amazon | ecuador

Take a bus 4 hours from Quito and you'll reach the town of Baños. Take a bus 2 hours from Baños and you'll reach an even smaller town called Puyo. From there, take yet another bus for 1.5 hours in hopes it will deliver you to your final destination - The Chinimp Tuna Station, an indigenous family homestay amidst the small community of Chico Copataza. Hosted by Manuel Chumapi (a Shuar tribesman), his wife Nelva (of the Kichwa clan) and an entourage of more children and grandchildren than I could count, thus began my brief brush with indigenous Amazon jungle life. Living and working together on the land they've developed for sustainable farming and rainforest preservation, they guided me through a day-in-the-life - complete with farming, cooking, swimming in the nearby Copataza River (Mogli style... rolling in the mud, swinging from vines, and all!), and soccer at sunset.

During the day, fruit was used as ink to paint our faces with patterns of their tribe before venturing into the jungle. Along the way we carved seeds to create traditional jewelry while Carlos, a family member appointed as our guide for the day, whacked at trees in search of what he referred to as "Dulce del Arbol" (Candy of the Tree). Almost immediately, there began a low humming buzz followed by a bee swarm outpouring as he thrust his hands into their hive and pulled out pools of honey to drink straight from the comb. Hiking along we discovered snake eggs, sharpened machetes, collected fruit from tree tops, shaved barks for medicinal saps, caught shrimp in a stream, and echoed monkey calls by blowing into large seed shells. Everything played a role in this intricate ecosystem. Banana, Pineapple, Sugar Cane, and Yuca harvests were collected along the way for the evening's dinner. After the meal, it was early to bed in preparation for another day of the same. Nights were spent down the road, across a small rushing river via a hand-crafted footbridge, and up a mud-slide hill in a private grass hut illuminated by a single lightbulb and crowded with tarantellas & other larger-than-life insects - this, a home away from home.