Previous Blogs - Ecuador, 2012

I have transferred my blog posts from my 'Jungle Beef' Facebook group page onto here, so they are all in one place now! 

I´m heeeeeere! Currently at a bus station in Puyo, have already tried some part of a chicken that isn´t normal! Still have no idea what it is. Just waiting for the next bus to take me into the Amazon where I´ll be meeting my host family. All good so far. Flew into Quito and immediately spotted my next challenge, Mount Cotopaxi! Looks so cool. Anyway, not sure when I will next be able to post as I´m going into the land of nowhere really, lets be honest, so yeah, I´m safe and happy and alive and will update again when I can! Lugs, (love and hugs!) Beefs xxxx


Soooo it´s amazing here! The Ecuadorians love to party! They have this fermented sugar cane drink that is pure alcohol. LETHAL! Burns all the way down....and for about an hour after you´ve drank it! It is called veinticinco. We went to a party last night where a baby was kind of getting ´christened´and it just involved a looooot of food and beer! It was a great night. I ate chicken brains and chicken lungs! Guinea pig is next on my list! I went to the school yesterday and the class was only 9 kids! The teacher there was WASTED last night! HAHA and I was dancing with him at the party and he could barely keep his eyes open! So the kids are sooooo adorable, there are just 9 in the class and we were playing games and stuff and had a football match with some of the local guys which was pretty fun. I hate to admit it but I did laugh when the ball got pelted full on on a kids face. Everyone else laughed too so I wasn´t the only one! It was pretty surreal playing football in the middle of the amazon but was really good. Then later in the day I went swimming in a river. No idea which river but it was awesome and I was getting taken away with the current it was so fast! I am trying to post some pictures at the moment of some things from so far. Ummm today we nearly capsized in the river when we were crossing to get into the town. That was fun. Ummm I´m going canoeing tomorrow which should be good. They make the boats by carving tree trunks. I´m going through so rain forest trails next week with a machete so watch out Ecuador as I´m pretty clumsy! Anyway, just another quicky as I want to try and get some photos up! Lugs from beefs xxxx


So I am currently back in Puyo due to a really lovely infection that has made my feet the size of balloons and I can´t walk, the locals are loving it and getting a good chuckle out of my lousy attempt at a hobble! It´s been about a 5 hour bus ride to the nearest hospital so I could get some tests done and finally have some antibiotics so fingers crossed that works. I do get a little treat of spending the night in the city where I can get a proper shower (that isn´t a river!) and a toilet in the hotel room rather than using the forest or walking to another house. Such is life in the tropics! Despite that, I´ve had an awesome week and on Friday, our community celebrated ´Family Day´ which was great. My family consists of mum and dad, 6 kids, 2 teens, 4 adults and me an another volunteer called Olivia who is awesome and we get on really well which is good. We had a big fiesta in the evening with the whole community at the outdoor shelter community center next to the river with lots of dancing to Kichua music, more beer and vienticinco. It´s pretty intense trying to learn Spanish and the local indigenous language of Kichua but it´s fun and I´m enjoying it. On Saturday, my ´mum and dad´and 3 of my sisters and Olivia and I went for a hike in the rain forest which was so cool. They took us to where their old house used to be which was right next to the Rio (river) Napo but they had to move when the government built a road. But it was nice to see where the old building were. My feet got ridiculously gross and worn out by this point and I was falling over every 10 seconds so my dad carried me the rest of the way! And then they brought a rubber ring and let me float down the river back to our community which was so awesome! It was like a river safari and so I saw some cool Amazonian stuff, no idea what they were called but yeah. Then he carried me further up the path to go home and all of a sudden I saw 2 of my sisters come down the road pushing this really random rusty rank wheelchair that we have at our house for some strange reason but has come in very handy! So then I was pushed back up the rest of the road on that! Pictures to follow! They treated me with some natural medicines and stuff which was interesting and very painful! I had to put my feet into freshly boiled water which was insane. It took me ages to take the plunge but I trusted what they were doing so I manned up and did it. Then they wrapped some ´special´leaves round my swelling and bandaged me up until I got to the hospital. Anyway, I´m going to be in Puyo tomorrow and Olivia is coming with me (yay! :) ) so will come online but will try and pop some pics up now and write more tomorrow. Miss everyone loads and hope you´re all okay  Beefs xxxx


Hi all! 

I am currently in the city of Quito for a week or 2, taking Spanish lessons. Its pretty intense trying to learn both Spanish and Quichua in the rain forest so I thought I´d take some time out to get on board properly considering the community don´t speak English! Missing the jungle already though - I´m definitely not a city girl. I wonder why I went to a Uni in London?!?!

It´s been quite an emotional week with not being able to be at home with my family after the news about my Nan but I have been able to say goodbye in my own ways here. Thinking of everyone at home as today was her funeral. I've been so glad to have Olivia here with me. She has been amazing! 

It has also been a very crazy exciting week in the jungle. I´ve seen fat slimy bugs being collected from the tree trunks with axes which actually taste surprisingly alright, I've seen a little monkey being grilled, an iguana being prepared ready for dinner, pulled 3 all nighters after drunken antics in the house from downstairs (NOT from me, just saying!) a crazy wedding party and just general traveling on bumpy roads. 

I´ve had a sort of ´baptism´ceremony where a bit of water was poured on my head and I received a Quichua name of Sumak Warmi which means beautiful girl :/ Not sure who came up with that! My family also said that I am a part of their family too and so I am therefore an Andi-Calapucha too. My other Quichua name is Sacha Warmi which means jungle girl. I like that one much better. My OTHER regular name is Emily as nobody can pronounce Bethan because of the ´th´in it, so I went with my middle name. But I´ve also started introducing Beef into the mix so I´ve got a few names floating around the Amazon! Anyway, at the ceremony, I got appointed my own godfather too which is Javier who I live with and is like my dad here. He is lovely, and was the one that was my superman carrying me through the jungle when I had my infection and couldn´t walk. The doctor didn't actually tell me the name of the infection, so I call it Beefs fat feet syndrome. Think it scared off a lot of the locals! 

The wedding party on Saturday was very interesting and unusual as people don´t tend to have wedding parties. A lot of people here don´t even know what a wedding is. So the party consisted of a lot of food, alcohol and dancing. Classic! I am currently researching online as to what the jungle animal actually was that I ate that night! Haha. Who knows. Then I danced lots, learnt some Quichua moves, then went for a walk with Timoteo where we found a very random night club so we went in there which was another experience! Then headed back to the wedding for more dancing. The family I was there with are lovely, the Calapucha family. Everyone here is really friendly and welcoming and I find myself comparing Ecudor with Tanzania a lot. Both are amazing and it just reinforces how much more there is to see outside of England, so I have a lot of money to save if I´m to continue my travels! 

On Thursday I went on a school trip with the kids to a neighboring community called Chilly Ukru which was fun. There was a football match between the kids and a volleyball match between the adults and then I nearly broke my back when running around with about 4 kids clinging on to me! It was loads of fun though and the kids are awesome here. 

On Wednesday I went for a long hike and crossed the river to another community called ´diez de julio´which translates to 10th of July  We visited Nadino and Islindee and their cute baby Yachak. Elder and Nadino went into the forest to do some macheting and clearing and Islindee, Olivia and I went out collecting yuca for lunch. This was when I tried the fat slimey grubs but they were nice actually, chewy though! 

My plans for the next few days are Spanish lessons, visiting Mitad del Munda (middle of the earth) which is the point where the equatorial line passes through. The city is surrounded by volcanos and mountains so I´m hoping to fit in a climb up Volcan Chimborazo which apparently, due to the bulge in the equator, makes the peak the closest point to the sun. There seems to be lots to see and do in Quito so I´m just going to do what I can whilst I´m here so I can spend more time in the jungle as I loooove it there. 

Im just staying in a hostel at the moment for a couple of nights then going to find a host family to stay with so I can practice my Spanish. 

Will be online more often over the next week or 2 so will update more. Hope you like the new photos and hope you´re all okay  

Oh and sorry for this random post which might be really uninteresting for you! If you do have any questions then just post them and I´ll reply  

Lots of love from Beef xxxx


 This will be my last blog for a little while as it´s my final night in the city for at least 5 weeks. And I PROMISE I won´t make it a long ´un!  

I cannot WAIT to get back into the jungle, back to my host family, the Quichua culture, the heat and the rain, my lumpy bumpy bed, the beautiful children, the crazy fiestas, machetes, rivers, canoes, rice and plantains, yuca, hairy tarantulas  more crazy unknown Amazon species and, of course, the amazing views of the rain forest and the awesome sunsets from my house. 

However, my two weeks here in Quito have also been great and well worth it. In total, I have had 29 hours of 1 to 1 Spanish lessons, so if I still cannot speak very well to my community then I have no hope in life! Haha. My Spanish teacher was lovely and I may be meeting her in Latacunga when I venture out there to attend the Mama Negra Festival at the end of September.

The city of Quito is actually pretty awesome, although, is quite dangerous at night so I have pretty much had to leg it back to the hostel after finishing my Spanish lessons in the evening! Anyway, the city is surrounded by the Andes mountains and volcanoes and as you may have seen by the pictures I recently uploaded, it all looks awesome when looking out from the Basilica church and the angel of Quito statue. 
I am so excited to have the opportunity to go to the Galapagos Islands! I will be there for 3 weeks in total, flying out on September 1st. For the first 2 weeks, I will be volunteering, helping to conserve the islands and doing some observations on introduced species and removing any evasive plants etc. Who knows, I am just going with the flow, seeing what I do and where I end up! For my final week, I will be island hopping, and, I hope to face my fear of sharks and go diving with some hammerheads, as you do! 
My fear of heights DEFINITELY still stands as I discovered last weekend when I couldn´t even get to the top of the Basilica church without nearly vomming on our very helpful tour guide. I was so disappointed with myself! After about 10 minutes of attempting a very steep set of stairs to go up to the church spires, I finally got to the top of them, to then of course, being typical clumsy Beef, trip up the last step, freaking out so much that I came all the way back down again. Brilliant. Anyway, the views that I got from about half way up were amazing anyway! 
I do question if I was actually sane when I did a sky dive and a bridge jump! 
Right, I expect you have all had enough of my lies of ´mini essays´and short blog posts so I will leave it at that. Sorry to hear the weather is so awful in England! I will try and send a few rays over for you! 
Beef xx
Maybe one day I really will write a book on my travels and then you can buy that and see what else I got up to! 
I´m leaving this small, laid back beach town called Canoa tonight at 10pm. Then should arrive in Quito at 5am, then I shall be taking the bus to Puyo and then hopefully catching the 12pm or the 3pm bus from there to Shiwakucha to spend the week in the jungle with my family for goodbyes. A lot of buses, yet again, but I will be where I would like to be for my final week in Ecuador.
Will be sad leaving here but I am of course very excited to come home and see everybody! 
Have left the Cloud Forest and I'm about to head into the jungle. A lovely few days in the Cloud Forest, although I did have to see a pig suffer during the slaughtering process, which I can definitely say is far less efficient than how it would be done in England!
Will update soon x


I have to get a bus back to Arajuno now for the third party night! It has been pretty crazy and there has been so much Quichua dancing and competitions, it has been great! My back hurts from sleeping on what is basically wooden slats for a bed, but its nothing that a couple of beers can´t sort out! 

Will write properly next weekend, maybe!


Unfortunately it wasn´t the best start to the first week as there was 2 separate funerals. One of a 16 year old girl and another of a 14 year old boy - both died in motorbike accidents. It has definitely made me think twice about my antics! 

Folks, get ready for my mini essay on the Quichua culture. Hope it´s worth the read! 

As you are probably aware by now, Ecuador was my personal choice of destination to undertake as my first Anthropology placement for my degree. I had no idea what to expect when I knew that I was coming here and often wondered what life would truly be like in the Amazon Rain forest.  I have seen numerous documentaries, read multiple articles and looked at lots of pictures, but, still I arrived here with a very open mind ready to be amazed!

Although I´m here from an anthropological viewpoint, I think and hope that you might all find the indigenous Quichua community that I am living in very interesting to read about also. So here is just an overview about this particular culture of South America. What I have written is information that I have found out just by my being here. The people are extremely friendly and very willing to provide me with as much information and history of their culture as they can and were very excited to find out that I was a student of Anthropology. The Quichua culture is their life and it is easy to see how much pride they have in it.

They began by explaining just how important it is to them and how they are trying with much effort to keep the culture alive and to not let it be disregarded or put in the background. The Ecuadorian government have made it very clear on their views of indigenous communities, portraying them as unimportant minorities. This is actually very incorrect and ignorant of the government as, in fact the population of Ecuador consists of

65% Amerindian (mixed indigenous and European heritage)

25% purely indigenous
10%  Spanish and Afro-Ecuadorian, (mostly from Cimarron communities and slave ship castaways.)

(Thank you Wikipedia for the statistics, I´m not going to take credit for gaining that info!)

Quichua is a massive culture here, however, there are actually two groups of Quichua cultures. They both call themselves Quichua but they are actually totally different from each other. The larger of the two groups are situated in the sierras in the mountains and the smaller of the two is located in the Amazon basin, in eastern Ecuador. This is where I am staying and can therefore explain what I know about the indigenous Quichua people of the Amazon.

As much as rivers are the primary means of transport for the rainforest Quichua, the government built a road that goes through the community I am staying in called Shiwakucha. This road was built around just 8 years ago, so only pretty recently has this community been ´connected.´ This new build, (which is very very bumpy and stony  not tarmac might I add!) led the old Shiwakucha community to abandon their previous homes and rebuild them nearer the road. And when I say nearer the road, they really are on the edge of it! This means that they now had the means to travel by bus which connects the main towns and cities, for example, Arajuno, Tena and Puyo (despite the journeys being many hours long). My Amazon family took me to visit their old house which was in a lovely area near the river and they said that they missed it very much. However, just as in every developing area, times change and people fend for what becomes more practical and accessible for themselves and their families.

On Thursday night, I did an interview with one of the elderly men from Shiwakucha with the help of Teodoro who translated it into Spanish and then Olivia who translated it into English for me! He wanted to tell me about some of the traditions that were prominent just 20 years ago and how and why they have changed. This is where parts of my information has come from and I write it to you in order for the awareness of their culture to expand.

Shiwakucha itself is here today and has been for only 30-40 years and is all thanks to one lady, Juana, who is the grandmother of pretty much the whole community which consists of people from the Calapucha family and others who have married into the Calapucha family. She is the oldest person of Shiwakucha and I am not totally sure but I would estimate that she is around 70 years old. It is very unusual to see such elderly people and I am intrigued into finding out why this is, perhaps looking more into official mortality rates and reasons among the Quichua community.

The community started in Tena and then branched off into Arajuno which later led the grandmother to moving her community from Arajuno to Shiwakucha. This was due to the increase in oil companies working in Arajuno. The Quichua people do not like this because of the damage that the oil causes to the environment and natural surroundings, which, of course are very very important to these people who live their lives side by side to nature, getting pescado (fish to eat) from the rivers, grubs from the tree trunks, fruit from the trees, medicines from the leaves and so much more. The oil issues have been happening for the past 40 years and affects other indigenous groups in the region too, however, the Quichua are among those who have been impacted more recently. Nowadays, indigenous groups are beginning to form a unity with enough size to be able to form organizations that can speak out loud to the government and bring attention world wide. Nadino Calapucha, a friend from the Quichua community stated that there are three things that are fundamental to the Quichua culture and the key ingredients in making sure this culture is not lost. These are:

1. The unique Quichua language

2. Chicha, which is a drink made from the roots of the yuca plant. It takes about a day to make as the yuca is boiled whole, then mashed up and then chewed and spit into a large wooden bowl and left to ferment for up to a week. The taste is quite sour and it´s not something I am over the moon to drink! But I respect the importance of it to the people here as they drink it regularly. I would say that our equivalent to chicha in the importance of this nutrient, is water. And they say that chicha helps them work, stops them getting dehydrated or hungry and sees them through each day.

3. Wayusa (which I will explain more about now!)

WAYUSA is a natural plant found in the jungle and has many uses, such as in medicine and tea. There are four main reasons for drinking it. These are:

1. Cleans the mouth like toothpaste

2. To not feel hungry
3. Pain relief in bone and muscle aches
4. Brings more strength and wakes up the mind

They also believe that by drinking it, snakes will not bite you if, for example, you are working and encounter a snake, it will not attempt to bite you.

Another interesting and important part of their culture is a wayusa ceremony. At around 2am or 3am every day, each family will get up out of bed and drink wayusa together whilst talking and catching up with what has happened the previous day and to plan the work they are going to do for the rest of the day. I plan to join one of their ceremonies very soon! It is easily available and also drunk in the cities too as a tea.

Wayusa is currently under a lot of scientific study to find out why it works.

A shakra is a large clearing in the forest, used mainly more the growing of crops and staple products. Men are in charge of cutting down the trees so that the plants have sun to grow. Women are in charge of the planting of, for example, yuca and corn. There are 48 different things that can be planted in a shakra. Before planting, the women would hold a ceremony to invoke the sun. They sang and danced and painted their faces with the red and black achotay berries. Yuca is a main staple that is used very much. After around 3 months, the yuca is about 3 feet tall. You have to get down really low with a machete and cut the weeds around the yuca to allow them to have the space they need to grow and to be able to get the roots. After a year, the yuca is ready to eat. It is a very hearty, strong, filling part of a diet. I went out and helped to collect yuca with Nadino´s wife, Islandee. We cut the yuca stems off and I dug out the roots. After a few days, the stems can be replanted and they will regrow. We then got back, peeled the yuca, cut and cleaned them and boiled them for lunch. I really like eating yuca, especially fried!

Cocoa, coffee and sugar cane all take a lot longer to grow but in terms of economical value and income, people are shifting towards these crops rather than the ones that take a shorter time to grow. Before, they were living off the land only but now they live off the land and money. Cocoa is a product that can generate a profit and is traded widely, whereas, yuca was just something to eat. They are now looking for land space to make more.

As you have probably seen from my pictures, Western style clothing is very prominent and has replaced traditional dress. They used to make their own clothes, but now that they make money from the crops that I wrote about earlier, they buy clothes.

Traditional shaman DO still exist. They are people who are trained in ancient rain forest Quichua practices of magic and healing. In fact, my Amazon dad and his sister in law both performed Shaman rituals on me using special leaves when I was ill which an unknown stomach bug. Did it work? Who knows? I didn´t throw up any more times after they had performed it after a full night and morning of vomiting ....but was that down to magic leaves or just that my bug naturally went away?! Traditionally, and even today, they prepare a tea from the ayahuasca (iya-wuska) plant which translates roughly from Quichua into “vine of the spirit.” It is an hallucinogen used for ritual clairvoyance, healing and spirit worship. My family also believed that the reason I was sick not long after my foot infection was because a bad spirit was able to enter me due to me being so weak and tired after the previous infection.

The belief in natural medicines and remedies from the forest is extremely high whether you are a Shaman or not. For example, my Amazon brother, when I had the infection on my feet made me put them in and out of freshly boiled water for 15 minutes, before wrapping some particular leaves around my feet. After an agonizing few days, I ventured into Puyo hospital, about a 6 hour journey away where I was given antibiotics which kicked in perfectly!

Now for a bit of random info! Volleyball and soccer are the sports of choice today and I see a lot of this played in the community. Regular friendly matches of 3 men vs. 3 men (never women) occur up near the river and by the school where there is a volleyball net. As for soccer, I play that regularly with the kids and on the school trip to Chillyukru, the children of each school played matches against each other.

Annually, there is a 2 day festival held in Latacunga called ´Fiesta de la Mamá Negra.´ It is known as being the best of all Quichua celebrations and is the best known indigenous Indian people´s festivals in Ecuador and this September, I plan to travel there and see for myself the unusual, mystical and exciting ways of this festival. I am very excited!

Since I haven´t been yet, I have taken some information on the festival from good old Wikipedia  just so that you all (and myself!) get a gist of what this festival is all about. Of course, once I have actually attended, I will be able to document and write in my own words exactly what I saw and did. So here is a brief account of the festival from the words of the world wide web (my account will be much better 

The first of the Mama Negra festivals was held by the people from the markets "La Merced y Del Salto" in honor of the "Virgen de la Merced". The Virgin is venerated because she stopped the Cotopaxi Volcano eruption in 1742. That is the reason why Latacunga's inhabitants call her “Abogada y patrona del volcan” meaning lawyer and boss of the volcano.

The second celebration is a party which all Latacunga’s inhabitants celebrate every year on Independence Day. It is a parade with the participation of well-known people, the army, clergy and others.
Officially a Roman Catholic religious celebration, as you would expect, local alcohol bars are closed on the first night of the festival. The second day begins with a traditional mass. Immediately after mass, a statue of the Holy Virgin is carried through the streets. Locals throw garlands at the statue in hopes of receiving blessing and good favor. Then, just as the day before, cross-gender dressing and masked-costume street dancing form the bulk of the activities. The public parade of sacrificed, butchered pigs, adorned with other dead animals as well as packets of cigarettes and bottles of wine and liquor are also to be seen. Men wear these ritual, pagan offerings to the spirits like a backpack as they accompany the dancers and musicians through the streets.
Both of these fiestas include a lengthy parade of various cultural characters, all dressed-up in various colors. The 'mama negra' is the last person to pass through, which is the culmination of each parade. It is a person with their face painted in black, riding a horse, and spraying the crowd with milk. Homemade strong alcoholic drinks are freely passed between one another along the parade route, which can be quite chaotic, closing the road at times and making the route unpassable.

Right, I will leave it there for now! There is still so much I could talk about and so much more I want to find out about this South American tribal culture. Hopefully you have enjoyed this little insight into the culture I am intertwined with right now. I am enjoying it so much here and love living their lives and seeing how they live a native, South American life, so different from our Western traditions.

Watch this space! 


Right, it´s been a while since I wrote and I am now writing under stressed conditions, trying to sort out my visa which is such a joke and is pretty much the only downfall of travelling. Got to find somewhere to stay tonight which is just ridiculous. Who invented sleep?! Once I get more food down me, I will be in a better frame of mind so until then, I apologize for my scrambled writing. 

Anyway, soooo much has happened since I last wrote! It´s been so busy so hopefully the pictures have been a sufficient update. I really don´t know where to begin so I´m just going to write randomly and see what happens and will probably have forgotten a bunch of stuff.

So I ate rat. And monkey soup. Tortoise eggs, massive snails and a bunch of other jungle animals. I have given up asking what I´m eating and just shove it in and hope for the best really. Wasn´t a huge fan of the monkey soup but the meat part was nice. 

I went camping far into the jungle which you may have seen the pictures of. There was 10 of us in total and the 3 guys with the guns were out hunting for jungle animals in order to feed the guests at the fiesta. I went fishing lots and for breakfast, we had the snails, which was pretty rank really as they were soooo chewy. I much prefer the little pincey ones my Nan used to cook for me at Christmas but hey ho, such is life in the jungle. In the nights, we were on the look out for pumas and monkeys. We heard them but didn't see them. 

I went to Tena alone and took the wrong bus back and almost ended up in Wayrani territory which is another Amazon tribe. So with about 8 bags of food shopping, I ventured back to Tena with the assistance of the bus guy, who gave me a tour of Tena and then we went for a beer and had a chat and all was good. The next day I got the RIGHT bus back, only to find that the bus after the canoe wasn't for another 3 hours, so, I walked for about an hour and a half in the blaaaazing sun to my house, each plastic bag gradually breaking with every slow step I took....Not the best experience of my time in Ecuador! 

Work wise, I have been planting and picking lots of yuca and cocoa, macheteing, helping build shelters and small cabanas for the fiesta, carrying planks of wood through the jungle and then floating down the river on them, fishing, shaving tree trunks, de-feathering chickens and lots of other jungle beefing. 

Whilst working with the community, I get the chance to find out more about Ecuador/Amazonian life. Random story for you; about 4 or 5 years ago, the Ecuadorian military stole 2 anaconda snakes from the Brazilian Amazon, 1 male and 1 female. They brought them back to Ecuador in order to do some research on their brains as they are apparently very intelligent animals. However, they escaped. Eventually, they found the male anaconda but by this time, they´d already reproduced and the female was preggers with loooots of beastly babies. Now, the river in the province of Coca is extremely dangerous. My Amazon dad was working there for 10 months last year and told me that a driver of a lorry who was drunk crashed and fell into the river and the anacondas definitely ate well that night. I can´t really think of any other way to write that, sorry! 

On 10th August, we were supposed to have a fiesta for the weekend as a celebration of the anniversary of Shiwakucha, founded in 1975. The Friday night, all went well, lots of dancing and drinking, laughing and getting to know more of the Calapucha family. At about 2am, we had the awful news that Salamon, a 28 year old guy from the community, a main figure who did so much for the community was found dead in the canoe at the fiesta. He had fallen head first off the diving board. It was absolutely awful and so so sad to see everyone so upset. People tried to resuscitate him but unfortunately, we were all left to grieve. We had his funeral on the following Monday where his coffin was placed in a tomb next to his dad near to their house. He was such a nice guy and always making jokes and I have some great memories with him. 

My last couple of days in the jungle, I spent with my family which was great. Other members of the community came over to say bye and we all shared the monkey soup and chicha. It was sad to leave but next week, I am going back as I have been invited to a wedding of one of the cousins which I am really looking forward to. 

I have been learning a lot about witchcraft and shamanism in the Amazon which is a topic of Anthropology that I am really interested in. Witchcraft is prominent throughout Ecuador and there are some who practice good magic and others that practice bad. There is a man in Arajuno, a neighbouring town that is a ´bad witch´who used it to obtain land or to wish illness on people and who can prevent women from childbearing. The majority, however, are good and use witchcraft and perform shaman ceremonies with the use of natural medicine and ayawuska in order to cure illness. There is one shaman in Shiwakucha called Camillo who has performed many intense shaman ceremonies in order to get rid of sickness. I have also learnt that in some parts of the Amazon, there are camps that tourists pay about $2000 for 1 week in order to experience the ceremonies involving the use of iyawuska. I am still researching more on this ´drug´which I have seen being used as a hallucinogenic where the people claim to see a massive boa and bite insects out of each others arms and pour alcohol on each others heads. I am looking forward to finding out more!

Yesterday I went to Latacunga and had some amazing views of the Volcan Cotopaxi which I plan to attempt to climb when I get back from the Galapagos Islands. Latacunga is where the Festival de Mama Negra is going to be so it was good getting to know the area and the place I will be staying in at the end of September. Today I am in Quito attempting the embassy. And not in a good mood so I am afraid I am going to have to leave it there and write again soon hopefully when I am still in the country legally! Chow!

The most condensed update I could possibly write about the last few days.....!

So on Friday I headed back into the jungle, yay! I was so happy to be back there after the stressful week in the city. I will say it again, I am NOT a city girl! Jungle beef all the way. Anyway, I went to a new community called Cananbo which is where the wedding was held. I arrived on Friday night, to what was of course, a very big party! It was so nice to get there as most of Shiwakucha were there too, so I felt at home, with friends and family. There was a volleyball match going on which is always fun to watch as they play really well. During the game, they would be passed the beer and the veinticinco to keep them going!

By about 11pm, I was so tired from what had been a full day of bus travelling and I wasn't feeling too great, so, Ventura, Jonathan, Leno, Elder and I hopped on the back of a truck up to the house and dropped my bags off and went to the river to shower and then I could finally go to sleep. At about 2am we were woken up by a very drunken Wilber, where we got up to drink chicha and then again at about 5am to drink wayusa! A classic, disrupted Amazonian sleep....

The next day was the wedding, so I had monkey and yuca for breakfast, which I am now fully accustomed to. (You kind of have to be when there is a monkey arm and claw hand staring back at you from the bowl!)

I then helped the women give out chicha to the other women who were busy cooking, and to the men who were busy doing.........nothing.....!
Afterwards I went to watch the traditional dancing of the godparents that is dedicated to the husband and wife and their parents. It is very emotional and they cry, a lot. At this point, the wife and her family are not present. They arrive later. Then to put it briefly, they have the ceremony and then the giving of the gifts which you can see in the photos.

Unfortunately, all of my photos from before the gift giving got accidentally deleted by Jonathan! Which I was gutted about but worse things happen, and I have another 3 months to make up for it! 

During the day, there is more food, (chicken this time!) with rice, salad, soup, yuca and bananas. Not to mention, drunk people, more beer and veinticinco and a lot more drunk people!

Before the real party started in the night, I went to bathe in the river, for what I thought was going to be a nice, relaxing, much needed, shower. That was until Elder told me that we have to be super quick as it is really dangerous there in the night. I asked what animals there are that make it so dangerous? He said, no, its not animals, its people! They come from within the jungle, a tribe with spears and sticks and rocks, and to put it bluntly, kill you. His Uncle said that he never goes there alone and is even terrified to be in the house on his own. I was soo scared! And have never showered so quickly in my life! I pretty much legged it back to the house from the jungle and back down the road to the wedding!

So, the party.....Dancing, dancing, dancing, drinking, sit down for 20 seconds to then be asked to dance again, a bit more beer, dancing........suddenly the songs have lengthened to about 20 minutes per song.....20 seconds chill time, dance, drink, dance........I WAS KNACKERED!!!!!! Eventually, I left to rest for a bit but of course, fell asleep. I woke up at 3.45am to the music still blasting and the band still going strong! It was pouring down with rain and thundering and lightening so I went back to the house to an actual bed as I was freeeeezing! Then at about 7am I woke up to the music, yes, STILL playing. These people know how to party hard!

Anyway, I left on the Sunday to get back to Quito as I had my visa to sort again on the Monday. I arrived in the city at about 11pm at a host family who weren't answering the door. (Later, I was to find out that I had been pressing the wrong doorbell the whole time!) During my anxious wait in a derelict, dark street at night, I truly believed I was going to be eaten alive by the massive dog that was growling, barking and salivating on the balcony of the house behind me. I froze to the spot and dreaded moving a muscle! Rabies, mauled to the bone, adios world!

Eventually, the mum came to the door and I was so happy to be in a warm house, with a comfortable bed and a hot shower!

Yesterday, I visited a foundation for young girls aged from 12 - 18 years old. This foundation is focused on helping these girls who have been abused, raped or abandoned by their family, some of them even being mothers. In total, there are about 15 girls at the center  They sleep, eat, work, live there, in an environment that you can imagine must get very boring and tedious. Many of the girls attempt to escape, so the door always has to be locked in an attempt to prevent this.

One girl did manage to escape whilst they all visited the park, (just outside the doors of the center . Sometime after, she was seen with a man in which they assume she turned to prostitution. Unfortunately this is a very common path to turn to.

The girls have to work each day, making purses, bags and bracelets. One girl has to make 7 bracelets a day. That might not sound a lot but the bracelets they make are completely handmade and crafted very precisely and intricately. The bags and purses they make from recycled rubbish - plastic carrier bags, crisp packets, paper etc. I will post a picture soon of a couple of the purses that I bought from them so you can see.

Another girl who is deaf got pregnant when she was just 15 years old. They think she was taken advantage of because of her disability, but now she is at the center and being taken care of and is with her baby who is now 2 years old.

Sadly, just last week, a 2 year old girl was brought to the center and just left by her mother.

Yesterday afternoon when I arrived at 2pm, most of the girls had gone for a trip down to the swimming pool. There were 4 girls left which myself and another volunteer, Julie, took to the bigger park, about 20 minutes walk away. Three of them played basketball on the court whilst the other girl, Yvonne, stayed sitting with Julie and I. Yvonne suffers from some sort of learning disability and is very depressed, often trying to escape and run away. Whilst we were at the park, she was trying to make a bracelet that she told us she wanted to sell to a man in the park so that she could buy a mobile phone. We asked why she wanted a phone and she said she wanted to call her mum and Auntie who supposedly live in Santa Domingo, about 40 minutes from the center  Yvonne told us she hadn't seen her mum for a long time and that she had not visited. Yvonne got very upset and tried to leave and also tried to call the police over so that she could ask them to take her to her mum. When we got back to the center and spoke to the lady in charge, she informed us that Yvonne doesn't have any family. Her dad left her at the center 10 years ago, when Yvonne was 10 years old and the mother and other family members have never been around.

It was really upsetting to see that Yvonne refuses to believe that she has no family and to see just how unhappy she is every day. She knows the truth about her past but still holds out hope that she can get away.
It made me feel so lucky to have the family and friends that I have.

Plans for the next few days?....

Today at 3pm, I should, fingers crossed, be getting my Visa! And if not, then I officially give up and will be staying in the country illegally until someone realizes and I get deported!

If all goes to plan today, then tomorrow I will be travelling to the coast, Puerto Lopez, where I will be going humpback whale watching on Friday. It´s nearly the end of the whale season before they migrate so I really hope I get to see some.

Friday afternoon I will catch the bus to the city of Guayaquil to stay for the night before my flight to the Galapagos Islands on Saturday morning. So excited! Despite my fear of flying which I´m just refusing to think about right now!

More updates of whales and Galapagos soon 


1 week until my flight home and I am sorry I have been useless at updating my blogs! I have been crazy busy and feel as though I have spent three quarters of the last month sitting on buses! 

Hi everyone!

Not much to report here at the moment. It´s been a pretty relaxed weekend catching up with Elder. Feels like I only saw him a few weeks ago rather than 5 months ago! He went back to work on Sunday so yesterday I went and sorted my visa out and luckily all went to plan and my worries of having to overstay my visa were put to rest! 

South American traditions have begun already with a soup that consisted of 4 chicken feet. Yum. I think I have probably consumed most of a chicken by now. I have to admit, fried liver, lungs and the other fried goods that were on my plate have to be my favorite. The brain is probably at the bottom of the list....

I´m making my way to the North of Quito later today to go to Ofelia bus terminal where I will be heading to the Cloud Forest. Remember I went there towards the end of my trip last time? I stayed in a lovely community called Las Tollas with an even lovelier couple, Magdalina and her husband (I´ve forgotten his name as she always called him ´mi amor!´. They are two of the nicest people I have met whilst travelling and she was very happy to hear from me and immediately invited me to visit. So, I´m off to visit there tonight; I can´t wait to see some familiar faces. There is a volunteer from America also staying with her so that will be nice to meet someone new. 

I will be helping out milking the cows, planting seeds in the chagras, and seeing the progress of my last trip there where I helped plant cocoa seeds. Hopefully all went to plan and they should be pretty tall by now! 

Friday, I will be heading back to Quito and travelling all the way down South again to get to the OTHER bus terminal, Quitumbe. I´m meeting Elder there after he finishes work, so at about 7pm. Then we will head to the jungle together where I will finally get to see his family and the community, Shiwakucha again. I can´t wait! It´s been hard not to eat all of the Haribos that I have in my bag that I bought over from England for Elder´s brothers, sisters, niece and nephew! So I shall be glad to get them shared out at the weekend, haha! 

This weekend however, we may be slightly delayed getting to Shiwakucha as there is a big indigenous festival going on in Puyo where we will be stopping over for the night to stay with Elder´s Uncle, Auntie and cousins. That will mean beer, dancing and lots of venticinqo - (pure fermented sugar cane....the drink I mentioned last time that burns the throat alllllll the way down!....They say it ´kills the parasites in the stomach.´ I´m sure it takes out most of your insides as it flows like a very angry beast through the body system!) 

I will also be helping in the minga at Shiwakucha (community day of work). Looking forward to getting my wellies on and getting hold of a machete again! 

Next weekend there is yet another big fiesta. This time in the town Arajuno. It is run by ACIA which translates more or less to the Association Center for Indigenous People of Arajuno. This organisation in Arajuno devises community projetcs and defends the rights of the indigenous people in the surrounding 21 communities (including Shiwakucha). They have stepped in numerous times as petrol companies have come to Arajuno to try and pay off the Quichua people for their land. 

Anyway, everyone is looking forward to the party and there will be Quichuas from all communities attending. I´m excited for full nights of dancing! 

Jet lag finally caught up with me and I was asleep by half 8 last night. Up at half 6 this morning and off to the park in a bit to read a bit of my book in the sun before heading off tonight. 

I´m not sure when I will get to internet again but of course I will update when I can. Hope you are all enjoying the English sun! And good luck to those of you who have exams this month!

Chao for now  

Beef xx


No time to write! 

Absolutely no time to write! But just to let you all know that I am fine, loving jungle life and very happy to be back in Shiwakucha. 

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