Location: Amazon Rainforest

We woke up again bright and early at 5 A.M. to prepare for the day of jungle adventures ahead starting with at a 6 A.M. breakfast. Wearing his headlamp, the chef served us a fabulous meal consisting of warm bread, fresh cantaloupe and papaya, granola, yogurt, pancakes, eggs, juice and hot chocolate to wash it down. From here we boarded the boat again to return to the reserve to continue work on our nursery. After our hour boat ride to get to the area, we disembarked the boat and jumped in the back of the truck to transport us to the grounds.

After arriving on the reserve, we immediately went to work of finishing yesterday’s task of planting trees in our bags of soil and placing them in our newly built plant bed boxes in our nursery. After working from 8-10 A.M. Our guide, Hector rallied us up and took us in a van for a mini version of his “Toxic Tour” around the Amazon. Luckily, our guides Devin and Skylar bought us snacks before for the car ride for us to devour. We drove through the neighborhoods chowing down on our Amor wafers, crackers, and spicy Cheetos knockoff brand.

Our first stop, Hector took our group to was a large pipe spitting our fire on the top and emitting it into the atmosphere. We had seen this fire daily on our boat rides to the reserve but were always far away and never able to figure out what it was. Standing under it was breathtaking as you looked at the danger it was causing to the environment and the bug cemetery located under the flames from the thousands of bugs that flew too close to the fire and burned. The entire ground was speckled in black dots of all the bugs laying dead on the ground. They ranged from the size of a seed to the something like the rhinoceros beetle as big as your thumb. We also attended many other devastating sites of deadly destruction throughout the Amazonian town. Seeing lumps and lumps of hardened crude oil oozing from the ground and seeing polluted water harvesting in the towns water supply. Hector informed us that this town and ones close by had some of the highest recordings of cancer rates within their populations. We finished the tour by visiting a field that formerly held a variety of plants, but was cut down to hold imported African palm trees that were destroying the land. These African Palm Fruit tresses produce palm oil, which is used in almost every product, we buy and use. The palm trees are not native to Ecuador, and they suck up all the nutrients in the land, they also have to be artificially pollinated. The information that Hector was giving us of the toxicity lurking on the unseen side of the Amazon was saddening to all of us after we have all fallen in love with the beauty and biodiversity the area has to offer.

After returning from our tour, we gathered back at the reserve and ate yet another delicious lunch prepared for us consisting of rice, pasta, potato chips, and hamburger meat. We quickly ate our meal and then returned to work to finish our plant nursery project. As time went on our work quickly also became a challenge of who could become the dirtiest and also broke out into a full-fledged mud war between Quinn and Sam throwing piles upon piles of fresh mud at each other.

After wrapping up our mud battle and completing our project (yay!), we boarded the boat again and headed back to our lodge. We saw a snake in the tree from the boat and many monkeys bouncing around. We observed the wildlife and wiped the mud off of ourselves before dinner. We were served an amazing dinner of carrot soup, fried potato, chicken and green beans drizzled in gravy, and a fresh fig soaked in local black sugar for dessert. We also got a special experience after dinner as we enjoyed a BBC documentary film produced by our guide, Hector. He was a part of displaying the journey of catching the world’s largest recorded anaconda. The day was truly eventful, and we cannot wait for what else is in store for us as our adventures continue tomorrow in the Amazon and then back in Quito tomorrow night!