Direction.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

“What? Huh? Who? Out where? I’m up! ” Captain shouted as he rolled out of bed, falling upside down onto the floor.  I’d been startled as well.  It wasn’t even 8 o’clock in the morning and the marching band had already begun practicing.  Another parade?  Didn’t they just have one yesterday?

My bags were packed before Captain was out of the shower.  We had planned to spend more time in Banos but after the drum line’s wake up call, we were heading out!  At breakfast, a fellow female traveler told us about a quiet place to stay just outside of Banos.  Captain and I agreed to check it out; if it wasn’t going to work, we would keep trucking along, eventually making our way to Mindo, as our last day in Ecuador was approaching…

Having not really seen the waterfalls around Banos, Captain and I thought is was a great idea to stay nearby for another night which would give us the opportunity to do some hiking.  Apparently the lodging was easy to miss so Captain and I were counting the bends and bridges careful to not miss our stop.  The bus was whizzing around the corners and passing bikers by inches-precisely why we were were hiking and not biking!  I wasn’t surprised we passed our stop but sure glad we didn’t miss the “if you see this, then you’ve really gone too far” landmark!

We hopped off with our gigantic back packs and made the short walk to lodging.  The owner was nowhere to be found for quite some time; after checking the place out we knew this was a good stop for the night.  The room was comfortable and had a beautiful view of flowers and trees outside the window.  I discovered a hammock chair that was begging me to sit in it for hours.  When the owner emerged, we got a key and dropped our bags.  We talked for awhile with the owner listening to his familiar story of choosing the simple life and loving the hospitality business in Ecuador.

Tiny Flowers

Captain and I hiked a ways along the road and then down cliff-side steps and up again through steep, rocky jungle terrain.   There were two vantage points that had spectacular views in each direction of the Devil’s Cauldron.  This waterfall is massive; its a powerful force, etching deep canyons, creating a dangerous whirlpool at the its base; with every step closer, the sound of the falls growing more intense.  The Devil’s Cauldron then falls hundreds of feet again into the calm river below.

The Devil's Cauldron

At what we thought was the end of the trail along the cliff’s stone ledge, a magical entrance was discovered.  For those who dared, one must maneuver through an incredibly tight crawl space, twisting and turning to reach the third view point behind the face of the falls.

Captain has a fear of tight spaces and had no intentions of slithering his way any further.  It was only when a young girl pushed him out of the way did Captain muster up the courage.  I stayed close for moral support.  He was on all fours, crouching his way along-knees at his ears, elbows at this ankles, inch by inch.  Just as the space was opening, Captain widened his stance and his sandal slipped.  He was sprawled out, face down in a huge puddle of the Devil’s dirty bathwater.  When he looked up, his face was covered in mud and all I could see were the whites of his eyes.  He was pissed!  “Thanks alot.” he said sternly, as if I had pushed him down myself…

A Driving Force

We were showered by the powerful falls; the negative ions created by the falling water cleanse the soul, refreshing one from the inside out.

Now Captain had to make it back through.  Hehe!

On the hike back, I noticed the most peculiar butterfly with a very bold message: 89…

Did You Get My Message?

I consulted my “Angel Numbers Guide which explains: 89 reminds us that following our soul’s purpose is the key to abundance.  Work in the areas that relate to spiritual passions and interests as these are the foundations of our Divine Life’s purpose.  Hm…

Perhaps I was reading my message upside down.  In which case the message would have been a 68.  ‘Spirit is the source of income; worry doesn’t assist with finances but positive thoughts and vibrations do!’

I may have twisted the message a bit but either way I felt it was universal advice…

A Beautiful Purpose

After returning to our cabin, I grabbed my book and spent the next few hours listening to the river down below.  After my ultimate relaxation, it came time for another hike.   Walking down the road in the opposite direction, we happened upon the “cascada” entrance and paid of course, one dollar to enter.  The terrain was no less steep but was definitely much more secluded.  Tromping through the lush green of the jungle, I felt at home.  Every flower catching my eye, each insect stopping me in my tracks to observe.

Moving Forward

Along the way, we were forced to cross a swaying bridge high in the treetops.  I no doubt feared for my safety but I had surely survived more dangerous here in Ecuador.  Much to my relief, I saw a man at the other end so I took my chances.  With each step, the bridge began swinging wider and wider.  When I reached the halfway point, for some reason, I looked down.  “Don’t look down!”  I stammered.  If the bridge gave way, it would been a 60 foot drop to a bed of boulders.  I brought my attention back to the man across the bridge.  If he made it across!?!…

Don't Look Down

Turns out, the man was a photographer taking instant photos for a dollar!  I had not been expecting that in the middle of the jungle.

Falling Down

Captain claimed this was the tallest water falls in all of Ecuador and wanted his picture taken with it.  The short hike to the base was a bit dangerous with large wet boulders to scale so I opted out.  I wasn’t sure why Captain was stripping his clothes off as he got closer.  And apparently he didn’t see the couple getting their picture taken with the falls as their backdrop.  The couple, obviously wanting to treasure the moment, must have been awfully surprised to see Captain in the background wearing only a giant leaf.  Photo-bombed!

Hello There!?!

We slept rather well with the exception to the loud boom early morning.  “Seriously!!”  Captain grumbled.  “Shh…its just thunder…go back to sleep.”  I whispered.  When I woke, I made my way outside for a breath of refreshing post-rainstorm air.  But something wasn’t right.  Captain, still groggy, walked out and noticed the dirty outdoor furniture. “This place is a dump!” Captain shouted.  There was a thick layer of dust all over everything.  I noticed a picture drawn on the table but it was upside down; after closer examination, I realized it was a doodle of a spewing volcano.  “Did you guys here the volcano this morning?” the owner asked as he approached.  My first thought was Jose high up on the mountain, cowering in the trunk of his tree house’s foundation as the volcano spat its innards at him.

The longer we stood outside, the more volcanic ash settled on us.  “We gotta get out of here!”

I sent a quick email to Mom letting her know we were safe as she would be the first to worry after hearing about the eruption!  Before leaving I collected a bit of ash as a souvenior and again, we were on our way.

Our plan was to catch the next bus towards Tena and stop at Puyo on the way.  We weren’t sure when the next bus was coming so we sat alongside the road and waited.  And waited some more.  The falling ash made each breath more difficult.  Puyo was less than an hour away but who knew how long we would be waiting for the bus.  We agreed to catch a ride with the next vehicle so when a Chevy pickup rounded the curve, Captain tossed an arm in the air.  The man slowed understanding we could use a lift.  Captain told him our destination and the driver nodded.  We headed to the bed of the truck, typically where hitchhikers on the coast ride and the driver chuckled.  He welcomed us into the cab and was very hospitable.  I was so thankful I didn’t have to wait any longer for a ride and even more so now that I could breathe air without volcanic spew!

The driver put his foot on the gas and we were off.  My backpack fell off my lap, upside down onto the floor.  Here we go again!  The conversation flowed but we understood a small fraction of what the driver was saying.  He surely knew this because he would just laugh and laugh when we spoke!  He was taking phone calls every 10 minutes and a few times took his eyes off the road to dial out.  My insides were in twisted knots…

After arriving in Puyo, the driver would not accept our fare and laughed as he drove away…

We had considered spending the night in Puyo but after ending up in a busy touristy part of town, and without our guide book, we were sure Tena was our destination.  But first, the jungle tour that Midwest had told us about!

A Native Experience Tour in Spanish was given on the hour. English tours were less frequent and we would have to wait a few extra hours.  There was an english speaking guide who wasn’t busy so he came along to translate for me and Captain.

Take Note

Walking through the trails of the Amazon, I was smiling from ear to ear. Our guide was an elder woman of the Kichwa tribe and she also taught us about another native tribe, the Shaur. There were so many remedies to learn, from insect repellant to sun protection. We learned about teas made of plant leaves to ease nausea and tree bark that assist women during labor. It is fascinating that the same plant will work differently depending on the direction of the labor; at times it will induce and other times delay.

I saw myself as a medicine woman foraging in the forest, picking the remedy of necessity…

On the tour we spent time in a typical home of the Shaur people. A family comprises of a man and as many women as he is able to provide for and protect. To avoid jealously among the women, intimacy does not occur within the home. Each women has her own garden that she tends to regularly and it is here which much occurs; love making, child birth, and the teachings of growing children.

Safe Haven

I told Captain I wanted to birth our children in our gardens. His response: “Of course you would!”

There is much wisdom these “older” civilizations and cultures have to teach us modern day folks.  The respect Native Americans have for Mother Earth is one of the reasons I am most drawn to this way of life.  They believe everything has a spirit.  The plants of the jungle even, each has its own voice and if you listen close enough, you’ll learn their purpose.  Plant medicine is a beautiful art and science.  Many pharmaceutical drugs are comprised of these effective plants from the Amazon.  Plant medicine is a tradition that must not be lost or sold to soulless corporations that will destroy anything in their paths to make a profit…

When the tour ended, the guides offered us concontions made from the plants of the Amazon.   Captain was complaining of discomfort in his nasal passages from the volcanic ash earlier.  The Wise Woman dropped a few drops of liquid into Captain’s hand and told him to snort it.  He was quite hesistant at first but I persuaded him.  The moment he took the liquid in, he eyes grew wide and tears fell from his eyes.  “Ahhhhh!!! What the hell was that? Tabasco sauce!?! ”  We concluded that the liquid fire was only a distraction from the initial irritance.  Backwards but brilliant!

When we arrived in Tena about an hour away, I was glad we choose to stay there for the night. Tena is a quiet town on the edge of the Amazon and a  popular hub for gringo kayakers.  But the town was big enough that without a guidebook I was really nervous about rolling into town without out a plan for the night.

Captain and I were still fully loaded with our backpacks and hungry for dinner.   It was Sunday so the town was deserted.  Would we be able to find any eateries open?  Luckily along the river, we found a café that welcomed us in.  We chilled there for an hour after we finished our late lunch, opening ourselves up to an opportunity to find lodging for the evening.

At one point an young gringo man strutted into the diner with a giant backpack.  I was compelled to talk with him so I made my way to his table.  His story couldn’t sound any more familiar; he was a traveling nurse who spent his time between assignments traveling with his kayak, adventuring throughout South America.  As Kayak was telling me about all the beautiful places he had seen, a kid walking by caught my eye.  He had his nose deep in an Ecuador travel guide.

Captain leaped out of his seat and stalked the guy who kindly shared his guide book.  We were quick to take his lodging suggestion and excited to settle in for the day.  A quiet hotel, off the main drag with a view of the river was precisely what we had been looking for.  He pointed us in the right direction, we loaded our bags onto our backs and off we went.  We wandered around for quite some time and finally waved down a taxi, frustrated with not finding the place.

We hopped in and told the guy our destination.  Taxi Man drove us three buildings up the road and stopped as if we had arrived at our destination.  “Un dollar.”  I thought he was kidding at first but he was serious.  We had literally got in the car, the car pulled forward and then stopped.  Note: just getting into a taxi and closing the door WILL cost you a dollar in Ecuador.  “Un dollar…”

Our stay for the evening was better than I expected.  The sound of the river echoed throughout our second story room.   We were overlooking the river that was lined with giant trees lush with green leaves and twisted vines.

Captain and I stayed two nights in Tena and did some ultimate relaxation.  For two days, we ate pizza and watched pirated movies, while the river flowed below.   I would love to tell you that we kayaked in the beautiful clear rivers of the Amazon and had up-close encounters with monkeys but we didn’t; what I needed most was to be still.  With this stillness comes clarity…

Tena’s morning wake up call was much more pleasant than the two mornings before; I woke to rustling in the trees. As my eyes adjusted to the rising equator sun, I realized what had awaken me.  A troop of monkeys were swinging through the Amazonian treetops; each moving forward on their journey surely with a destination in mind.  The natural ease of their travel was more than desirable…

***************

Travel nursing has propelled me in numerous locations and nursing positions; its not surprising I feel pulled in many directions.  But I also experience this discomfort in my personal life.  Why am I here on Earth?  What is my soul’s purpose?  This happens to many of us, not sure which way to go, which turn to take, unsure of our next move.  This uncertainty often leads us to spinning our wheels.

I may not always know where I am heading but sometimes I just have move forward.  It is our dreams and visions that are a travel guide, the force behind the drive.  When I am uncertain about which direction to choose, I must let my  passions and interests fuel me, as these are a guide to my Soul.  When I find myself worrying, I can trust that I am being supported by Spirit.  As long I as am following the guide within, I am never heading in the wrong direction…

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