Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Destination: Agua Santa

In the jungle, meals consist of lots of veggies that we order in every Friday, rice or pasta, and a type of bean: red, white, chickpea, lentil, occasionally black-eyed peas. Once a week we get eggs, soya, tuna, and bread with a rubbery cheese (that I swear is made from powdered milk, but doesn’t taste that bad semi-melted on toasted bread). Milk is made from powder. Water is room temperature and either chlorinated or filtered. Lighting is a candle on a rock. Snacks are brought in with volunteers from Quito or Tena or some chips and chocolate can be bought from a small shop on the first floor of a house 20 mins away. Then there’s Agua Santa.
The local community is located 15mins up stream by canoe or can be accessed via the road that cuts through the reserve. And, on a Saturday, its the place to be.
Every week we ask for a canoe from Yachana to pick us up at port at 7.30am. Every week it is at least 20mins late. Which double serves as a form of entertainment and quick money as we take bets and buy in to the pot of what time the canoe will arrive, the winning time being when the canoe rope is grabbed by someone on the port.
Typically when we go to Agua Santa, I make a fashionable effort to impress people. Wellies (that is short for wellingtons, also known as RAINBOOTS to all the non-Brits) are very helpful as the beach access to the market can be muddy or require you to step in some river. Shorts are worn to avoid overheating. A t-shirt of any sort is worn- preferably with some large tacky American brand on it to reassure everyone that you are in fact a foreigner in case they couldn’t already tell. A backpack for all the crap I buy. And lastly, a lifejacket which is mandatory, that I strap to my backpack when on land.
There are a few permanent shops at the market and the rest are regular vendors- generally between 7-10 stands. You can buy soaps, batteries, shot gun shells, willies, underwear, bracelets, paper and pen, and shirts. The permanent shops sell bread, cheese, eggs, soda, pasta, veggies, sugar, coffee, beer, chips, and candy. Additionally, there is a lady who sells seco de pollo, a delicious dish with rice, yucca, and a sort of chicken stew for $2.00, and a local bar that is surprisingly busy at 8am (and stays busy as often times on Saturday nights you can hear the loud pumping of music from the insane parties Agua Santa must be having).
It is nice to get to the market and have a presence in the community. Tour groups from the nearby Ecolodge occasionally stop through as well. At the market it is nice to see the guides from the lodge and briefly catch up with them or to buy ridiculously stupid/useless items. I have witnessed the mass buying of little boys underwear for big boys to wear around camp, bracelets decorated with pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, and t-shirts to be cut into Steveis (no sleeves, with large arm holes originally sported in the jungle by the one and only Steve Guidos). Regardless of the random things accumulated on a Saturday, the cold coke and chicken are appreciated. [The optional Saturday night warm Pilsner beer and box Peach flavoured wine are bought at Agua Santa as well, to the enthusiasm of the volunteers].

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