ecuadorian amazon

If you look at those places where they are drilling oil, those are the regions most people live with terrible health conditions and no education. Those are the regions that are most poor. People thought that they could come here and exploit oil and then just wash their hands and they would move on. But that did not happen. We’re a pain in the ass for the government right now. Haha! And that makes me hopeful. That makes me know that we can get further. You can not justify human rights abuses with economical arguments. We’re also human beings just as anyone else. And we have the same rights as anyone else to choose our way of life and to have that choice respected.

Nina Gualinga, Kichwa Nation on the Oil Drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Way of the Shaman: The Work of Michael and Sandra Harner
The Way of the Shaman Documentary. Michael Harner blazed the trail for the worldwide revival of shamanism and shamanic drumming with his 1980 seminal classic The Way of the Shaman (over 600,000 sold).

Founder of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, Michael Harner is widely acknowledged as the world’s foremost authority on experiential and practical shamanism, and has had an enormous influence on both the academic and lay worlds. This documentary movie takes us through Michael’s early expeditions as a young anthropologist in the jungles of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon and his life-altering insights into shamanic power. The film is an informative and inspiring look at the people behind the evolution of this groundbreaking spiritual healing methodology that honors and builds upon the ancient knowledge of the world’s shamans.


Why travel to Ecuador

You can say more than a thousand reasons to travel to this country in South America, but I want to highlight is the opportunity for the traveler to visit this country.

It is among the few places in the world without leaving their border has mountains, volcanoes ( some active ), beaches , islands, stunning waterfalls, amazing wildlife, a particular food, and for alleged special mentions of the Islands Galapagos and the Ecuadorian Amazon .

It is among the few countries in the world that blends its history, customs, culture and mixed with the modernity of the XXI century. Can we talk about the historic center of the capital Quito , their lavish churches in Cuenca, Gardens of the City of Ambato, the city that is the great city of Guayaquil, Malecon 2000 , their houseboats in the river Babahoyo and so endless examples that highlight the different attractions , each different from the other but are part of the same nation . A country where you can do a myriad of activities with family , friends and even meet new people, because the people are open and friendly .

A country of cold mountains, warm beaches, thundering waterfalls, large cities, ultimately a colorful country.


Razones por las que viajar al Ecuador

Se pueden decir mas de mil razones por las cuales viajar a este país ubicado en América del Sur, sin embargo lo que quiero destacar es la oportunidad que tiene el viajero al recorrer este país. 

Es de los pocos sitios en el mundo que sin salir de sus frontera posee montañas, volcanes (algunos activos), playas, islas, impresionantes cascadas, una increíble fauna y flora, una gastronomía muy particular, y por supuestos las menciones especiales de las Islas Galápagos y el Amazonas Ecuatoriano.

Es de los pocos países en el mundo que fusiona su historia, sus costumbres, su cultura y la mezcla con la modernidad del siglo XXI. Podemos hablar del casco histórico de su capital Quito, de sus fastuosas iglesias en Cuenca, de los Jardines de la Ciudad de Ambato, de la urbe que es la gran ciudad de Guayaquil, del Malecón 2000, de sus casas flotantes en el rió Babahoyo, y así un sin fin de ejemplos que destacan las diferentes atracciones, cada una de ellas diferentes a las otras pero que forman parte de una misma nación. Un país donde puedes hacer un sin fin de actividades con la familia, con los amigos, e incluso conocer gente nueva, porque su gente es abierta y amigable.

Un país de montañas frías, de playas calientes, de cascadas ensordecedoras, de grandes metrópolis, en definitiva un país lleno de color.


Stray Dog Found In The Jungle Treks Miles With Adventure Team To His Forever Home

Sometimes new friends are met in the unlikeliest of places, even in the middle of the jungle.

Earlier this month, a team of extreme athletes completing a grueling race through the Ecuadorian Amazon came across a dirty, stray dog that began following them through the rain forest. The teammates, who named the pup Arthur, eventually gave the pup a new home and a chance at a better life.

“It all started with me giving Arthur a meatball when we we’re eating right before the long trekking,“ Mikael Lindnord, captain of Sweden’s Peak Performance adventure racing team, said in an interview for the Team Peak Performance website. "When we set off we did it with some other teams, and I didn’t understand that Arthur was following us until we were alone and he was still there. At one stage we had to take a break and the dog was totally wrecked. We opened two cans of food and let him eat, because he could find no food at all in the djungle [sic].”

Lindnord and three other Peak Performance athletes headed to Ecuador in November to compete in the 430-mile Adventure Racing World Championship. Arthur began following the group before the final stages of the challenge, and he managed to keep up with them through the muddy jungle terrain, according to a race recap on Team Peak Performance’s site. But when the group was about to cross a river on kayaks, they were advised to leave the dog for safety reasons. Arthur, however, wouldn’t stay behind.

Read on and see more photos of Arthur, the stray dog, follow this team to the finish line and find home.

Pruning for Chocolate in the Amazon

When cacao farmers like Emilio Rivera first heard of a government-backed initiative that would help them prune branches and leaves from their trees, they were skeptical.

After all, a lush, cacao tree with more, not fewer, branches meant more profits, they said. That’s been the traditional way of thinking for generations of cacao farmers here in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  

But in recent years, as disease has worsened, yields have dropped pretty dramatically, and some, like Rivera, have begun embracing the initiative wholeheartedly.

Emilio Rivera grows cacao and coffee on a small farm in the Ecuadorian Amazon that’s only reachable by boat.  Photo by Kirk Siegler/NPR

Ecuador is one of the world’s biggest producers of cacao; the coveted, key ingredient in chocolate. Cacao is actually an edible fruit that’s fermented after harvest. Meanwhile, the fruit’s seeds (not edible, at least initially) are roasted and the ingredients are combined and eventually cooked from powder into a cocoa-like substance.  

Farmers like Rivera are at the beginning of a long chain of production, and his enthusiasm in the new “pruning brigades” no doubt partly stems from the fact that it’s free labor.  And don’t be fooled by a delicate sounding word like pruning.  It was actually a small army of workers that arrived at his farm earlier this year. They were carrying long chainsaws and other tools that made cutting and trimming branches quick and simple.  

The main idea is that clearing some of the highest, hard to reach branches will let in more sunlight, which is sometimes hard to come by under the dense canopy of the Amazon. Cacao trees grow naturally in the jungle. But the crop has also been cultivated in small farms like Rivera’s for years.

In one morning, a pruning brigade can do what it would take Rivera and his family three weeks to do by hand.  At the recent harvest, he got 600 pounds of cacao, compared with only 200 pounds before he took part in the initiative.  

“I’ve seen a big improvement,” Rivera says in Spanish through a translator.

One of Minga de Cacao’s pruning brigades demonstrating its work on a cacao farm along Ecuador’s Aguarico River. Photo by Kirk Siegler/NPR 

Rivera farms on about an acre of cleared jungle along the banks of the Aguarico River in eastern Ecuador.  It’s about a fifteen minute ride – by motorized canoe – from the nearest village. It’s beautiful, even exotic feeling, when you finally arrive.  Yet this “global cradle of cacao production” as it’s often called is extremely remote. 

 Even the cacao farmers are cut off from each other.  Communication isn’t easy and it’s not the kind of place where an outsider can just expect to change things overnight.

“We have elderly people who told us they’d rather have their arms cut off than their branches,” says Ricardo Zapata, coordinator with Minga del Cacao, the group promoting and operating the “pruning brigades” with the help of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Agriculture.

Zapata hopes the early success on display by Rivera and some of his neighbors will be a model for other more skeptical farmers, or those who haven’t yet heard of the new techniques.  

The group, along with the Ministry, has a goal of pruning 80% of all of Ecuador’s cacao farms over the next two years. It’s an ambitious one. There are at least 120,000 acres of cacao farms across this South American country that’s roughly the size of Colorado.  But so far they’ve hired and trained more than a thousand pruners to work in more than a hundred brigades.

A piece of cacao cut open to reveal its fruit. The seeds, in particular, hidden at the center of the fruit, are a key ingredient in chocolate production. Photo by Kirk Siegler/NPR  

This kind of bold commitment that could ultimately boost exports, as Ecuador’s economy otherwise sours, isn’t necessarily a surprise. Cacao is one of the world’s most lucrative crops, after all.  All but five percent of what’s grown here is now exported. Ecuadorian-produced chocolate is famous and fetches a premium price at market – not to mention at upmarket grocery stores in the United States.

As for Emilio Rivera, whose main source of income is cacao, he told me his recent success with the pruning initiative has him eying a possible expansion.  

Whether or not there is funding for the free brigades to return next season may not matter. He said he’s been learning some of their techniques and he and his family could do most of the work on their own if need be.

- Kirk Siegler 

Buenos Dias, from Quito, the capitol of Ecuador.  It’s said to be the highest capitol in the world, in fact, at roughly 9,350 feet.  So when you arrive, take it from me, if at all possible walk down, not up, streets like this one I photographed near the city’s historic center.   The good news is that despite the altitude, and the latitude for that matter (we’re right on the equator), the weather here is quite temperate.  

I’ve arrived with a group of reporters and editors from around the globe as part of an International Reporting Project (IRP) sponsored reporting trip focused on health and development.  

In the days ahead, I’ll be posting snapshots of our adventures – as well as anything odd or interesting I encounter – from Quito to the Amazon to Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, on the coast.  

This is a tremendously biologically and culturally diverse country, and I’m hoping to get a sense for how the prolonged slump in global oil prices is affecting the economy and society - the Ecuadorian Amazon has long been an important – and controversial – oil producing region. Today, roughly half of the government’s revenue still comes from oil.  I’ll also be taking a look at farming – food prices for crops such as bananas have slumped lately as well.  And there are renewed concerns that the predicted El Nino could have devastating impacts on this important sector in the months ahead – as it did during the last “Nino” in 1997-1998.  

More on all of that later.  For now, back to acclimatizing; which means I’m temporarily trading my morning run for a more leisurely (and well hydrated) stroll.  

Hablamos Pronto!

Kirk Siegler

Photo: Kirk Siegler/NPR