Postcards Home: Opening My Heart And Mind To The Amazon


I CAME TO THE AMAZON with an expectation of seeing many animals and bird species.  I was quickly to learn, that my anticipation of wildlife treasures was displaced by the sheer power of the land itself.  Sharing this experience with my daughter, Leah, was a memory to match any of my travel adventures, including the rain forest in the African Congo.

I have always had a special affection for the earth and special bodies of water, in the case of the Amazon, I was welcomed as a son returning to a nurturing mother.  I felt it’s green embrace, and a special warmth in its mystery, magnificent beauty and abundance.

After a flight from Miami to Quito, Ecuador, and then a flight to another Ecuadorian town, our first exposure to this natural sanctuary was a motorized two- and one-half hour canoe trip up an Amazonian River, deeper into the Amazon Rainforest itself.  We then disembarked into smaller canoes up smaller tributaries, finally arriving at our lodge about an hour later.

Away from telecommunication, the internet and television, it is here where you can return to that what moves you.  It's important to occasionally press a figurative refresh button and remind yourself who you’ve been and take time to devote energy to discover who you presently are.  Going deep into this forest, you are given a renewed sense of belonging, it connects you to life, to yourself.  Return your hands, feet and heart to the Earth, hear its call, and return to nature in ways you first experience as a child.

The sounds you will hear in the rain forest vary from the subtle and not subtle sounds of many species of birds, to the cackle of monkeys in the distant treetops to a gunshot like bang, the tail of a large fish in the lake slapping against the surface of water. 

This all exists against the background of utter silence.

This trip was not all about transformation, in fact I was staying at an eco-lodge with wonderfully comfortable accommodations and freshly cooked meals created from produce obtained locally.  A day’s activity were choices to be made depending on your mood for the day.  We were assigned to a small group of fellow travelers who we spent the week with, taking guided walks through the forest with our guide, Daniel.  On some days we were traveling in small boat like canoes with our group, our guides doing the paddling up streams or around the lake which the lodge sat upon.  The guides had an amazing ability to spot wildlife that we could never have seen or discovered.  Their expertise was essential.

Another day we canoed up the river and into the forest to an indigenous Amazon Tribe.  Their lifestyle had greatly changed due to the influence of missionaries and other parties from “civilized” societies.  It seems like a paradox to influence peoples who are acclimated to their place on their heritage land, happy in their own culture and having learned how to live well on the plants and animals that surround them.  It was fascinating to learn what they could produce from different plant life.  To see children in western dress attending classrooms on the grounds of the tribe seemed like an improvement at first, but I could not help but wonder where this education would take them, or benefit them, at least here, deep in the Amazon.

Back to the pleasurable amenities at the lodge.  We had access to a spa if so desired and also had yoga classes offered daily on a cupula like edifice on the lake.  The yoga teacher was a very interesting woman who was not only teaching yoga at the lodge, but also setting up a website of seminars related to different aspects of spiritual practice.  Occasionally, if you are lucky in your travels, you will meet a like-minded soul who you can share conversations that are more than polite small talk.  My daughter and I were lucky to have met such an individual and spent many hours sharing stories and getting an insight into life in Ecuador.

Having surveyed this trip with my daughter, I will look forward to returning with my beautiful wife, Jacqueline.  While courageous in many ways, I don’t think she or many of you are interested in “roughing” it.  So here is some good news!  The flight from Miami to Ecuador is only four hours.  When you arrive, stay over in Quito, the capital, for several nights.  This city’s historic district challenges any European city for colonial beauty and charm.  It is at the highest elevation in the Andes Mountains (9,350ft), so it also offers the opportunity to acclimate.  But it’s an extraordinary city, predating colonialism as a major Incan city dating back to the 6th Century BC before colonialization by Spain in 1534. 

Because of this, Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The people are delightful, and the pace is slow.  The food is terrific, and any palate would be pleased with the quality of the food and the way it is prepared.  If you go, take my advice, and visit the Vista Hermosa Rooftop Restaurant for an amazing view of a jewel of a city lit up at night.

The trip up the river is long, however, the motorized canoe-like boats are comfortable.  The same can be said for the smaller canoes used for exploring smaller tributaries.  Your guides will do the rowing.  I brought insect repellent but—surprise!—there were no mosquitoes or other biting insects.  While I did observe a rather large tarantula, it appeared as a rather benign creature that I was confident would have preferred to have ignored me and my camera.

Dress is casual.  Bringing your iPhone or camera for photos is a must.  The weather is comfortable.  I was never uncomfortably hot.  That said, it will rain (don’t worry … ponchos, a daily staple, are supplied).  The trails can get muddy (boots are also supplied).  And the sun is very strong on the equator, so be sure to bring good sunblock for protection, along with wide brim hats and long sleeve shirts if you are very sensitive. 

But in the end, the most critical thing to bring if you make the trek to Ecuador is an open mind, and an open heart.

Larry Lamb has traveled extensively around the world.  He is a Manchester resident and veterinarian who owns Manchester Animal Hospital.  In 2019, he wrote a Postcards Home about his travels across Africa’s Sahara Desert in a van.


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