It was in the Southeast of Ecuador. After hitchhiking in the darkness, I arrived in Zamora, a town located in a valley surrounded by Amazonian forests.
It was 8 PM. I just had “arroz con pollo” (rice with chicken) on the street. I immediately felt that I had enormous energy and ready to conquer the world!
Just kidding, I was at least ready to do a bit walking.
I asked some passers-by:”Excuse me, do you know where is the entrance of Podocarpus national park”?
Answers I got were as following.
“Oh let me see. Eh… It’s really far!”
“You need to find a taxi and go tomorrow!”
“It’s very dark! You won’t find the way!”
“Young man, it passes through a poor neighborhood and it’s not safe to walk through there at this hour!”
“Hotel! You need a hotel! and a taxi!”
“There are pumas, bears in the jungle!”
I started hiking, pretending to be casually turning my head while passing a poorly-lit neighborhood so that those drunk topless youth on the street would not see my face.
That was the last trace of human existence I saw. For the next 10 kilometers or so there was just jungle, jungle and……jungle. The badly-lit lights were fading away and so was the loud music. I felt refreshed.
However, if you think then I had total quietness, you are mistaken. The river was roaring down the mountains, with waves as white as human skeleton. Noise of some night birds was as scary as a horror film. The passing breeze was creepily brushing thick leaves. The strangest thing of all was that although it was full of all kinds of noise, I felt complete silence and calmness IN MYSELF. I felt thoroughly liberated. All the human traces disappeared and I was, like our ancient ancestors, simply in the jungle again. I could feel my connection with this jungle in my genome. I was smiling stupidly to nobody.
Some leaves were so big that they could cover my whole body. The mosses were so thick that you could sleep on it like a 5-star mattress. However, don’t plan to sleep on it, because it was wet with night dew.
Then suddenly I saw something shining like a devil’s eye in the thick darkness. I was scared and jumped aback, with the stupid smile still lingering on my sun-burnt face. Then more and more appeared. One eye became countless eyes, blinking on and off, surrounding me.
“Some wild animals lurking there? Seriously, do I look that tasty to attract so many predators?” I thought. I examined my lean body and concluded that “No, I am not worth the trouble.”
I walked slowly towards one of those “eyes” and it went off. I stealthily took out my mobile and turned on the torch.
“Nope, they are not eyes, but fireflies! thousands of them!”
My stupid smile returned. Imagine, thousands of fireflies were around you and some of them even flew onto your arms, aroma of various flowers in the air and refreshing whiz of waterfalls just within earshot.
After I-have-no-idea how long, I felt tired. The rice with chicken faded away, together with the human traces. I started looking for a place to camp.
Who needs a hotel if one has a tent?
Who needs taxi if one has two legs?
It proved a difficult task to find a piece of flat land neither marshy or without thorny branches. After struggling in the darkness for half an hour, I finally located a piece of flat land. Surprisingly there were a pile of tiles in the middle of this land. Beside the tiles there was a tree, looking rather elegant with a stretched branch like a waving hand, looking rather welcoming.
I set up my tent just under the tree and grabbed my towel, dirty underwear and toothbrush and then headed for the nearest waterfall, totally naked. The sound of thundering water was so awakening that in a second all the fatigue was gone and I jumped into the pond.
I bathed in this stunning beauty, surrounded by countless fireflies and perfumed by fallen flowers. Then I washed my dirty underwear and brushed my teeth. There was nobody else and ME AND NATURE BECAME ONE.
I know it all sounds very romantic, even magical! WOWO! However, not long before I finished my super cold bath did it start to rain……very hard!
and my lovely tent did not have a rain cover……
I thought it was a good idea to reduce the weight of luggage, so I left the rain cover in Beijing. Yes I know, I always have wonderful ideas. 😀
I was running naked like an ape, breaking big leaves to put on the top of my tent and throwing my backpack into the tent. Then I jumped into my tent, which was just a bit wet. The leaves really helped! Until the wind started to blow…… Nobody told me it could be windy in the Amazon!
I put my towel, raincoat, sweater and other pieces of clothes under my sleeping bag to absorb the water which came in from under. Obviously I had chosen a too low ground to pitch up my tent. Soon I had a small lake inside my tent. My backpack, clothes towel and myself were swimming in it. Upon my head fell drops of rain. I wished I was fish so to enjoy all this. No, I was more an ape, unfortunately.
I found a position where raindrops did not fall on my face. I was so tired that soon I fell asleep in my private lake.
In the early morning I was awakened in my lake by a “Hola”. I opened the tent and saw this thin old man with glasses and moustache looking at me amusedly.
He: Eh…… why are you sleeping in my field?
I was still half in my dreams and replied:”Ah!”
He then shrugged, waved his hands Italian style and asked:”What happened?”
I got a bit more sober, looked around and found this piece of land was indeed clean of long grass although nothing else was actually planted on it. I answered with my broken Spanish:”Eh…… I was going to the entrance of the national park but could not find it, so I camped here. I am very sorry. I did not know that it was your field.”
He smiled:”Relax! No problem! Go back to sleep!”
I also smiled with my messy wet hair:”Thanks so much sir!” Then there was the roaring of a grandpa scooter and he left.
No, it was not possible anymore to fall sleep in my lovely tent. However, it would be possible to dive in it. I wrung my towel and the water it produced was enough to have a full shower.
I got up, had another fantastic bath under the waterfall (which was totally not necessary since I slept in a lake, but you know, I am a hygienic guy 😉 😛 ) and kept walking with all my wet clothes on. It was heavy. 🙂
I soon found the national park, where there was free camping spots and even roofs to protect tents from the rain! The sun came out and the whole forest was shining like a wonderland!
There was no electricity, no wifi but more than enough water to wash the clothes of my whole life!