It’s now been a week since I have left the town of Pintag to now reside in the community of Mushullakta, so I am taking this journal as a chance to reflect and process this transition. For starters, the first shock was the weather, a change I expected, but not to this extent. I could see the environment change as we made our way from the upper Andes into the rainforest, the greenery transitioned from pale straw covered mountains to actual greenery with trees and palms. Once I spotted my first palm tree, I knew there would be warm weather waiting for me. And I was right, getting off the van led me to experience the humidity, which was intense. The sun was even stronger than in Pintag, and most of all, there were so much bugs! Within my first night, I saw all kinds of crickets, spiders, moths, butterflies, and most importantly… cockroaches. Yes, roaches.
This was the most challenging part of the transition, especially after I found a roach inside the room I was staying in. Usually I am not queasy about bugs, but this was my first time ever seeing a roach, especially inside my room. However, this was due to the fact that I was coming from a very different place than where I was in at the time. Reflecting on the roach in question, this was my first time being in a rainforest, or tropical place in general. I have always lived in the northern part of any country I have resided in. In the states, my home is in Minnesota, where the winter often kills any kind of roach. And when I lived in Mexico, I also lived in the northern state of Durango, which is pretty arid, dry, and cold, which also limits the possibility of roaches. Taking the context into consideration helped me see the roaches as simply a part of the experience, after all, I am literally inside their home, so it is only natural.
However, what really made me come to terms with this was my week-long excursion to Cuyabeno, where I stayed in a lodge deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon. For starters, it made me realize how foolish I was for thinking that Mushullakta was anything close to hot and humid, for Cuyabeno was Mushullakta times ten. The humidity was intense, and the heat was suffocating, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before, I felt like I was inside a microwave! Second of all, Cuyabeno reminded me that Mushullakta is simply a transitional area between the Andes Highlands and the Amazon, so it is nothing compared to the deep rainforest in which I was in. I understood this once I saw my first Anaconda as we took the canoe down the river to arrive to the lodge. As shocked as I was with the Anaconda sightings, that was nothing compared to the amount of bugs I would encounter during the forest night walk we would have after arriving. When I say I saw a new bug every time I blinked, I mean it. That night I saw all kinds of spiders, worms, ants, crickets, moths, and mystery bugs that I could not classify. Most notably, however, I saw the biggest roach I had ever seen. It was the size of my hand, this roach made the Mushullakta roach seem like a baby.
And I know what this is sounding like, it looks like I am painting the amazon to be a terrible place, but this could not be further from the truth, for my mindset definitely changed as my time there progressed. On my second day, I saw a family of pink river dolphins as we canoed back from a local Siona community where we had a traditional cooking workshop, two awesome experiences in one day. On my third day in Cuyabeno, I got to see sloths, caimans, anteaters, and the most beautiful blue butterflies. I could go on forever retelling all the new and unforgettable experiences I had in the Amazon, but all I will say is that once it was time to go, I was undoubtedly sad to leave. This became clear to me the moment I realized I was having so much fun, that by the second day the heat and bugs were the last thing on my mind.
Not only that, now that I am back in Mushullakta, compared to Cuyabeno, the weather is beautiful, and the bugs are nothing more than a faint sound, especially the roaches. If anything, I appreciate both Cuyabeno and Mushullakta that much more, for I know that if I was able to survive in the depth of the amazonian rainforest, then the highlands will be a piece of cake.