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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Adventures in Ecuador: Hanging with the Huaorani

To reach the Huaorani Ecolodge, you must first drive four hours from Quito to Shell, where you switch to a 5-seat airplane for a 45-minute flight. Arriving on a grass runway, the Huaorani people greet you and escort you via motorized longboat down the Shiripuno River. Finally you arrive at your lodging for the next three nights, five wooden cabins and a dining room perched overlooking the river. On the edge of Yasuni National Park, the Huaorani Reserve is easily one of the most remote destinations in South America, deep in the Ecuadorean Amazon, at least 100 miles from the nearest signs of civilization.
 What you get in return for your effort is an incredibly authentic travel experience straight out of the pages of National Geographic. Bare-breasted grandmothers show you around their communities, picking the juiciest papaya off the tree for you to try. Led by our Huaorani guide, Emy, we swam under hidden waterfalls and against the current of the Shiripuno River, visited small communities along the river while spotting monkeys, toucans, macaws, caimans, and kingfishers. We also learned the important skills of living in the Amazon bush, how to climb trees and hunt with a 7-foot long poisonous blow dart. Emy hunts wild boar, monkeys, and toucan when hungry. When asked what toucan tastes like, he told me it was better than chicken. Don’t worry. Your menu back at the lodge consists of tilapia, fresh baked bread, green bananas, and fresh fruit juices. 
        Who knows how much longer this authentic travel experience will last. The Huaorani sit atop one of the largest petroleum preserves in the world. For the past 7 decades oil companies have tried to remove them from their land, but thankfully the Ecudorean government has always intervened. Let’s hope the oil companies can remain happy on the outskirts of Yasuni so that future generations of the Huaorani can live off the grid in this dense foliage. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/07/13 at 10:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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