Mona deserves her own paragraph- she was cute, cheeky and something I had never experienced before
. Tom told us that Charles Darwin's great grandson stayed at the lodge a few years back, and got to play and hold Mona, and said he finally started to take some of the things his great grandfather had to said into his heart. It was truly unique, she was very human like, mimicking laughter when you played with her and tickled her, and mimicking crying when she didn’t get her way(but stopping her fake sobs to look between her fingers to make sure you were paying attention). She could also be very demanding- liking to be the center to attention and being a right pain in the behind if she wasn’t (opening your bag and stealing something and running off with it. At times she could be a handful, but in hindsight we both do miss her!
The project started with mainly physical work the first few weeks, which was very taxing on the system given the humidity and heat. In all honesty we were expecting to do more research and Sam more photography from the beginning, but didn’t get to till the last two weeks, but we mentally kept ourselves going by looking at it as a free boot camp! We helped clear a large space of trees and shrubs, then dug 9 beds in the hard clay ground and then got large bags of 'abono’(organic matter) from down stream, as well as many loads of sand from down at the beach, to mix into better ground to grow the plants. We then replanted some little plant from the other garden and parts of the jungle
. It was a good start, with many plant already: cinnamon, cherimoya, pineapples, papayas, ginger, turmeric, mint, basil, lemongrass, chili, Dragon’s blood and Cat’s Claw (amongst many others).We worked around the trail at the back of the land, where we helped map the medicinal trail through the jungle, and with the help of a local shaman named and sing posted 100 different plants. This then needed to be put into a list, with the challenging task of figuring out what these plants were from only the Kicha name (and no internet).
We also got to spend some time with another Shaman and ask question about local health, plants and experience a shamanic healing ritual.
We learnt a lot from the experience about the local health system, the jungle and Kichwa way of life, plants, animals (and many creepy ones!). I could go on for paragraphs, so best if you ask when you see me what you want to know about the experience J
Almost straight after our arrival in Ecuador, we started our long trip to the jungle. With somewhat vague descriptions, we took a 5 hour bus to Tena, an hour cab ride to the Aranjuno bridge and looked for a guy named Jorge that was going to take us to the jungle lodge in his canoe. Around 430 we arrived, and were welcome by owner Tom. The idea was that Sam and I (aided by Nanette in the first week) would stay at the lodge for 6 weeks to help start building a medicinal garden that could be used for education to tourists and local communities. Tom bought this piece of rain forest, first to preserve a part of it, but he quickly realised the only way to that is to live on the lodge and protect it. He lives there with his Kichwa wife Charro, and they have the cutest pet monkey (an endangered wooly monkey) called Mona. He has two species of turtles and one species of fish that he is breeding on his property, to help with conservation.