Is it a problem that so many of my memorable travel experiences involve alcohol? I’ve already told you about the gin I shared with a chief in Africa, and the shot of whiskey I had in the Yukon that contained a human toe. For this week’s Blue Marble Badge, we head to the jungles of Ecuador, where a wretched drink known as jungle beer awaits.
The road to the jungle beer was not an easy one. My jungle adventure started soon after arriving in the beautiful town of Baños, Ecuador. My travel companion and good friend, Janele, and I decided to splurge and do a jungle tour. We would be breaking budget but, after the guide’s sales pitch, we decided that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Our guide explained the different features of the tour, pointing out photos tacked to the walls of the office. By the fifth time he pointed at a picture and said, “That’s poisonous,” we were sold.
Into the wild
Bright and early the following morning, Janele and I bounced along the road in a pick-up truck with our guide and driver. We headed out of Baños, toward the lush, Ecuadorian jungles.
Our guide lived up to his promises of poison, introducing us to poisonous snakes, spiders, a tree with poisonous thorns and even a few poisonous bananas. The experience was truly one-of-a-kind. We also got to see monkeys, boa constrictors and vultures; swing across a river on a jungle vine like Tarzan; learn about the history of our guide’s people; swim under a sacred waterfall and listen attentively as our guide described his trippy, drug-induced vision quest experience.
We even got to eat some plants our guide found for us underfoot. Why we agreed to eat anything we found in what sounded like the most poisonous place on Earth is beyond me. Perhaps we were delirious from dehydration.
The exotic plants tasted like lemons and were used to treat digestive problems. Though it hadn’t been mentioned in the sales pitch, finding a cure for my traveler’s diarrhea was an unexpected bonus.
After a fantastic lunch the time came for a serene canoe ride down the jungle river. Our guide explained to us that he needed to go ahead and make preparations for our visit with a village Shaman. He handed us off to another guide who helped us into a wobbly dugout canoe.
Abandoned in the jungle
White water rafting is an intense experience with plenty of safety precautions taken. White water dugout canoeing, on the other hand, is still an intense experience… but without the hassle of helmets, training or lifejackets. I had a blast. The constant stream of profanities spewing out of Janele’s mouth made me wonder if she enjoyed it quite as much. Our guide expertly navigated the rapids however, and before long we landed safely at the place where we were to meet up with our original guide.
Time dragged on with no sign of him. Janele and I patiently waited, a little worried but grateful to have our canoe guide there to keep watch over us in the jungle.
That comfort was short-lived.
Our canoe guide, who spoke as much English as we spoke Spanish, suddenly jumped to his feet and told us “I go.” And promptly did just that.
We were alone in the jungle.
And by alone, I of course mean just us and the six thousand species of poisonous creatures waiting to kill and eat us.
I was relieved I had eaten the lemony diarrhea plant earlier that day. If I hadn’t I may very well have crapped my pants right then and there.
Thankfully our original guide eventually did show up and became enraged when he discovered the other guide had abandoned us. Apparently we had been dropped off at the wrong place.
Whatever had happened, I was just happy I didn’t have to tell Janele’s parents that their daughter had been eaten by a jaguar.
Shrugging off the setback we continued on our jungle adventure. Highlights included meeting the Shaman, shooting a traditional blow-dart gun, and getting our faces painted like the jungle king and queen we were.
The beer… finally.
The day ended with the legendary jungle beer at a small bar. Jungle beer is a milky alcohol made from fermented jungle root. Sitting around a small table, we passed the bowl of beer around. It tasted like vinegar and probably better suited as an industrial cleaner than a refreshing beverage.
Nevertheless, life’s all about experiences and I drank as much of it as I could stomach. It wasn’t much and as my stomach churned, I kicked myself for not bringing more of the lemon plant. I could already feel my bowels getting angry with me.
Our guide got stinking drunk on several bowls of the stuff but thankfully our driver kept from getting too intoxicated.
Capping off a great day of jungle exploration with a local drink is pretty darn awesome in my books.
While looking for a video of the jungle beer (unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the stuff), I came across this gem. It has nothing to do with this post but I just love the title of “Horrible Beer Attack”. It’s always tragic when beer attacks.
The Blue Marble Badge celebrates cool, weird and fun activities from all corners of the globe. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section (you’ll get a free ebook as a thank you for your submission). Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.