Hola peeps... I've returned to south america once again! after spending six glorious weeks in Colombia at the start of my trip... i knew i had to come back to the continent and do a bit more exploring. Despite my love for Europe and my personal connections in Asia... i've always had a deep infatuation with south america. Maybe it's because I spent my life growing up with Latinos (my nickname growing up was chinita applebum as a tribute to A Tribe Called Quest and my butttt), but I've always felt both at ease and yet completely compelled by the various cultures that make up Latin america... they're all unique in their own ways but also all extremely lively, joyous, open, and spirited.. quite different than a lot of the more stoic Asian cultures... plus u also have a ton of untouched, natural beauty on the continent that u just can't find anywhere else... In short, I'm happy to be back!!
I've spent the past few days honing my survival skills at the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, which is part of the Amazonia. While 60% of the amazon jungle is located in brazil, it also cuts into 7 other south american countries, including ecuador, which is where i'm currently located. i swam in crocodile and piranha infested water, ate a few ants off a tree for sustenance (they were sour), swung on a vine, trudged through knee deep mud, paddled on the river and managed to outlive close encounters with anacondas, tarantulas and scorpions, all which were just wandering around the lodge... (i slept with one eye open!) OH.. and avoiding unwanted attention from our creeping tour guide (lesigh)
so i mayyyyyyy be (definitely) over exaggerating the extent of the hardships i endured in the wilderness.... i actually had pretty luxurious accommodations and most of the creatures i saw during the boat rides and jungle walks were not so scary like monkeys, birds, spiders, turtles, etc.... our guide a bit incompetent and so we didn't get to see a ton of animals.. which to be perfectly honest, was fine by me since I don't really like creepy crawly things (I know... I'm a fucking masochist for signing up) And to be fair.. as a practically blind and slightly slow person... it took me forever to figure out what people were gawking at 80% of the time.. it all looked like leaves and branches to me. i think i spent most of the time squinting and staring into the abyss, utterly confused as to what they were pointing at.... always a day late and a dollar short (sigh!)
I did get to test out my new telescopic lens attachment which worked out okay.. my hands are not so steady so i only managed to captured to get a few good photos... most of them are more or less of trees
We also visited one of the "local communities" to make Cassave bread and see a shaman. It was probably the most uncomfortable/least favorite part of the tour since it felt inauthentic. Some of the people we met seemed like they'd rather be anywhere else... which is something I completely understand. I would hate being forced to entertain idiotic gringos and pose like props for their pictures day in and day out.
I'm currently reading "open veins of Latin america" which is about the exploitation of the continent by Western powers.. its the book former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez handed to Obama once upon a time. As a consciousness traveler, i want to believe i'm above cheesy presentations and inauthentic cultural experiences. In my mind, I'm here to observe and embrace the culture and land that I'm visitng.. however, by merely being there, I'm inherently fueling the tourism industry, which IMO, at the end of day, is a varying degree of cultural exploitation since I expect to take a piece of the culture with me when i leave, which puts pressure on the people to provide you with that. With that being said though, tourism can be a huge/only source of income for some people so who am I to judge or complain about inauthenticity? It can also help preserve lands that may otherwise be sold off and destroyed. For instance, Cuyabeno was declared a protected area in 1975 and as part of an effort to take stock of this new opportunity and create alternative income for local communities, a group of conservation biologists started organizing eco-tours into the reserve since 1985.
It is very much a double edge sword.
ANYWHOSE, enough OVERTHINKING (it hurts my head) i had a great experience overall, despite the not so great guide and lack of animal encounters.. i really enjoyed the group I was with: a French couple (Benni and Fabian), an Irish couple (David and Jennifer), and a Dutch/English couple (Jessica and Peter)... And despite being the third wheel amongst 3 relationships (#foreveralone though there was someone that peaked my interest)... they were all really welcoming, absolutely hilarious and so much fun to be around... Plus all the women i met were eventually going to (physically) ditch their significant other to travel solo so hopefully i'll get to meet up with them soon enough and laugh at the ridiculousness of our trip....
sooo i'm actually going to be hiking for the next few days, which means i'll be without wi-fi or make-up again. it's completelyyy fucking liberating!! so glad to be back on the road :)