Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.


by Kathy 26. May 2011 19:05

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Amazon: Parrots & Añangu Community

The early morning chill was starting to lose its edge as we glided from the boat dock:

The glassy lake reflected the lodge cabañas:

Sebastian was ready to go exploring!

This morning we would be visiting two parrot licks, as well as the Interpretation Center for the Añangu Kichwa community. Then we would be hiking back to the lodge on a trail that led from the Napo River.

Almost immediately, we spotted some blue and yellow macaws high in a tree:

Nearby was a small group of squirrel monkeys darting through the palms. One paused to check us out:

Our boat was moving downstream with the creek, which flowed into the Napo River, so it took less than an hour to arrive at the Napo Welcome Center, where we would transfer to a motor boat to reach the first parrot lick.

Another motor boat was leaving as we pulled in:

We were soon buckled into our life jackets and on our way. 


The first parrot lick was only a short distance down the Napo River. A large sign let us know that this land was part of the protected Yasuní National Park:

With an untrained eye, one might glance at this steep riverbank and see a dirt face with a scattering of green leaves.

But, look again! The “leaves” dangling from vines were actually green parrots:

Flashes of blue in the bushes above were blue-headed parrots:

The lower left had a gathering of Mealy Amazons, Dusky Headed parakeets, Blue Headed parrots, and one Yellow-Crowned parrot (that kept hiding):

The soil at this lick contains salts and minerals that the parrots need to supplement their diet. The clay also neutralizes the toxins that are found in many seeds that the birds eat within the rainforest. Some birds travel as much as 20 miles to reach this lick; then they feed for an hour before flying home to resume their daily activities.

While we were watching, many of the birds suddenly took off into the air but then gradually returned. One of our guides said that there must have been a predator nearby that had frightened them. Scanning the nearby bushes, we found two different boa constrictors, stretched out on tree branches, waiting for a bird to come within striking distance. Here is one of the boas:

A close-up, showing its long body and different pattern of spots:

Another view, showing how well it blended in with its branch:

Our next stop was the Añangu Kichwa interpretive center, where we were welcomed by Marta, the leader of the women’s group:

Marta said that the local women had wanted to expand the ecotourism in the area, so they began this program last July, inviting guests to see ritual dances that used to be performed when the local men returned from hunting or planting.

These dances, however, were not those performed by the ancestors of the women here. While the Añangu Kichwa people are indigenous to Ecuador, they are not originally from the rainforest. The current community of people arrived about 50 years ago from the lower hills along the base of the Andes mountains. Before that, some of their Kichwa relatives came here to work on the banana plantations in the early 1900’s. (Note: “Kichwa” is the preferred local spelling of the Spanish name “Quichua”.) Before establishing their home here, the Añangu Kichwa drove out the rainforest people who already lived here—the Waorani (also spelled is “Huaorani”). Many of the surviving Waorani now live in protected, isolated pockets deep in the rainforest, with some communities refusing to have any contact from the outside world.

To learn the dances that were being performed today, the Añangu Kichwa women received careful instruction from former rainforest women now living in the city of Coca.

Two women played instruments, while a line of women emerged and began their dance.

The woman playing the drum was Alicia, the wife of our guide Mauricio. Her garment was a typical jungle dress, made with seeds, palm leaves, and fiber; nothing came from animals except the feathers.

The drum was made of cedar—very strong yet lightweight. One side was covered with the skin of a wild boar, and the other with wild monkey skin, all tied together with strong chambira fibers. The second instrument was a whole turtle shell, which had been smoked and then waxed with bees wax. Rubbing the shell with your thumb emits a deep sound.

The first dance involved rhythmic movements in which the women asked the forest to provide food.

Children and other women sat on the sidelines, watching the dancing:

Among the children was Mauricio’s young daughter, who had run to him with outstretched arms when we first arrived:

The dancers performed again and invited the audience to join them. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian on the dance floor:

After the dancing, we moved into a circular building that was a traditional home in the rainforest.

No metal had been used in its construction. The support beams were palm tree trunks, the walls and roof were made with leaves, and everything was tied together with vines.

A home like this would generally last 15-20 years.

An Añangu woman named Jimena Topi spoke about a woman’s responsibilities in the community—including taking care of the children, cooking, gathering food, making clothes, and weaving baskets.

She showed us the traditional way to make fire by twisting a stick vigorously onto a wooden board—she said it generally takes 2 hours (!) of twisting for the friction to create enough heat. Here is Genevieve, giving it a try:

Jimena provided more demonstrations and discussions on topics such as creating bags out of chimbira fibers, making clothes and mats out of large chunks of softened lanchama bark, and using atamuyo seeds as candles.

The village medicine man, Domingo, ended the presentation by giving an audience volunteer a ceremonial “cleansing” that involved brushing away the negativity with a bunch of leaves.

We then walked to a third building which contained a variety of hunting traps. No hunting is allowed in the area now, as the land is part of the protected Yasuní National Park. However, Jimena said that her grandfather once used these types of traps.

Here is a little structure that would trap the animal inside:

Another trap had a heavy log that would slam down and kill the animal:

Here was a trap for a larger animal:

And this trap had a catapult feature that would snatch an animal by the leg and leave it dangling in the air:

Mauricio provided a blow gun demonstration, and then Genevieve and Sebastian both gave it a try (with a little guidance from Mauricio):

Ben gave it his best shot:

And he hit the wooden bird right in the chest!

Next door, some sweet kids were playing on the walkway:

Back on Napo River, we had a couple of interesting bird sightings before reaching the second parrot clay lick.

First, we spotted a small brown bird known as the “laddertail night jar”; it flies at night with its mouth open to catch insects.

Then we passed by a stretch of black vultures, drying their wings on a sand bar:

By eating dead carcasses, vultures play an important role in cleaning the forest.

The second parrot lick was at the base of a cliff, at the entrance to a small cave:

We watched as parrots started to arrive and congregate in front of the cave:

More and more kept coming, in brilliant flashes of blue:


While I was watching the scene through binoculars, the parrots suddenly rose up and came streaking toward our group. I instinctively ducked, and still had one bird sweep across my hair. Ben and the kids had seen a big hawk dive down and send the birds flying. The hawk had snatched up a parrot and zoomed away. A few birds were still hiding in the cave. The lone bird remaining outside—a scarlet shouldered parrot--had its head tilted to one side and appeared to be either injured or in complete shock.

We were a bit stunned ourselves.

During our 15-minute hike back to the Napo Welcome Center, we made a few discoveries.

One of the most interesting finds was a “forest jungle stamp”, which is a fruit that you can cut and then press it onto cloth for a permanent pattern—very similar to potato stamps, but this fruit contained its own ink.

The stamp starts out as white but darkens to black:

Sebastian volunteered his shirt sleeve for a stamp:

We also found a stick bug, which looked remarkably like an actual twig.

This vine winding up a tree was a “strangler fig”, which will grow bigger and end up killing the host tree by taking all the nutrients from the soil and blocking the sunlight with its leaves.

A small lizard scuttled across a fallen log:

The purple and white balls that created a long, visually striking flower belonged to the stinging nettle plant:

Another beautiful flower:

Near the end of our trail was a small grove of trees that was home to a group of pygmy monkeys, the smallest monkeys in the world. After a few patient moments of waiting, a furry brown cutie scampered into view:

After lunch, we boarded the motor boat again for a short ride up the Napo River, where we start a hike back to our lodge.

Sebastian loved the wind on his face:

A yellow-spotted river turtle was sunning itself on some logs:

The blue sky and clouds were gorgeous! In the distance, a plume rose high into the air:

Our hiking trail began near some homes belonging to the Añangu Kichwa community:

The houses are on stilts to escape flooding that can occur along the river.

Cocoa trees grew along the trail. Here is Genevieve pointing to an overripe cocoa pod:

Mauricio used heliconia flowers to create ear and nose decoration for the kids:

A muddy section of trail had log slices for us to step on:

The rainforest contains over 5000 known species of medicinal plants. We had seen quite a few of them over the last few days, and today we saw even more, including the “earthworm leaf” which is used to treat infections and foot fungus. The white-striped leaves are wrapped in banana leaves, warmed in a fire, and placed directly on an injury.

Another fascinating plant was the small tree (duroia hirsuta) that hosts a colony of edible ants called “lemon ants.” The tree grows in an open area called a “devil’s garden” because the ants inject poison into any plants that attempt to grow near the tree. Here is Genevieve beside the tree:

Juan Carlos broke open a slender branch and offered us a taste of the small black ants inside.

Genevieve, Sebastian and I popped some in our mouths and crunched them between our teeth. Not bad! The ants did indeed have a distinctive twang, like a lemon!

One of the more intriguing creatures that we saw today was this caterpillar, which looked like a type of sea creature from the top angle:

A side view:

This grasshopper had beautiful striped legs:

A 6-inch stick bug:

A bright geen beetle:

A dragonfly:

This white spider with red markings on its back was consuming a big mosquito:

In the late afternoon, we arrived back at Añangu Lake and our lodge:

Tomorrow morning we would be returning to Quito, in the high peaks of the Andes Mountain. But for the rest of today, we celebrated the special time that we had experienced in the Amazon rainforest.


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Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin