... or perhaps more accurately, welcome to the transitional Cloud Forest!
Last weekend, the entire group set out for our first retiro
(retreat) to SierrAzul
, an enormous nature sanctuary, dedicated to protecting the Cloud Forest from deforestation and poachers. It's located about 40 minutes (via semi-uncomfortable camioneta
ride) outside of the town of Baeza and about 2.5 hours away from Tena, where the rain forest begins. Its location between the mountains and the rain forest gives it a unique feel and makes it home to a few cool animals like the spotted bear, puma, and the tapir
(which is apparently the size of a cow... who knew?!).
We made our way out to the sanctuary on Friday after a wakeup call at the ripe hour of 6am (which I, at least, had not seen in quite some time), 1 van ride, 2 bus rides, 1 (severely cramped) camioneta ride, and a 30 minute walk. Basically we were out in the middle of nowhere... and it was wonderful.
Once we arrived, we took the rest of Friday to relax and go on a short hike... and prepared for our big excursion. Saturday was the day of THE hike. What kind of hike, you might be asking yourself... it was a 14 kilometer, 7.5-hour hike to a waterfall. We were up and ready to go by 9am on Saturday morning, with our beautifully enormous rain boots (except for Erik and Chet, whose feet were unfortunately too big, but were troopers and stomped through the knee-deep mud in tennis shoes and Chacos!), and backpacks stocked with water, snacks and rain gear.
The hike was wonderful. It gave us time to talk to each other, time for personal reflection, and an opportunity to experience the beauty of unaltered nature. Additionally, we learned how to remove ourselves from knee-deep mud pits, face plant with grace, and drink water from the river (seriously). We returned to the cabin area around 5:30 - just in time to take HOT showers with phenomenal water pressure (they actually steamed!), eat dinner, and play countless rounds of Catch Phrase and Phase 10... until they shut off the generator and made us go to bed. (Thankfully, Krysta brought her Wonder Woman cape. I'm not sure we would have survived without it...)