The Amazon jungle has been whispering my name for years. Dense vegetation, an abundance of wildlife, and more insects than you could count in a life-time—these things were definitely intriguing. However, it was the spiders that drew me. Or, more specifically, it was my fear of them. On this trip, one of my goals was to wipe away the shudder of revulsion I felt whenever I was face to face with a jumbo, 8-legged creature.
Ecuador was the perfect choice for an Amazonian adventure. While the country may be fairly small compared to its South American neighbors, one third of its land is covered by the Amazon rain forest. Within that area is the Yasuní National Park, a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that contains the largest tract of tropical rain forest in the country. There, our family encountered a flabbergasting variety of animal life—five kinds of monkeys, boa constrictors, a huge anaconda, colorful birds, black caiman, a two-toed sloth, camouflaged frogs, a wide array of fascinating insects, and, yes, extra-large spiders. With the help of a naturalist guide and members of the local Añangu Quichua Community, we gained a greater understanding of how important each creature (and plant) is to the whole environment. It was amazing experience that we will never forget.
While in Ecuador, we also wandered up and down the hills of historic Quito. This capital city sits over 9000 feet high within a long valley in the Andes Mountains. In Quito, we witnessed the magnificent Semana Santa procession, climbed church towers, looked at incredible art, attended a folk dance production, visited a school for street kids, tasted local food, soaked in the nearby Papallacta hot springs, stood somewhere near (if not actually on) the real equator, and bicycled along mountain trails.
We are in the process of creating daily photo-stories about our experiences. The titles below will change to blue as each day’s story is posted.