“I’ve never loved a smoker so much!”24 September 2017
I’m not a liar, but at Camps, I was renown for my miss-communication skills, which appeared as if I was lying.
And most of the time it was revolved around food.
And this morning, it was about coco pops.
I told Ellie that I thought I’d seen in the recent food order which included loads of bags of coco pops the night before, and being the coco pops fanatic that she is, got very much excited about it. Turns out we were having savoury cheese enchiladas for brekky, which didn’t go down well.
Something didn’t sit right with me after the savoury stuff, so I took the morning off, ‘cause I wouldn’t be much use to anybody lounging around and complaining. Instead I headed off to the shower and had a sing along to some Phil Collins while feeling a bit sorry for the labourers at work.
After having a morning of chilling with coffee and reading, the gang came back for lunch and had been gardening and doing bits and bobs mainly, so I didn’t feel too bad sitting on my glutes all morning.
We were waiting for the volleyball tournament in the afternoon, were hot and bothered and complaining. It was one of those days. Aye, it’s good to have a wee wining session at times. As we were waiting Colin gave us a briefing about the jungle trek we were going on tomorrow. It was essentially basic stuff, don’t touch anything that looks dangerous, keep to the path, don’t do anything stupid, pack warm stuff so we wouldn’t be too cold in our sleeping bags. As Colin finished, it was time to head to the volleyball tournament, where the local men and women would play against us, the volunteers.
We were thrashed, basically. The girls were amazing, so quick and strong. We didn’t stand a chance. The boys on the other hand were great, and only lost by a point to the locals. After the embarrassment of a thrashing we drowned our sorrows in orange flavoured amors, and as we were discussing how awful we were, we saw a coral snake slither from underneath our Camp.
Now, if you don’t know, coral snakes are one of the most poisonous and dangerous snakes you can get in South America, and considering the nearest hospital was miles away, a bite from one of them would not be good.
After the slight hoo-ha and panic we just hoped for the best, and prayed that no coral snake would slide into out beds at night. blargh.
Okay, dodgy bellies were a common occurence. But tonight someone crossed the line in grossville. Someone had explosive diarrhea, and hadn’t flushed or even tried to sort it out. As you can probably guess, the topic of the night was nothing other than the toilet that no one was going to use for the rest of the trip, how we were going to deal with it, and most importantly, whoever did it to cough up.
There were a few people who were accused (mainly by me, Nicole, Maddi and Ellie) rightly or wrongly, but we never found out, because whoever did it didn’t cough up. It was a heated debate, and we all went to bed wondering who the culprit was, even after having a laugh attack for a solid ten minutes after Ellie broke her bed and we were beside ourselves as she held one of the wooden steps in one hand, and caressing her already bruised leg in the other.
If you’re reading this blog, you know who you are, shame on you. Shame. On. YOU.
Jungle trek was calling, and we were rearing to go.
We farwelled to Camp Don Biki and the staff, filled our water bottles and headed off onto the predicted two-hour trek, three max.
Oh, we were in for a heck of a shock.
We stopped after about ten minutes of walking along the coast as our local guides explained the natural medicinal resources the locals used. They pointed out a tree that seemed on the outside like a pretty ordinary 300 year old tree. But somehow the locals knew, through centuries of tradition and guidance, that particular pieces of bark or certain leaves had belly comforting remedies or were aid to headaches. It was fascinating to see how these people couldn’t depend on ibuprofen or paracetamol but had to depend entirely on nature, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
Of course, when you’re trekking through dense jungles it would be criminal not to sing a long to Phil Collins, again, which is what we did, loudly. After trying not to fall down some un-human touched ‘stairs’ (that looked more like an avalanche of red mud and stones) we faced our first obstacle; a bamboo bridge which wasn’t safe at all to say the least.
You’ll be glad to know that we all made it out alive.
It was wobbly, so, so wobbly. I cut myself on the rusty metal bars and panicked I’d need a tetanus jab, and then realised I needed to get a grip. A bit of bacteria never hurt nobody.
Our second obstacle, as stupid as it may sound, was basically trying not to fall. I should emphasize that we were the first group of non-local people to attempt to walk this trek. It was pouring down with rain half the time, which made the already muddy terrain even harder to walk along. The amount of times I fell over either stones or branches or roots hidden beneath fallen leaves was ridiculous. I’m clumsy at the best times, I could just imagine myself twisting my ankle.
Now, bearing in mind we’d been notified at the beginning of the trek that we weren’t meant to aggravate any wildlife and listen the guide’s advice at all times, when we heard the words ‘we need to get out of here because the killer bee’s are getting angry behind us,’ or words to that effect, you can imagine how quickly we wanted to leave this certain are in the jungle.
This next story legitimately happened, and if you don’t believe me ask one of the guys on the trip.
Now, there was a big dip ahead of us, and in my frantic state of trying to escape the killer bee’s (not the most reassuring of names) I missed the dip and in an almost cartoon-style, I felt as if I hovered mid-air for a while and then just fell. I felt the drop in my stomach, and managed to somehow kick myself against the drop’s wall, and then I started running. And I couldn’t stop.
Now, imagine it. Most of the gang are waiting for a few of us few stragglers to get down quietly and swiftly. Then suddenly all I saw in slow motion were more and more terrified faces turning in my direction, and then I knew I was in trouble. I felt myself loosing my balance as I descended ridiculously quick, and that’s when I tripped over a fallen branch. I grabbed onto a thick vine that was dangling not far from me, and like George of the jungle himself I literally swung in the air.
I’m just thankful that Iain was there to take the blow, and I mean I completely smashed into him and he didn’t even flinch. Imagine if that had been one of the girls?! Everyone was in shock that I didn’t seriously injure myself, and that’s my most exciting story of the trip. Nearly broke most of my bones but didn’t. Result.
We carried on and saw more and more cobwebs, bigger spiders and beetles and ants. Even heard some toucans in the distance which was well cool. We had a pit stop at the beach (I know, who finds a beach in the middle of the jungle?) where us celts had to protect ourselves from the sun with huge leaves and sunglasses.
The funny thing was that we hadn’t even reached the densest part of the jungle yet. While we were walking from the beach we had to walk through a marshland with plants so much higher than ourselves, we had to put our hands above our heads because we were told a lot of insects hid in the plants. We looked right idiots.
We then made headbands out of bamboo shoots and wore them trying to look like tribals, but mind didn’t even fit on my head, but I didn’t have to worry, because when we got to a river merging through the trees, Rosania, one of the guides mixed the clay and water and we had two stripes on each cheek. So I felt a bit more tribal-y.
We found a swing which was trialled and tested by everyone apart from myself and Charlotte. Why you may ask? Because we were hangry.
I forgot to mention; this was our fifth hour of trekking. We’d ran out of water and had only had a piece o fruit to eat. As a foodie, and someone that eats a lot, often, I wasn’t functioning very well.
Eventually after arriving Camp Chilliurku (where we would be camping for the night) we had a quick wet wipe shower and then had fajita for lunch which we all devoured.
Before dinner we had a nostalgic afternoon of writing cute messages to each other. Of course not all of them were cute (by this I mean Iain’s weren’t cute, in fact quite blunt) but nonetheless it was an emotional time. We reminisced about the last month, the ups and downs, the laughs, tears, stories, and it was all suddenly so real; we were leaving tomorrow. We were leaving the three monthers who were off to Peru next week, and we’d be back in the UK. It was so surreal, it was honestly like we were going to leave a part of ourselves in the heart of the Amazon.
We had a traditionally cooked fish on a bed of… leaf. It was tasty, but not filling. But our good mood and sentimentality wouldn’t be quenched.
We had a welcoming dance from the locals, which was fairly similar to the one we had in Don Biki, but we also had a blessing from a Sherman (A religion that depends and worships nature in a nutshell) and danced all night with the locals, trying to remember the moves, the weaving, the motions, the “were we meant to be in a circle or not at this point?”
To finish the night we had a game of Cards Against Humanity, and the dream team, BR (Iain), Charl (Charlotte) and moi against the world… but we lost miserably. Iain and Charlotte weren’t on their game that night.
We eventually got into our hammocks, wearing everything and anything we could because it was just so cold. I hardly slept between the snoring, wiggling about and the cockerel roosting at 3am.
It had been a great day, but I was dreading tomorrow.
And I had good reason too.
If you hate emotion, skip this day entirely.
Goodbye’s are the worst. Period. Anyone that knows me knows I hardly ever cry, only in a sad film, but never in real life. I bet nobody who saw me on this particular day will ever believe me because I ugly cried on off all day.
We got up, and instantly knew it was going to be horrible. Us Cardiff Uni girls had our final dose of pancakes with dolche de leche, double checked our packing and then started our final trek up to where we were being picked up from and taken to the boats.
When we got to the top of the hill, we all procrastinated the hugs and final words awkwardly, until our lifts arrived.
Personally, for me though, what set me off was Iain.
As you’ve probably guessed, Iain came across to begin with as a hard-hearted guy, but I was so, so wrong. As all of the Cardiff girls looked at him, he just shrugged his shoulders and said “Am gonna miss yus guys” (that was my impression of him speaking with his thick Scottish accent) and his voice cracked and eyes welled up. Now for me, this broke me and then we were all a mess.
We went around in turns hugging everyone, and by my final hug I apologise to that person because I was an ugly mess and was hyperventilating unable to speak and probably slobbered all over their t shirt.
After a quiet journey in our jeeps to the river we headed onto the boats, said thank you to our guides and journeyed along the Amazon for, realistically, the last time ever. We collapsed onto the bus, emotionally exhausted and sat in quietness. This is when we all decided to open the messages that people had written about us, which was probably the worst decision we could’ve made considering we were already extremely unstable. Everyone was so kind to each other, and we were so overwhelmed.
Personally, I listened to depressing songs that coincided with my feelings the whole way to our hotel, ate our snacks in silence and just hoped we’d feel better when we arrived at our destination.
After having a warm shower in the hotel (which was again very much appreciated and needed) we headed into Quito to the Old Markets to try to spend our remaining dollars to fill the void in our hearts (sad thing is I’m not even joking.)
The hagglers must’ve seen either my coffee addiction of my frailty because I was persuaded to spend $8 on coffee. It was nice, I can tell you that, having tasted it after coming home, but the girls were mortified that I could justify that.
I was still unstable, ok?
We bought some magnets, harem pants, and bits and bobs before heading out to an Italian in Quito, where me and Nicole shared a calzone which was so tasty.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a bakery and bought some pastries, comfort food at it’s finest. The girls fell asleep fairly quickly, we wanted a good final day in the Capital. I took advantage of the wi-fi and downloaded loads of recent hits in the last two-week that I’d missed, and listened to some of them as I fell asleep. Whenever I listen to Tom Misch’s single ‘Suth of the River’ it always reminds me of that night; our first night without the whole TIE family.
Over breakfast we decided we’d go to the Teferique Cable Cars, which were based in the centre of Quito, where we had a great view of both the city and the greenery from a height. In our taxi there we had another nostalgic (less teary) reminiscing session as we hobbled over Quito’s rickety roads, passing the random men selling fruit in the middle of the road.
I was going to miss these little random things.
After paying our fee we went into our cable car, and the views were like nothing that I’ve ever seen. It was the perfect combination of busy city life morphed with hills, valleys and glorious mountain ranges. At this point Sarah decided to tell us she’s scared of heights. Maybe not the best time to tell us.
After a mini photo shoot, we started climbing up to the higher parts of the mountains. Quito’s located higher than the UK, so you can imagine how much we were struggling when we got almost 5,000 metres above sea level. It was tough, every step felt like an enormous struggle, but we did it and had to have rest bite when we got to the point where we couldn’t physically go any higher. We started our way back down again, trying our best not to fall or trip the rocky mountains.
Gemma and Charlotte were already eating cake and drinking coffee in the café located next to the cable cars. We decided to head back to lower ground for a cheeky subway. Before leaving, I spotted something that looked like a lama from afar, so I persuaded everyone to climb up a very steep hill to see this ‘wild lama.’ To both me and the girls’ dismay, it wasn’t a wild lama at all, in fact there were two tied to a pole with a local woman charging 50d for a photo with them. After the struggle to reach the lama’s, wild or not, we ended up taking many photos with the not-so amused furry creatures.
On the way back in the taxi the driver stopped to buy an apple from a random man in the middle of the road and started eating it as he was driving. Did people actually do this?! Clearly they did.
We arrived back at the hostel, and prepared for our final night out in Quito. We packed in preparation for our flight tomorrow, and made sure everything was in place so we could literally change tomorrow morning and head off at 7am.
We had diner at an American diner, and as a meat lover, it was the first time I’d had BBQ ribs in a month, they went down a treat. After this we tried a few pubs and bars, and eventually settled in a beach-style bar called Azuca, where we reminisced over cocktails about the month, sitting next to a blazing fire in our jackets (Quito was very cold at night) gazing out to the bustling city beneath us.
Now, I could go on and talk about the next day of travelling and the funny things that happened but I feel I should stop here, it feels right. It was our final night in Ecuador, and were excited to go home, but dreading to face our version of ‘reality’ again.
I remember thinking that night that I was beyond blessed to have spent a month with the most genuine of people, who were carefree, loving, hilarious and just so sassy. I also remember crying that night because I didn’t want this journey to end, but I knew this couldn’t go on forever, we had to face reality. I know I want to travel around the world, I’m excited to see where I’ll be wandering in the future. But in that moment I couldn’t imagine doing anything like this with anyone apart from these peeps.
I’m already debating where I’m going next summer. I can assure you it won’t be anything like you’ve ever done before, you’ll appreciate the little things in life, will love most of the journey, (NGL some bits were tough) will make memories worth sharing with your kids and grandkids, and will make friendships that will be lifelong and so, so precious.
I just want to say a huge thanks to Camps International, Global Opportunities, everyone that has supported me right from the beginning and everyone that made this trip possible. These blogs have hopefully given you an insight as to what we did as a family for a month in Ecuador.
But, after all, these are merely words on your screen.
They’ll never truly justify the experience
You’ve got years to sit and catch up on Corrie or go to Pryzm on a Friday.
So, go do it, you won’t regret it.
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