As we headed into Puyo, you could see that the topography was changing. It was much more lush and green as the vegetation became thick and lively. We passed by small towns and little tiendas all along the road, giving off the good smell of the tantalizing street meat. At Fundación Los Monos Selva y Vida, it felt a bit like entering Jurassic Park.
The 6 of us were a bit apprehensive at first. No one wanted to touch the monkeys and get Ebola. But as we saw the workers playing with them and they assured us they were tranquilo, we moved in closer. First we saw spider monkeys playing with a dog and fighting over a palm tree branch. Then some of the monkeys were wrestling with each other. We were warned that they would steal anything you had, so all we brought with us was our cameras.
Some of the monkeys didn´t want to play much, but others were swinging from ropes and jumping onto people. Some monkeys napped in the fetal position while a few others made a small girl cry hysterically as they jumped on her. We were shown different types of monkeys, then a couple of turtles and an ant eater, before we were lead over to the monkey swing.
A huge rope had been fastened to some trees, and you could swing, through the jungle, with a monkey on the swing with you. At first no one wanted to, but eventually we all took the opportunity to swing with them. The monkeys liked the women better though, and didn´t really want to ride with me. But as I swung back and forth I reached out for one, and he tried to grab on but didn´t make it.
After the swing, a couple of monkeys started to jump onto my head and shoulders, as they played games around us. It was an incredible way to end the trip, and as we left, it was clear that it was a great experience.
Back at the hostel, we rested up and showered and headed out for a final dinner. The town was active again, but we just wanted to have a little wine and hang out in the hostel before another big travel day.
I´d run out of money by the next day and had to start borrowing for everything, even just to get home. All told I spent over $80, but it was a great weekend that was definitely worth the experience. For the hostel, we only spent about $24 on two nights, two breakfasts, and some beers. The mountain bike excursion was $22 and we got to play with monkeys in the end. And getting to and from Ambato was about $8 each way. So all told, it was a pretty reasonable trip with some great results.
Coming back into Cuenca with thick fog and rain falling consistently, it was gray and tiring, but a definite relief to be back. It’s feeling more and more like a home, and it was nice to get out of the “tourist” role and back into the “living here for a while” role. Back home, it’s time to get back to the teaching.
Above: A monkey on my back, monkey’s fighting a dog for a palm tree branch, a monkey with a stick