A quick excursion to South America was worth it. As a 1980’s Millennial from New Zealand long trips to South America to tramp or “hike”, volunteer, and speak Spanish were the norm. I chose to join a friend for a short period on her once-in-a-lifetime trip. I ended up having some of the most amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences of my own…one experience in particular.

When planning our trip, I was a demanding travel buddy. I wanted to squeeze in every possible activity into my smaller 6-week itinerary. The millennial’s classic experience of FOMO. However, one decision was easy. My childhood memories of reading Tarzan of the Apes, playing Microsoft’s old Dangerous Creatures programme on PC, watching the Jungle Book and George of the Jungle made going to the Amazon one of my non-negotiables. My friend was happy enough to oblige.

Research began. After talking to friends and fellow travellers we decided on the Ecuadorian Amazon. The meandering tributaries in the river meant there were more opportunities to experience the dense jungle, and there were a number of eco-lodges to choose from.

The adventure began on the bus. The rainy season and the sketchy access road made for a bumpy ride. Soon there was an announcement that the road had washed out and our time waiting on the bus was unknown. My friend, a classic type A, was clearly uncomfortable. Me: “Oh my god, how awesome! We are IN THE JUNGLE! Tarzan adventures here we come.”

I was in awe as soon as we got to our pick up point and got on the boat. The forest was amazing, although, the dirty old boat engine didn’t inspire me much in terms of our eco-travel. When we arrived at the lodge we grabbed our bags preparing to head to our room and explore. Our guide casually mentioned “Look out for snakes on the path to your room as the water has risen up over the wooden path”, and proceeded to wonder away. My friend: “What if there is a snake on the path?” Laughing we trooped over to have a look preparing to sleep in the lodge lounge if necessary.

There was no snake. However, there was some other VERY large unknown bug on the shower curtain. For the rest of the trip we showered with the curtain open…too afraid to disturb our new critter friend.

I was filled with wonder, and adventure for the rest of the trip. Checking out the sloths with our binoculars, watching many kinds of monkeys’ scamper around the trees, rudely waking up the most adorable Owl Monkeys from a nap. Yes, OWL monkeys! Licking ants off a tree which tasted like lemons. The huge spiders, snakes, and caimans which could be lurking around any corner (much to my friend’s distress). The magic of seeing macaws fly over us in huge flocks, completely free and un-caged. I had never truly experienced such scale and abundance of wildlife and nature.

I was intoxicated. The time flew by, and I didn’t even notice not having access to technology or a phone. The feeling of jumping into the amazon river despite all the potentially dangerous creatures underneath was liberating, while also reminding me of my vulnerability and size in the world.

Travel always seems to give me the space and time to re-centre myself, but this time it was different. I didn’t feel completely re-centred and calm. My brain was still in overdrive. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what the Amazon would have been like before humans had such a devastating impact on the forest. I was hungry for more: more learning about the forest, about the creatures in it, about the effects of climate change and human activities, and hungry for more eco-adventures.

I was leaving in a completely different space; at the heart of the world I had never been so lost in my surroundings before. Well I thought I was leaving, until our plane was cancelled…

  • Sophie Carty
  • : My name is Sophie Carty, I live in New Zealand, am a nature lover and avid outdoor adventurer (tramping, biking, skiing). I volunteer for our local Department of Conservation and work to protect the endangered Hoiho or Yellow-Eyed Penguin.
  • : adult_(19_and_over_as_of_31st_december_2019)
  • : This is the first time this story has been published.