The raft is finished!
The barrels, the bamboo, the plywood and the zinc-roof have transformed itself into a beautiful little raft 10m x 4m. We are getting very close to the actual departure, floating into the “lungs of the World”, the huge green expanse of jungle-wilderness called Amazonia. I am anxious to get going.
Our friendly tribal landlord has been very helpful throughout the construction, we’ve been lucky to have him on our team. The father and his two sons in their mid-20s have been very helpful throughout the construction with tips, practical ideas and lots of actual work. His wife and daughters have prepared lunch for us while we, the men, have worked the construction. It has been a wonderful experience to get to know this local Amazonian family from the Shuar Tribe and I think they might have enjoyed the interaction very much as well. They have a 15 year old daughter with DOWN syndrome and she is monitoring our construction throughout the day and quickly bursts into a smile when I make eye-contact with her. “Comida, Comida !” she anxiously informs us, when her mother has prepared the lunch and the family summons in the little basic wooden house to eat together and talk.
One of the sons wants to come with us on the raft for a week to the border with Peru, as he thinks he can buy cheap fishingnet there. And because he wants to join the adventure, I guess. The father shows great interest in the raft-design and wants to build a larger permanent raft and make a little restaurant and flotel = floating hotel to attract local guests and tourist. “How much would the architectural plans cost?” he asks. He knows how to build it, but need some design, drawings, weight-and-buoyancy calculations and material-lists. “Nothing, we can design it for you” we reply and have engaged in the design of a 8 x 8m floating restaurant in 2 floors with some basic rooms.
We sleep in a bar in a somewhat poor neighborhood in the little jungletown of Coca, Ecuador. The bar owners, Jaime and Stephanie, have become our good friends and they take us on excursions around the area to show us the jungle. “Gotta do something else, can’t just work on the raft all the time” they say and I love their South American logic: Don’t work too much, let’s socialize, explore and laugh.
“Here!” Stephanie says as the bus slowly passes another curve. We get off in the middle of the jungle and walk 2 minutes to a little basic house, where their friend Leonel is meeting us. Handshakes, jokes and a huge machete: we are ready to explore the jungle.
Trees that bleed, trees that walk, the jungle for sure is a weird place. Giant flowers, weird insects, constant jungle buzz-noise as we venture around on trails that doesn’t exist and Leonel explains about the flora. We sleep in hammocks and set off into the jungle the next morning to reach a waterfall. Slippery muddy slopes and lots of things to photograph makes progress slow. Finally we arrive at a river, deep inside the jungle and spend some hours swimming and exploring, far far away from civilization.
Jaime’s good friend, Rafael, is a manager at the local zoo and wants to take us around on a little “backstage tour” that starts with a visit inside the caiman-crocodile cage. I like the concept of the Zoo: many animals just roam freely around in the jungle habitat and the visitors include several wild monkeys who seek to steal food from the “Real Zoo Animals”. We visit the nursing areas, talk to the feeders, hang out with the construction team who is building a new monkey cage and play with the Tapirs, great day.