Posts tagged ‘Amazonas’

some recommendations for Leticia, Colombia

OmShanty guest house, located 11km outside of the town on KM11, run by a guy from Spain who knows a lot about the jungle and can organize tours for you if you want. A bed in one of the shared cabins is $15,000 pesos, and a space to hang your hammock if you have one is only $5,000 pesos and has a roof to protect you from rain. Make sure your hammock has a mosquito net though (I have the Hennessey and adore it)

I’ve also heard good things about Selvaventura, run by Felipe from Bogota.

You can rent bicycles from “Almacén Y Taller Ciclo Charless” which is actually a bike store but they have several bikes for rent for $7,000 pesos a day. For 24 hour rentals they charge $10,000. They’re located on Barrio Porvenir Calle 4 N’ 7A-53 (Tels: 592-6016 and cell 314-507-1080) and also super friendly people! To find them walk towards Tabatinga along – avenue.

Once you have a bike you can easily visit Tabatinga on the Brazilian side although I don’t know what to recommend there :) I encourage you to explore the KM’s (the road goes all the way to KM19 after which it becomes a muddy and pot-holed path. KM 11 where I lived is also home to Taranboca (named after one of the oldest trees in the forest) where they organize one day excursions that involve a visit to their serpent center, a walk in the jungle, canopying through trees, and kayaking, along with a delicious lunch at the end for $117,000 pesos. They also have cabins and hammocks for rent, as well as a tree house 35 meters high with all the amenities (toilet/shower) where you can sleep overnight.

 

On KM 7 is Mundo Amazonico, which runs 3 hour tours to teach about local fauna and medicinal plants for $20,000 pesos. They’ve only been open for 6 months so I’m sure they will still transform into something better, but I found the tour informative and very professional. They even had ponchos ready for everyone when the afternoon downpour started. Hopefully one day they’ll have a store where they sell many of the plants they grow, until then I was told if you’re really interested they will sell case by case.

From KM 11 you can also walk into the forest to the – river. The walk is about 30 minutes and is relatively straightforward, and if you get lost people live in houses along the way. On the other side of the river is pure selva, which I would have liked to explore. There’s a path but it’s overgrown so a machete is a good thing to bring. However to get there you need to swim across the river so a waterproof bag is a good idea.

There are other paths you can take from the KM road that will lead you into pure selva, however, most of the ones I have taken were on private property.

People along the KM road are friendly and I’ve never had trouble hitchhiking my way back at night from the town. (The shuttle bus runs every half hour until 6:30pm and costs $2,400 pesos) Hitchhiking with motos is a bit of a problem as helmets are mandatory and not every driver has an additional one, and most of the ones who do are the moto taxis. A funny experience was when the guy who picked me up told me he could only drive me to KM 8 because there was a police checkpoint there checking for helmets. The beer he was drinking while he drove wasn’t a problem ;)

km 20 (20 km west from Leticia)

From Leticia I strongly recommend you visit Puerto Nariño! By the speedboat taxi (it leaves every day at 8am, 10am, and 2pm) it’s about 1.5 hours away. The community is much smaller and there are villages you can visit all around. I stayed 10 minutes outside the center, in a place called the Freight. You can have a whole cabin to yourself for $15,000 pesos or share one for $10,000 pesos each. They have a kitchen and a canoe you can use for free, and are on the river so every evening you can see a magnificent sunset. There are two orphaned monkeys that live here along with several dogs and cats. The only downside is that after about 9 o’clock the school that you need to pass to get here from the town lets out its guard dogs who bark viciously. I’ve never passed by without the intermediation of the night watchman.

My favorite spot in Puerto Nariño is on the bridge that you’ll need to pass to get to the center of the town from the Freight. At night under the stars you can here the music of the forest here, a symphony of insects, bird and monkeys, under the echo of the stars. Unfortunately I lost my recording when my camera drowned in a river…. if you go to puerto Nariño and visit the bridge at night, could you record the sound for 3 minutes and send me the track, I’d appreciate it with all my being!

July 6, 2011 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

some words about studying Spanish in Ecuador at Yanapuma

Yanapuma Foundation / Spanish language school & Volunteer house
Quito, Ecuador

The Mariscal district of Quito is full of Spanish schools and I chose this one back in New York because of their website and commitments to social projects around Ecuador. I wasn’t bothered by the $20 mandatory registration fee that they said goes towards these development projects, but I was disappointed when the only non-Ecuadorian director could not tell me what exactly Yanapuma was doing.

The school is organized into two sessions, the morning is from 9am-1pm and the afternoon from 2-6pm. There is a 15 minute break in between, during which students drink tea or coffee and some cheap snack provided by the school. Usually the break lasts longer than 15 minutes, because two hours is a long time to sit still and students like the opportunity to chat with other students. The layout of the building is nice.

The problem I found is that the teachers are basically freelancers who work with many other Spanish schools whenever they are needed. Also some of them live very far away. So asking for a different schedule that fit my needs better (9-11, with a 2 hour break, and then 1-3) meant that my poor teacher had to sit with nothing to do for two hours. It made me feel bad to return to the school refreshed after my walk and lunch, with an hour left until class, hoping to review the lesson on my own before continuing and see my teacher there sitting hopelessly staring into space. The first teacher I had refused to teach me once I changed the schedule to fit my needs. With the second teacher I eventually changed the schedule back to 9am-1pm because I felt sorry for her.

Also I was unhappy with how Yanapuma handled my accommodation. On their website they wrote about a volunteer house which I assumed from their description belonged to them. However the system was that they simply had “dibs” on certain rooms while other schools had “dibs” on others. I paid $270 for a month stay. A few days later I met a student who’d paid less than $200. And then another who paid $150 for a room with a private bathroom. I went to the management who refunded me part of my money and explained that Yanapuma had told her to charge me daily ($9 * 30 days) instead of monthly. So even though Yanapuma was not making any commission off me, they were not looking out for my interests. I did not like the volunteer house for other reasons as well. The shower did not always have hot water and the door to it was broken. It’s located in an area that’s extremely loud until 2-3am every morning.

Another bad thing about Yanapuma – they did not pick me up as promised from the airport.

Recommendation: If you want to study Spanish in Ecuador I recommend doing it in Baños, Otavalo or Tena. There are several language schools in these smaller cities, they’re safer than Quito and cost less with more flexible teachers who don’t have to commute long distances. And I personally prefer Baños, Otavalo and Tena to Quito (Baños for its multitude of outdoor adventures, Otavalo for it’s kind and ambitious indigenous people and Tena for its proximity to the jungle).

July 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm 11 comments


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