Imagine walking through the Amazon Forest and being told you have to trudge through a raging river. Yes, that happened today. We started our journey on a small path in the forest where we saw a cacao plant with the pods being eaten by a black disease. Nevertheless, it was so cool to see a wild cacao plant. Shortly after we jumped into the brown, mucky water of a raging river. At the beginning I expected a small little hike through this water, but we ended up going 6 miles on this path. We were led through these fish spider infested waters by a great local named Jefferson. He led us through some extremely tough currents, but made it look like a cake walk.
About a third of the way through our journey we came upon a small waterfall. Everyone was dunking their heads under and all laughing. At this point I decided it was time to start a mid river wrestling match. Of course it was myself, Ben, vs. Ben. It was a great match and Ben ended up winning. Will, who had the snapchat spectacles on today, caught a great view of the first official river wrestling match.
As we went along, everyone began to wear down and the waters felt stronger. This led to a lot of slips, accidental dunks, and lots of vines being pulled to hang on. Our guides were great at keeping us all close and making everyone feel comfortable. As we crept along a stony patch of the water, I went to grab a hold of a rock and saw a massive spider, pulling my hand away and accidentally punching Skip in the face (sorry Skip!).
Then finally we reached a small waterfall with some still water. We spent a few minutes here jumping off the sides, cannonballing into the natural pool. We even got a few football catches with a random fruit that looked like a brown ball. Jefferson smacked it open with his machete and it smelled like alcohol, which meant it had been fermented, but we still did not know what it was. We then concluded our journey with a hike uphill in the forest. We even got to see bullet ants, which are number 10 on the top 10 most painful bites. Luckily nobody got to experience that.
After that, Kallari, a local Ecuador chocolate company came to the lodge to teach about their company and let us taste their chocolate. This was some of the most rich, tasteful chocolate I’ve ever had. They started out as a jewelry company but then transitioned to a cacao company. They spent the first 5 years only selling cacao beans, not even chocolate bars! They found a market in the U.S. and began selling their for better sales. Their company is neatly set up, with the cacao farmers being in charge as the board of directors. This allows them to control what happens to their beans and if a company under them can sell to another company. This was a very neat company and it was amazing to hear their story.
Being in Ecuador, I knew we were in for an adventure. Today was something out of a movie with a muddy, raging river, huge spiders, and seeing bullet ants. Nothing could ever prepare you to walk through water neck deep with random guides you’ve never met, but it’s an experience that I’ll never forget. The next few days we’ll be off the grid at a village we can only travel to through canoe. I can’t wait to experience so much more Ecuadorian culture and share it with you all!