For all you people who have thought about living off the grid, you would love the eco-lodge where we stayed in Ecuador on the Arajuno River. Tom Larson, a Nebraska farm boy, apparently joined the Peace Corp back in the day. He went to Ecuador and never looked back. He married an Indigenous woman, Charo, and built an amazing life on the river.
Let me back up a bit and explain how we came to find the Arajuno Jungle Lodge and plan this whole trip to Ecuador. Through her ceramics professor, Jesse met Professor Jo Molinaro, East Kentucky U, at the ceramics convention last spring. For years, he has been making trips to Ecuador to study Indigenous pottery - specifically Kichwa pottery done by an elderly woman named Rebekah. This year Jesse was able to go with Jo and another professor, Steve, to build a kiln and do some research on Rebekah's pottery. Rebekah's daughter is Charo and Charo is married to Tom and together they own and run the Arajuno Jungle Lodge. Charo and Tom also went to Rebekah's village with Jesse and her professors. We met up with Jesse and her jungle entourage in Puyo. Then a day later, we followed Tom and Charo back to their jungle lodge on the Arajuno River. Jesse posted some amazing photos of her trip into the jungle on FB. The village was very remote and primitive. Very cool experience for Jes! She will have to tell the tale of the pottery - that is her story, but I will say Rebekah is an awesome lady to do such fine pottery and keep the tradition going by teaching other ladies. They use clay from the jungle and tree sap for glaze and palm leafs for other glaze and then do amazing detailed, fine work.
Back to my trip to the Arajuno Jungle Lodge: We arrived via river taxi after a warm, humid day and went for a swim before supper. It was most refreshing and wonderful. The river has a fairly strong current, but there was a bit of a beach area for the canoes to pull into and it made a nice place to swim. The main lodge where we gathered was open and had a great view. With tables for eating and hammocks for relaxing, it was a perfect place to hang out.
Those hammocks were so wonderful, that we had to buy a couple for ourselves later at the market in Otavalo. Tom had solar panels for electricity. He had a small flat-screened TV. He did have cell phone service and a bit of internet. He put his phone in a hard plastic box and sent it up a pole to get his emails. He had built a cistern of sorts to catch water up in the jungle as his water source. He showed us two ponds that he had built on his property to grow fish and turtles to resupply the river. He had explained that his Indigenous neighbors had been using dynamite to fish the river before he stopped them. He had then helped many of them to build their own ponds and grow their own fish. Turtles had become scarce in the river due to animal as well as human hunters. So Tom was helping the turtles too. In one of his ponds a cayman (small croc) had come to live. He said it did not eat his fish or turtles, but it had eaten one of his chickens. Yes, there were lots of free-range chickens on the property, which he pens up every night to keep away the predators. Tom's jungle land had at one time been a farm, which Tom continued to grow lots of food and plants for the lodge. What a life!
The individual jungle huts were very nice and comfy. We had on demand hot water and wonderful beds - what more could we need. Our bed was under a set of bay windows - we could see the stars as we fell asleep. In the morning, Charo had coffee and guayusa tea for us. We had an excellent breakfast, before Tom sent us on a jungle hike with a guide, William. William described himself as a Mestizo. He spoke very good English. It was obvious that William loved jungle life, but his current job at an internet cafe in Tena, was wearing on him.
William showing us the smooth bark of this tree and other amazing jungle plants and critters.
After our hike in the jungle, we came home and cleaned up, ate lunch, and took naps. That afternoon, Jesse's professors arrived to liven up the party. There was some good old fashioned porch sitting and drinking beer and lots of stories being told. Ian, one of the young scientists staying at the lodge enjoyed drinking beer and visiting and sitting in swinging chairs.
Manuel and Rosa enjoyed the hammocks too.