I am one day away from my highly-anticipated trip to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about the journey, but I have to say my nervousness is outweighed by my excitement and anticipation. Right now, South America seems like a distant dreamland. Tomorrow night it will be my reality. I'll be thrust into a world vastly different from the familiar surroundings of Massachusetts. I hope to encounter wildlife that I can't even fathom and to make deep connections with people from another part of this vast world that we live in. Recent gear purchases:
- Mosquito net
- Hiking pants
- LED headlamp
- Stainless steel canteen
- 30% deet wilderness insect repellent
From the aforementioned purchases, it's clear that adventure awaits. My former professor, the trip coordinator and supervisor, promises waterfall swimming, a Cessna airplane ride, and Amazon Rainforest "jungle" walks. As the trip's dedicated videographer, I'm very excited at the prospect of capturing some powerful images. After listening to my professor's description, I will be joining him and several other professors from my alma mater— Worcester State University.We plan to consult with the Sarayaku, an indigenous Amazonian tribe in eastern Ecuador. The goal is to form a partnership between this tribe and Worcester State, The Sarayaku is a tribe consisting of approximately 1,200 members spread across 6 villages. This is NOT an uncontacted tribe without experience dealing with outsiders. Don't worry —we won't be performing strange ancient rituals and disfiguring our bodies. In fact, this tribe has several computers and even a Facebook page! From my understanding, the Sarayaku people have one foot in current technology and another in their traditional ways of living off the lush Amazon Rainforest along the Bobonaza River.
In 2002, the Argentine oil company CGC, came on to the Sarayaku land after receiving permission from the Ecuadorian government to search for petroleum. The Sarayaku felt threatened and were forced to defend their land for ten long years. When, in 2012, representatives from the tribe traveled to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica to fight for their land. After the long trek, the Sarayaku people were victorious at that court hearing. Although they won this battle, the threat of government-run oil companies impinging on their land still exists. In the last few years, the tribe has been developing an ecotourism business model. This is where Worcester Sate comes in. Apparently our group has important knowledge that the Sarayaku need for their ecotourism model, and the tribe has important spiritual and environmental knowledge that will be shared with us. Pretty exciting stuff!
To get to this remote area in eastern Ecuador, we must first fly into the capital city of Quito, the highest official capital city in the world at an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, perched high in the Andes.
Last week, 10,000 citizens protested in Quito, opposing proposed constitutional amendments that would permit Rafael Correa to seek a fourth term as Ecuador's president. Many indigenous groups were part of this uprising to push Correa out, because he has allowed oil exploitation and mining on their land. The protests resulted in some violence and 47 arrests.
Just four days ago, the Cotopaxi volcano (30 miles south of Quito) erupted, spewing ash seven miles into the air. This ash reached the capital, which forced residents to wear surgical masks in the city's streets. Several hundred people living close to Cotopaxi were evacuated from the area.
At 19,347 feet, Cotopaxi is the second highest peak in Ecuador, behind only Chimborazo (20,564 ft). The Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes and is considered one of the most dangerous in the world because of its glacial covering, which can result in lahars (mudflows) if a major eruption occurs.
Obviously it's a tumultuous time to visit this region of the world, but as of right now, the political unrest seems to be at bay, and Cotopaxi has been quiet since the small eruption over the weekend. Fingers crossed that we remain unscathed in Quito!
I can't wait to see fantastic wildlife, capture some amazing footage, and transform my current view of the world. Stay tuned for my return blog post and my Summer 2015 edit coming in September!
In closing, I leave you with this:
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
– Ray Bradbury
Break Your Boundaries.
Ecuador flag link- http://bit.ly/1NvLx8c
Ecuador protests- http://gtty.im/1JrKOoW