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2. Ecuadorian Rainforest Tour – From Quito to Shell – Achuar Stories

Small community in the Andes on the way to Shell

The next morning we boarded our bus and continued our journey to Shell, a small town perched on the edge of the rainforest.  The small seriously uninteresting town of Shell was named for the oil company which built an air strip to transport its people and supplies into the rainforest while they drilled for oil.   This, as you probably know, ended in the devastation of millions of acres of land and destruction of many indigenous communities.

There is a law suit pending in Ecuadorian courts and we just heard that the oil company lost! After twenty years of stone walling they lost and have vowed to appeal.  I invite you to think good thoughts for the people of Ecuador, as they stand up to the Goliath oil companies to protect their land, their country and their way of life.

That same airstrip is now used to fly people and supplies to Kapawi, one of the most remote eco-lodges in the world.  It is where we would be staying for the next four days.

We choose to travel to Kapawi for several reasons.  We wanted to experience the Amazon Rainforest up close and personal while living comfortably in this stunning eco-lodge.  And we wanted to learn about the rainforest from the Achuar, a group of indigenous people who have been fighting for decades to protect their land from outside development.

The Achuar are a dream culture.  Every morning at 4.00 am everyone in the village gathers around a fire to share their dreams which are interpreted by their medicine man.  Years ago it was foreseen in their dreams that a grave threat would come which would destroy their land and their way of life.  That propelled them to reach out to the developed world.  They invited the missionaries into their communities to teach them Spanish so they could understand and communicate with the world they had envisioned as a threat.

Pastaci River running through the Andes

We were told that one of the Achuar leaders said that originally he thought he was fighting to save his land, his own community.  Then he realized that it was the entire million acres of Achuar territory and all of the Achuar communities that needed to be preserved.  Ultimately, he saw that his actions were really about saving the whole world.  These are people who only came in contact with the outside world in the 1970’s and then by their own invitation, people who have never been conquered, and yet they can see their part in preserving our world. These people are inspirational!

There were a number of miracles on this trip to Shell. There had been torrential rains causing massive mud slides.  So bad was it that our tour leaders were secretly told to return to Quito, the road being considered impassable.

Stuck in the mud

We waited for hours in our bus south of Banos on our way to Shell, while the situation was assessed. We waited in the long line of holiday makers dancing between their colorful vehicles, who also believed they would get through.  And we experienced our first miracle, when David, one of our guides, decided to press on.  And press on we did.  The destruction from the mud slide was all around us.  Homes and gardens were covered in thick layers of mud, all but destroyed, with their occupants doing their best to rescue what they could.

Images of the mud slide in the Andes

Once on the other side of the mud slide David and Christina confessed that there had been a chance the trip would have been canceled or postponed.  Miracles like this followed us the entire trip.  One miracle for me was that it was never too hot or too wet.  We were provided with lovely, mild, dry weather.  And as it had rained in the Andes, the lagoon at Kapawi was full of wonderful water life when we arrived – another stunning miracle. Now on to the rainforest.

GreenTravelerTips:

  • Pack with layers – you never know when you might get stuck.
  • Ask those around you to share their stories – or stories of the places you are visiting.  It will enrich your experience many fold.


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