The End of an Era

After over 6 years of intensive research and community development work in and around the Yachana Reserve, GVI Amazon is coming to a close. We have finished our final research project (look forward to our Road Effects paper, coming soon!) and are handing over the project to our partner, The Yachana Foundation. They will continue to maintain and monitor the reserve, using it as an hands-on science education center for students -- we're very excited to see what fabulous things this next generation of scientists find! For more detail on GVI Amazon's closure, and our accomplishments over the years, please read on...
GVI Amazon Closure Statement

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yasuni National Park

On Saturday we were up at 4am (or some ungodly hour anyway!) as we needed to take all our bags, jungle hammocks, kitchen supplies and four day’s worth of food to the road where we would catch a bus to Coca. The 2-leg journey to Yasuni was (surprisingly for us) without incident, and we arrived at the national park by canoe with our guide Hector at about 4pm. The next few hours were spent setting up camp – struggling with hammocks, building a kitchen area complete with dining table for 14 people, and digging a latrine a respectable distance from the sleeping area. After all that hard work we jumped straight into the river for a swim, ate an enormous lunch and crashed out in our hammocks.

The next day we were up at 5.30am and after a delicious breakfast of granola (no more porridge! - Possibly one of the best things about the camping trips) we headed off in a canoe to a clay-lick to see parrots. Every day birds come to these clay-licks in huge groups to eat mineral-rich clay that allows them to safely digest toxic seeds. Or at least they do in theory – we went to two different sites and waited for five and half hours before seeing a single bird! But eventually the birds did appear, and it was definitely worth the wait. Hundreds of green and blue parrots descended upon the clay-lick from surrounding trees. The noise was deafening. It was incredible to see so many beautiful birds in one place. After such a long morning, it was finally time for lunch. We pulled the canoe up to one of the Rio Napo’s sand bars and picnicked on tuna mayo and cheese sandwiches in the middle of our own private freshwater beach. As the day drew to a close, Hector guided our canoe through the jungle down one of the Napo’s tributaries, re-emerging just in time to see a breathtaking sunset.

On our last day in the Yasuni National Park Hector guided us on a walk to explore the area of dense rainforest around our temporary camp. We were shown how to make string from the fibres of palms, told the secrets of making poison blow darts, introduced to the medical uses of sap from a Dragon’s Blood tree and we even spotted some monkeys! We spent the last night of the trip on Sumak Alpa, a private monkey sanctuary set up by Hector on his very own island (where the 10-weekers had already spent a long weekend). We swam in the river, went on a walk around the island, and listened to Hector’s gripping stories about the time he spent with the Huaoarani tribesman.

Our journey back to camp was mostly by ranchera (an open-sided bus with benches instead of seats) – the simplest means of transport in Ecuador but certainly something that every visitor has to experience! It was a relief to come back to creature comforts such as showers (even though ice cold), toilets and beds.