east towards Brazil.
Coming Out of the Rainforest For a Couple Days of Relaxation Between Adventures
"If you get on the plane, I can't guarantee the plane will get above the trees," said the pilot to our guide, who weighed a whole 90 pounds.
I thought to myself, "If 90 pounds cut it that close, then maybe none of us should be on the plane."
The pilot was just being unfriendly. We had a substitute plane due to a scheduling conflict.
Once the plane was airborne, the same thought passed through my mind as the insulation flapped in the windy compartment. One of my travel companions sitting in front of me touched the window frame of the door; I watched it fall halfway off.
If there was a good time for travel angels, now was it.
Someone spoke, "Is this legal?"
"It is until we crash," I thought to myself.
These distractions faded as I pressed my face against the Plexiglas window. As far as I could see to the east was solid rainforest, with an occasional river meandering through it.
There are large forests in the world, but there are none as diverse as this. Another thought passed through my mind. "You can't replant the diversity once it is gone. A monoculture of planted trees will never be a substitute for what once was."
Occasional colorful treetops in blooms of yellow or purple would punctuate the canopy of every imaginable color of green.
From above it looked smooth, but the gentle ripples in the green gave away the secrets of the forest floor.
My mind meandered like the rivers below as I imagined hunters looking for food, women making pottery, spider monkeys dancing through the trees and children looking up at the passing plane. A whole different world unfolded below, barely touched by the world that created the plane in which we were flying.
A young Achuar child plays in a dug out canoe in the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador.
It is tempting to romanticize the jungle below. But I was keenly aware of the hardships faced by the indigenous people like the Achuar. Poisonous snakes, malaria, ants that bite that can create a pain for 12 hours so badly you wish to die, just finding food, parasites, fish with teeth, no electricity and so on. But one thing was unmistakable; I sensed the people were happy, not ignorant, in how they lived their lives.
After 40 minutes, I looked below and saw the first road I had seen in days. I can't say it brought me a feeling of joy. A part of me longed to be back in the forest that was so alive and unfolded in a unique way. That is where I went to sleep at 8 p.m. because it was dark, and I awoke with the sunrise because it was light. That is where the rhythms of life had their own melodies that pierce through the noise and touched my inner core because the forest had stripped away the mask leaving me open and real.
In a blink, the plane was bouncing down the runway as it landed in the small town of Shell, named after the oil company.
As I stepped out of the plane, my senses were inundated with the sounds of racing engines and honking horns. I was in reverse culture shock. The only thing that gave me a sense of peace was the view of the snow-capped volcano on the horizon. I preferred the sounds of the forest.
Wisely, the Pachamama Organization scheduled a couple of days at the quiet Hacienda Manteles in the Patate valley of the Andes. With its sweeping vistas of the magnificent Tungurahua volcano and the valley below, it provided the perfect place to relax and re-enter a different reality.
A short hike into the cloud forest brought our group to a beautiful waterfall that tumbled down the mountainside.
"Waterfalls are a sacred place of power," a voice from one of the indigenous people came back to me. "To enter is to receive."
Without hesitation, I stripped down to my skivvies and walked into the downward icy stream of water. The feeling was like that scene in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" at the moment he had escaped and was free from prison.
Our Ecuadorian guide, Cristina Serrano, smiled at me and said, "Your heart has been opened and you have been filled. You're now ready for the rest of your sacred journey to explore the Amazon."
The next adventure is to go learn about one of the threats to the Amazon Rainforest - oil exploration and the oil deposit pools left behind from Texaco/Chevron.
The hook is removed from the mouth of a piranha caught during our fishing outing (left). A waterfall in the cloud forest of Ecuador (right).