I just returned from a trip to the ciy of Sucua in the "oriente", where Pepe's parents live, and Pepe grew up. "Oriente" is the region of ecuador on the easterly side of the Andes, and is mostly "selva" or jungle. There are cities and development, but this is the part of ecuador which is in the Amazon basin. When we passed thru a tunnel from the Sierra side of the Andes to Oriente, the hillsides were covered with orchids. The landscape, the houses, the dress, the cultivation everything was different.
In oriente, it is usually hot and humid, but the climate is changing here too, and for the first time I needed a blanket at night and it was cool most of the time, because the sun wasn't out. It is " invierno" here , which means rainy season not winter, but i have never seen rains like they are having this year. And not only in oriente; in Cuenca it used to rain a bit every afternoon, but we also had lots of sun. Now it rains heavily and much much more, and very little sun.
We traveled to oriente for "Carneval", ie the days before lent. Carneval a big deal here, but not like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mostly people spend it with family and travel around the country to see its many diverse sites. And throw water on each other! I still can't figure out why...
In oriente, we visited Puerto Morona which is just a few miles from the Peruvian border. There is a brand new asphalt highway, but there were many many "derummbes", or mudslides, because of the heavy rain. sometimes we had to wait for heavy equipment to clear the road. The road is new. Pepe's father used to work in this part of ecuador dispensing malaria pills. It took him 4 days to walk thru the jungle to Puerto Morona. it took us 2 1/2 hours. I thought about this with amazement our whole trip there.
We also took a motorized canoe down to the border with Peru along Rio Morona, a tributary of the Amazon. We disembarked, and stood on a very rough "cancha" or soccer field, half of which was in ecuador and half in peru. The war with peru ended in 2000, with ecuador ceding a lot of land in this area to Peru. We were silent and could hear a torrent of bird song. Didn't see (or eat) any monkeys or anaconda - although we heard both were on the menu.
We also visited a Shuara community near Sucua (Shuara are the native tribe in this part of Ecuador), where we visited with a family who is starting a tourism business. They have built a typical Shura house, which is round and made of bambo with a thatched roof and dirt floor - very cool and appropriate for the jungle. They couldn't have been more hospitable. Nor did they try to shrink our heads! They actually have a very complex cosmology, and this is a part of it. But, now they only shrink monkey heads. Last time I was here in Oriente for carneval in 2010, one of Ana Cecilia's "tonta" sisters-in-law wouldn't get out of the car because she was afraid they would eat her! The Shuaras have their own distinctive culture and language. and it wasn't until the 1990s that they won back their land from white hacienda landowners. if you are interested check out Wikipedia for more detail...
I have less than a month to go!!