First impressions of Wimbi

Trip Start Mar 27, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2007

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How on earth do I begin to describe this place? I guess I'll start at the beginning...

We spent three and a half hours standing up on an overcrowded and overheated bus out of Esmeraldas, an hour waiting by the roadside, another hour on an open-sided wooden van, then we got out and crossed over the river in a dugout canoe, waited another 20 minuted for the next bus, which was loaded high with buckets of fish, sacks of rice, planks of wood, oh, and passengers. The bus was about 80 years old and looked like it was about to fall to pieces at any second, but it all the locals cared about was it contained the most excellent, modern, enormous speaker, pumping out loud salsa music for the duration of the journey. 

Wendy, the Ecuadorian volunteer who accompanied me on my jungle escapades, had already spent a couple of weeks working in Wimbi. I asked her what she though of life in the community. "It's great!" she said. "I spent every night dancing in the discoteca!!!" Discoteca in the middle of the rainforest??? I'm having to rethink my concept of the jungle...

We bumped and chugged though virgen rainforest and deforested land for two hours, stopping first at the amusingly-named Wimbicito ("Little Wimbi") and then continuing over potholes and bridges half-destroyed by landslides. The passengers, who all evidently knew each other, were rather merry, the clearest source of this being the plastic cup which was repeatedly refilled with Frontera, 49% alcohol aguardiente, ("firewater"), and passed around so that everyone had at least a couple of shots.

As the exhausting 8-hour journey drew to an end, I was shattered. The stacks of supplies on the bus were testiment  to the fact that the residents were forced to travel several hours on these prehistoric forms of transport just to do a weekly shop. I couldn't help wondering why on earth anyone would choose to live in such a remote area.

Then I realised why.

As the sun was setting, I was finally told "This is Wimbi", and after months of expectation I looked out of the window to see... Paradise.

Wooden houses on stilts rose out of the rich earth, and the crystal clear river wound round the village, bordered by coconut trees. Virgen rainforest surrounded the whole community. I was ecstatic. We lugged our bags and backpacks down to the river, and were taken across by canoe, then walked through the village to my new home. There was once mining acivity in the area (the whole village sits on inconceivably vast amounts of gold) and the legacy of this is that the streets are covered with stones, instead of sticky jungle mud. These famous stones are also what gives Wimbi it's widespread reputation for being "clean", a description I found odd until I arrived, and realised just how clean it is.

After dumping our belongings in our house, Alex, the other volunteer and I, dashed down to the river for a swim and a much-needed wash, and I couldn't stop laughing with delight as we watched bats swooping over our heads and fireflies zipping around on the other bank.

We had an incredible dinner (the first of many) of fried fish and rice and boiled plantain, washed down with delicious guanabana juice. By now I was absolutely convinced I had found Paradise. I crashed into bed, still grinning, and realised how LOUD the jungle is, the birds and crickets and rushing river... it's so alive.
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