Monday, September 28, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle!

... or perhaps more accurately, welcome to the transitional Cloud Forest!

Last weekend, the entire group set out for our first retiro (retreat) to SierrAzul, an enormous nature sanctuary, dedicated to protecting the Cloud Forest from deforestation and poachers. It's located about 40 minutes (via semi-uncomfortable camioneta ride) outside of the town of Baeza and about 2.5 hours away from Tena, where the rain forest begins. Its location between the mountains and the rain forest gives it a unique feel and makes it home to a few cool animals like the spotted bear, puma, and the tapir (which is apparently the size of a cow... who knew?!).

We made our way out to the sanctuary on Friday after a wakeup call at the ripe hour of 6am (which I, at least, had not seen in quite some time), 1 van ride, 2 bus rides, 1 (severely cramped) camioneta ride, and a 30 minute walk. Basically we were out in the middle of nowhere... and it was wonderful.

Once we arrived, we took the rest of Friday to relax and go on a short hike... and prepared for our big excursion. Saturday was the day of THE hike. What kind of hike, you might be asking yourself... it was a 14 kilometer, 7.5-hour hike to a waterfall. We were up and ready to go by 9am on Saturday morning, with our beautifully enormous rain boots (except for Erik and Chet, whose feet were unfortunately too big, but were troopers and stomped through the knee-deep mud in tennis shoes and Chacos!), and backpacks stocked with water, snacks and rain gear.

The hike was wonderful. It gave us time to talk to each other, time for personal reflection, and an opportunity to experience the beauty of unaltered nature. Additionally, we learned how to remove ourselves from knee-deep mud pits, face plant with grace, and drink water from the river (seriously). We returned to the cabin area around 5:30 - just in time to take HOT showers with phenomenal water pressure (they actually steamed!), eat dinner, and play countless rounds of Catch Phrase and Phase 10... until they shut off the generator and made us go to bed. (Thankfully, Krysta brought her Wonder Woman cape. I'm not sure we would have survived without it...)

On Sunday, we slept in, ate a big breakfast, and hiked/drove our way out of the sanctuary, back into civilization and back to work!

Last weekend was the perfect first retiro... thanks to Shawn and Bibi for all of the planning! (And a special thanks for all of the frosted Galapaguitos and chochos!) I'm excited to see what our next group traveling adventure will bring.

Thanks for checking in,

Erik and Chet can barely contain their excitement on the bus!

This is where we stayed! Pretty sweet, eh?

Hiking through the forest

Haley stops to take in the view

Drinking spring water from the river
(gross, Krysta...)

Group shot in the river (please note the super cute boots)

4 hours later - we made it to the waterfall!

Shawn checks out the cascada

The group at the base of the waterfall

The view after emerging from the forest

Playing Phase 10 until they shut off the generator...
Thank goodness Krysta thought ahead and brought her cape.

Group shot before heading out on Sunday morning - clearly there were some focusing issues... :)

1 comment:

Mark Clayton Hand said...

Ah, the Ecuador Daily Life blog continues its tradition of being awesome. I hadn't checked it in a couple weeks, it's good to catch up and know you guys are still alive.

Play nice and share like we taught you,