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  You are here: Home > Travel Stories > South America

Travel Story by Nathalie Koenig

  Shangri La Jungle Lodge in the Amazon rainforest
Tena, Ecuador

One of the natives after rafting!

A stay at the Shangri La jungle lodge gave me an awesome view overlooking the jungle canopy. Other highlights were a breathtaking sunrise and sunset and an incredible thunderstorm with flashing lightning and roaring thunder.

One night I was fast asleep, unaware that it was pouring with rain outside with flashes of lightning. When there was a lightning flash, I thought someone had tried to take a photo of me but I ignored it! A couple of flashes later I started to think that maybe the owner was trying to wake me up as I had locked the door for security.

Then the rain slowly dripped on my bed and caused me to get up. I tiptoed to the door and opened it. It felt like ‘Gone with the Wind’ as it was a shock to see how heavy the rain was and the shooting lightning. I sat on the hammock on the balcony and was spellbound as I watched the spectacular storm wide-eyed with excitement! (My bed was soaked through as the wooden wall was leaking water!)

The whole of the next day was spent white water rafting down grade 3 and 4 rapids down the Upper Napo, which joins the mighty Amazon River. Lunch was also included. I thought it would be boring because I have rafted down grade 4 and 5 rapids in New Zealand but I was wrong! It was amazing to see the start of rapids and the waves, which continued all day. And, it was a really a good experience, especially when the raft/boat flipped!

The river was very wide so we jumped in and let the current (very cold) carry us along until the guide called us back to the raft before tackling the next rapid. The guide was fantastic and very lively. He encouraged us to stand up and told us to trust him while holding our hands, but he tricked us and pushed us into the water! There was another game where we all sat at the back of the raft and the guide pulled it up into the air, along the river until it flipped over. We loved it and made him do it again until we were cold, shivering and tired!

We stopped for a yummy lunch of ‘burritos’ with fruit: pineapple, oranges and watermelon. The 'tea' break was the best though because we were taken to a hidden beautiful little canyon where we all had fun pampering and smearing ourselves with a variety of different coloured mud. We looked good!

The guide even made me a skirt and a headband using the native plants so that I really looked like a girl from Ecuador!

We returned to our fantastic lodge for the evening and went on a jungle trek (gulp!) with a local guide for 3.5 hours through the wet and lush green rainforest. He was brilliant, showing us all the different plants, eating beetles (no-one else wanted to try!) and put his hands in a leaf-cutter ants’ nest, which was located inside a tree. Honestly, his hands were covered in ants and looked like those of the ‘Candyman’ (you will understand if you have seen this film!). I said, “Candyman”, three times and everyone looked petrified - I laughed but was nervous at the same time, and was relieved that there was no mirror near us! He encouraged us to eat just one lemon ant from the lemon plant seeds and it did indeed taste like lemon!

We also walked along a narrow gorge which was just wide enough for our waists and climbed up its steep inclines by ‘sliding’ our bums using our hands which were pressed against the rocks behind us while hundreds of bats flew over our heads. Scary!

Even worse, Mel, who was behind me, saw the head of a boa constrictor snake and panicked. The guide chased it away but it hid in a hole. I was really scared to walk past, as I knew it was somewhere near and I have a real phobia of snakes. I found out later that it was 10 metres long and it eats the bats so we were walking through its eating zone!

Click on photo to enlarge

View from Shangri La Jungle Lodge  Leaf-cutter ants

Date Submitted: 25 Jan 2007

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