Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Misahualli, you give me butterflies!

The more we travelled around Ecuador, the more I loved it. Leaving Baños ever thankful to the owner of La Princesa Maria for helping me finally get the medical care I needed, we started the long journey to the East of Ecuador where civilisation thins out and the jungle takes over.

We took an incredibly busy bus from Baños to Napo. It was so busy Nick and I took separate seats and I ended up sat next to a boy who was sleeping. Eventually he woke up and instantly started to chat to me, asking where I was from, what I was doing, where I was going. He was also happy to answer all the questions I had wanted to ask the people we often saw but didn't get chance to speak to. His name was Pato, he was only 25 but was the main provider for his mum and his insane amount of brothers and sisters. He had been travelling since 2 in the morning to go to Otavalo market to buy provisions for his family, and was now heading back and was expecting to get back to his village at 3 in the afternoon. His older brother was studying in Quito and he desperately wanted to travel, but had to look after his family. He also told me he really wasn't religious and loved to watch South Park. It was the first time I ever felt like I'd had a really good conversation in Spanish and I was slightly dismayed when he told me it was his stop and he wandered away from the bus carrying two huge white sacks. I still had so many questions!

From Napo we took a local bus to Misahualli, it was so full that Nick had to ride in the doorway, with one leg hanging out of the bus! I was really relieved when we arrived at the main square of Misahualli.

Missahualli (Miss-a-why-ee) is a tiny town at the very mouth of the jungle, and apparently used to be incredibly popular a couple of decades ago with tourists, but with the amount of tourism traffic flowing into the jungle, many of the animals were scared away and so the tourism died off again. We decided to visit the jungle from this spot as the doctor in Baños had spoken so highly of it.

After a quick browse on Trip Advisor, I found a company that ran jungle trips called EcoSelva, and it was owned by an ecologist. EcoSelva was on the tiny square so we headed there and met Pepe. He is a really nice, friendly man who really loves what he does. We found out later on our trip that he really wants to help the communities that live in the jungle, so he helps to school the children, and runs football matches for them too. We got a really good feel for his company and what it put back into the jungle, so we booked a 2 night, 3 day trip.

The other top recommendation on Tripadvisor was the Butterfly House. I asked if Pepe would recommend it and he said definitely, so we decided to take a stroll up later that day. As Pepe had suggested the hostel next to his business, we went to check it out. It was a small house run by a mother and daughter and the rooms seemed clean and homely enough. It was also the very 'normal' names of the rooms that sold it to us.
Misahualli
Having checked in, we went for a spot of lunch at another restaurant in the square. Most of the restaurants were open at the front, so we walked in and were pretty shocked to see that the furniture was strewn all across the floor. The owner appeared from the back and apologised about the state of the restaurant apologising profusely. She explained that it was the local monkeys of the town who live in the trees in the square. When they're feeling mischievous they steal food and toss the furniture around when the owners are siesta ring. We sat and ate lunch, watching the naughty monkeys laze around the square.
Misahualli
Luckily, we managed to catch a glimpse of them at their most mischievous when a rather large American Tourist walked through the square. He was wearing a bright hawaiian shirt, explorer shorts, socks, sandals, sun glasses and a floppy sun hat. He decided to stop and play with the monkeys, who entertained him for a bit, before they decided it would be far more fun to take his wallet out of his pocket. They ran up into the trains then started to empty the wallet, throwing the contents, including wads of cash, onto the floor. No matter how much he shouted and flailed around, he didn't get his wallet back until a local climbed the tree to retrieve it.

After that spectacle, it was early evening and we walked to the butterfly house to see if it was still open. We were surprised to be welcomed in by Pepe, it turned out that he had built a butterfly house in his garden because of his love of butterflies. He started the collection by collecting eggs on his visits to the jungle, caring for the caterpillars and then letting them loose into the enclosure. It turned out that dusk is the perfect time for butterfly spotting as they go for one more flight to bring up the temperature of their body before sleeping for the night.
Misahualli
Misahualli
Misahualli
It was really amazing to watch them floating around, and really nice to listen to Pepe talk about his butterflies. His love for all things natural really shone through and made him so interesting to talk to.
Misahualli
Misahualli
Misahualli
Misahualli
Misahualli
As it grew dark, we decided to see what else the town had to offer. There wasn't all that much, but we went to the river and watched the sunset. It was exciting to know that the next day we could be heading into the jungle and taking a canoe on that same river.
Misahualli
Misahualli
We went to bed early that night to prepare ourselves for our early start tomorrow, and just as we started to drift off we heard the rain start to fall. Weird shadows crept across our walls, and when I looked out of our window onto the square, I realised the shadows were the monkeys running to take shelter from the rain. It was really pouring down and the roads had turned to clay rivers. It was the first time I really understood why we call it the rain forest.

The rain didn't stop though, and half way through the night, Nick shot up in bed as the roof had started to leak and rain was pouring through the hole in the ceiling onto his foot. I can't explain how much it was raining, I've never seen anything like it in my life.

We got up bright and early the next day, feeling a little weary after our rude awakening. We went to meet Pepe who apologised for being a bit delayed, but the rain had been a bit of an oddity and his whole house had flooded, the butterfly enclosure had collapsed and all of his butterflies had either flown away or had been killed. It was so sad to think of him the day before, peacefully walking through the trees surrounded by butterflies telling us how it had taken him years to grow his collection.

Yet, he didn't linger too long as he said it was time for us to go and meet our guide, Gregorio.

I'm going to split our Misahualli adventures into a two part drama filled event as I've already typed more than I like to! I'll continue next week when we start our trek into the jungle!

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