Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Counting the losses - and more of the Amazon Rainforest

In the morning, needless to say the talk at breakfast was all about the fire, what we had lost, and how lucky we all were to be alive.

In terms of losses, Nic has lost most of his underwear, and I lost most of my outer clothes.  Luckily, Nic and I keep one set of clothes separately in each others' rucksack in case one gets stolen, so I had two tops and two pairs of trousers, and my fleece and waterproof jacket were safe.  But I also lost my walking boots, and some jewellery and souvenirs that were in my make up bag. We lost other bits like gloves and sleeping mats etc, but thankfully nothing that's irreplaceable like photos, or really troublesome like medication.

Others lost varying amounts, ranging from just the set of clothes that was drying, to everything but their laptop.  Shanyn was the only one to lose her camera in the fire, which is obviously terrible for her, but we will give her copies of our photos to try to fill the gap.

We were very aware though that some of the people sat next to us either were the owners of the
 lodge, which would not have been insured, and so they had lost a huge part of their livelihood, or people who worked at the lodge, who had possibly lost their jobs if the owners could not employ them elsewhere.  We definitely considered ourselves lucky.

Izzie and Roberto had, despite the obvious difficulties, arranged that we would still go put to the animal sanctuary and the local community today.  Alternative lunch arrangements had been made, as we had been due to ear at the lodge, and the only thing we could do was the planned tubing down the river.  We were very impressed that they were able to let us go ahead with the activities, and although many of us felt a little odd doing such touristy things they day after the fire, it probably did us good to get on with our normal routine.  It no doubt also helped Izzie as then she didn't have to worry about us while she spent the day chasing around police stations getting police reports for us all, and making arrangements for us to get to Quito the next day.

banana boat
So we got in taxis and drive to the river, where we saw bananas being offloaded from a boat and we had a boat waiting to take us to the animal sanctuary.  We were all given life jackets, and as the boat set off we could see why.  It was a long, narrow boat that sat very low in the water, and so whenever it got a bit choppy, or we turned a bit sharply, it felt like we were going to dip into the water.  In fact the driver obviously knew what he was doing and we didn't even get wet aside from a few splashes, but I know that a few companions were very glad when we arrived nonetheless.


The animal sanctuary is huge, although as many of the animals are loose, we only got to see a small proportion that were in cages, although some of the uncaged squirrel monkeys did put in an appearance. They had a number of different types of monkeys, some ocelots, various birds, and caiman, amongst others.  It was interesting to walk around hear what they're doing to help rehabilitate and protect  these animals.  We also bought chocolate!

We were back down the river to have lunch, and then into the taxis again to go to the local community.  But on the way, we stopped at Shangri-la.  A few of our travelling companions still held out hope that some of their belongings would still be there.  It was soon clear that they would not be.

after the fire

Arriving in the clearing at the top of the steps, you could be forgiven for thinking nothing had happened.  The trees had thankfully not caught fire, so the jungle around the lodge was as green and dense as ever.  

after the fire - our cabin

But when we went down the steps, we could see the devastation of the lodge itself.  There was nothing left of it other than a few brick walls that had supported the toilets and showers, and the corrugated iron that had been on some of the rooves.  Where our cabin had been, there was just a mound of earth and ash, with a couple of sheets of the corrugated iron on top.  And the same was true for the others.

the remains of Shanyn's camera
We picked our way over the still hot ashes, and looked around the rest of the site.  Then Nic spotted something amongst the ashes.  Shanyn's camera.  Or rather the charred and melted remains of her camera.  She was strangely pleased to get it back, even though it was clearly useless now. Our companions also found an odd sock and a nail file that had been dropped on the pathway during the evacuation, but nothing was going to have survived the fire. 

The sight of the complete destruction of the cabins that we were only about half an hour from being asleep in, brought home to us just how lucky we had been.  We left feeling a strange mix of horror at how narrow our escape had been, sympathy for how terrible the loss was for the owners, and pleasure and relief that we were all safe and well.

the paint pot tree

Shanyn and Roberto

We carried on with the trip to the community but I could not help but feel slightly detached, so was a little relieved that we weren't expected to participate in any activities other than trying a bit of their yucca chicha drink, which was actually quite nice.  We did try out the face painting using the fruit of one of the local trees as little mini paint pots, but I think we were all quite pleased to make it back to the hotel.

the traditional dance

Izzie had arranged that we would get the bus from Tena to Quito the next morning, and so we had the evening free.  Nic and I were planning to try a restaurant nearby, but got sidetracked by sone event happening in the main square.  It was celebrating the 20th anniversary of something, and had lots of people doing various traditional South American dances - and a few that weren't so traditional!


the not-so-traditional

Later in the evening, they announced a singer called Gerardo Moran.  Now I have no idea who he is, but the crowd were thrilled.  All of a sudden, hundreds of people surged down from the stands where they had been sitting, to gather in front of the stage.  I wouldn't quite call it a pop concert - it was more like it was Barry Manilow or Cliff Richards, but you couldn't doubt the excitement of the Ecuadorians.  We stayed and watched most of it, slightly bemused as to why he was so popular, but left when the songs that he did for the numerous encores all started to sound the same.

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