I posted before my trip to Ecuador how unsure I was about returning to the rainforest. In a nutshell, I didn’t think anything could come close to my Mamiraua experiences from my first visit to South America.
My first week in Ecuador somehow didn’t live up to my expectations. Something was missing. Shiripuno taught me that sometimes it’s just about keeping the faith. Things will come good eventually, if you give it a chance.
Bumping along the controversial Via Auca to the edge of Huoarani territory in a chiva, tropical rain mixed with scorching heat, our guide pointed out a refinery tower, burning brightly even at midday. “That’s an environmental disaster,” he said. “They keep it burning all day, not only when they need to burn off gas. If you look at the bottom of it you’ll see thousands of insects dead on the ground.”
The chiva eventually reached the Shiripuno river after two bumpy hours, decanting us out onto the riverbank where the canoe was waiting. Some people didn’t read the request to leave their heavy suitcases at home so they had to be carted onto the boat.
As soon as we drifted out onto the river, the sounds and the sweet scent of the rainforest surrounded me. A smile spread across my face as I knew I’d made the right choice. Somehow I love the isolation being a few hours from the nearest village, surrounded by nature, offers. Even though I’m a city girl at heart who doesn’t even like camping, the rainforest has something unique that cuts through all that. It’s a privilege to be there.
The Shiripuno lodge was set up by Fernando in 2006. He worked with the local Huorani community to establish the lodge, and many of the guides and staff are from the nearest village, 3 hours away by motorised canoe.
The rainforest here was a complete contrast to the flooded forest and terre firme mix of Mamiraua, and the fetching white boots they provided were covered in mud by the end of the first day’s trek up to a viewpoint over the forest. Bring plenty of changes of clothes if you’re as clumsy as me, as you’ll probably find it easier to slide your way down the hillier parts!
Different trails brought different sightings, from toucans and macaws to a herd of peccaries. I’ll never stop being excited by spotting toucans which are my favourite birds, but the scarlet macaws were really striking as they flew against the heavy grey sky.
As night fell the chorus of insects and frogs would start up, only intensified by the lack of electric light and the humidity.
I was glad I hadn’t listened to all those doubts about returning to the rainforest. It will never grow old or lose its unique nature for me.