In town, across the twinkling waters, the bugs are fewer, replaced by leech-like men: loco locals and pickled expats, attracted to light eyes and freckles and exposed skin like moths round a candle. “Hermosa” they say “Que bella!” They give you a hibiscus, a blessing, a kiss on the back of your hand, and their bloodshot eyes are mournful and lost and lonely.
The Amazon rainforest is a place so utterly bursting with life that as the sun sets and the temperature drops, it’s as if you can actually see the forest breathing. A thick snake of fog slithers its way along the rivers, while the canopy exhales steam which glows gold in the fading sunlight.
But unlike the routine travel we do back home – the daily commute, the weekend trips to visit family – “travelling” can provide some truly memorable means of reaching a destination, and as the Chinese proverb says, the journey becomes the reward. Here’s a round up of my five most memorable travel experiences – some because they were terrifying, others because they were unexpected. And many were both.
La Nomadita has a “Lord of the Flies” moment with the boy hunters of the Choco rainforest, Ecuador
The Afroecuadorians of Esmeraldas are descendants of West African slaves brought here five centuries ago. Some of their ancestors escaped slavery, some were freed from the mines. Others dodged slavery altogether when their ship was wrecked in the rough Pacific watersc, and they managed to swim to shore to create a new life for themselves in the South American jungle.
At five foot ten, Juan the shaman was unusually tall for an Aymara indian. He lived alone in the forest under the dense canopy of a mahogany tree, alongside the jawbones of his long-dead ancestors.
One of the surprises of travelling is that it is often the big attractions and wildlife that draw us to a place, but the tiniest, quietest things that end up being most fascinating. So many times I’ve looked forward to admiring a towering mountain, or encountering an enormous African elephant, but it’s the diminutive insects …