A Travellerspoint blog

Sacha Yacu Animal Center

Part 2

8/26/14 at 1456 (Quito time)
Title: Pig attack!


My afternoon so far has consisted of a siesta and getting bit by the pig Juaganita as I pushed her away from the kittens she was trying to eat. Skin intact. My Swiss counterpart noted that Juaganita had been biting this morning when they were preparing food for the animals so maybe she was trying to eat the kittens simply because they were the best bet. She fed the pig some rice, yielding no change.


We are now waiting for the rain to subside so we can go pick grasshoppers for the monos, or monkeys. Juaganita is eating nearby, munching on overcooked white rice from yesterday, and one of the many cats is now cuddled on my right knee as I sit cross-legged in a hammock, listening to the melody of rain, insects, and wind through the foliage.


We ended up catching grasshoppers the next day. Here is a picture of the catch between myself, Luca, and Maria. I loved it, even though I took a pretty hard fall on a slippery bit of pathway straight onto my back in the process.

8/26/14 at 2045 (Quito time)
Title: Jungle Carpentry

Grasshopper catching was cancelled due to the rain. We decided to make a shelf instead. Using scraps of wood and bits of nails, I felt so handy as I sawed wood and hammered away. It came out pretty fantastic. =)




Our finished product!


Fresh, simple carrot cake adorned with sugar made by Franziska. Delicious!

I was scheduled to help feed the kinkajoes, but it was cancelled because Julio got caught up cutting sugar cane and forgot. By the time he returned, it was dark and Julio went into the jungle on his own. I had prepared the bucket of hardboiled egg, papaya, banana, berries, and watermelon. I said I was willing to still go but was told it was too dangerous. I am extremely disappointed. I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I'll be able to have some more contact with the animals.

The lights for the generator are off, so we are preparing to play a game by candlelight.

8/27/14 at 1414 (Quito time)
Title: When sugarcane fights back



So, today while I was cutting sugarcane with a machete in the jungle . . .

Sugarcane: 1
Sarah: 0

I decided to cut without gloves, as my gloves were still wet from a previous washing. The cut wasn't so deep, however I had some good bleeding going on because I had been taking aspirin for my long flights and bus rides. I dripped only a minimal amount of blood on the fresh sugarcane before catching that I was making a mess.


Thanks again, betadine. I'm starting to get a reputation here.


Incidentally, it was my first time eating fresh sugarcane. Maybe I had it coming.

Today, my job was to feed the monos. The aggressive ones were sectioned off and we let the playful ones crawl on us. I was lucky enough to be nominated for the cage with the baby, thanks to my Swiss counterpart Luca.


This mono, or monkey, is named Grumpy for obvious reasons. His constant scowl reminded me of a certain Grumpy back home. ;)


The orphaned baby monkey clung to me while I cleaned the cage and fed the adult monkeys. She knew her feeding time was coming.


Somewhere during this experience I realized my lap was warm and wet, courtesy of Ms. Lisa, the monkey. She had been stretched out, relaxed on my lap getting a belly rub when she decided to relieve herself.

Afterwards, we went fishing where I tortured my own worms to make bait, then caught a good sized fish before catching a tiny fish. Rumor has it that Flavio and his family cooked up my large fish for lunch, which makes me feel proud.

My turn to cook lunch, so we did mashed potatoes with avocado and garlic, stewed cabbage with onion and chicken bouillon, and fried plantains. Delicioso!

Now, relaxing before our afternoon work. Relaxing in a hammock while we listen to the "Maria" playlist handchosen by my awesome Ecuadorian roomie.

Maria: "Oh . . you like Marilyn Manson a lot?"
Me: "Haha, yeah."
. . . .
Maria: "And Nine Inch Nails? I know them. I learned of them a while back."
Me: "Yep. They're touring right now, have some friends seeing them."
. . . .
Maria: "And System of a Down!"
Me: "Yep."
Maria: "OK. I'm starting to get you."

Louis plays on in the background . . . though we're apart, you're a part of me still, you were my thrill on blueberry hill . . .

8/28/14 at 0837 (Quito time)

Lessons learned in the night:
- don't freak out over the 3 inch cockroach because chances are that you'll find a 6 inch flying insect on the wall 5 feet over


Our little leaf-bug friend that attached to Maria's mosquito netting


Some interesting critters we found while hunting grasshoppers for the monkeys

8/28/14 at 2301 (Quito time)


Working on more hooks and door handles with the handy Luca and Julie

A good dinner, game of cards, and bonding over talks of relationships and dating with Monsier Perine playing in the background as I rest in a hammock with kittens on my lap, watching the flames of the fire.

8/30/14 at 0724 (Quito time)


Preparing for a little bit of loco.

Last night was the night of a Ring of Fire card game, Ecuadorian rum with Coca-Cola and lemon. In the day, I played with an ocelot but managed to walk away with my shirt intact. I also had a little moment of panic when I could not find my way in the jungle while out feeding animals; I was with David, who had been ahead of me on the path and suddenly he was gone. I was calling out but did not see him. Turned out he was hiding behind a tree so as to see the gringo get scared in the woods. It worked. =P


My last night in Sacha Yacu

Last night was our last night of cooking together. I got emotional watching the sunset, listening to the music play from my iPad in the kitchen and hearing the laughs of my new friends. It dawned on me how special the experience has been in Sacha Yacu and how I wanted to stay longer. However, the time has come and after feeding the animals for the last time, to Banos I go with Merit and Maria for a partial day of fun before heading back to Quito.

8/31/14 at 0138 (Quito time)


Receiving the last assignment report in the AM

This morning I had my last morning of feeding the animals around Sacha Yacu. I went out with my roommate Maria and my Ecuadorian crush Mr. David. Merit made a quick lunch of pasta and ketchup with onions, then we headed out for the bus to Puyo. There was a nice bit of time with David, Luca, Julie, Flavio, Franziska, Merit, and Maria waiting at the busstop, looking for a tarantula, listening to frogs, and chatting as Julie and Luca crawled the beams above them, intensely discussing the importance of foot placement when it comes to direction change while climbing. (Have I mentioned how much I love this Swiss couple?)


Flavio and Franziska


Julie and Luca


Waiting for the bus

The bus came quickly and hardly slowed down. It was a quick goodbye to Franziska and Flavio, then the bus took off. After a short few minutes in Puyo together, Luca and Julie said farewell, then David. Maria and Merit led the way to another bus terminal, where we boarded a bus for Banos. We checked into the best hostel ever, thanks to Merit's suggestion.

Banos is a lively tourist town, filled with backpackers. The artisan market was fun to walk around, full of handmade goods, beggars, human statue performers, and the like. It started to rain lightly and we saw a full rainbow. We also saw my favorite, a sign pointing to various cities around the world. Althoough I saw some cuyo, or guinea pig, being grilled on a stick, we didn't go for it, as a warm appetizing lunch awaited me, although I promised that if I had room inmy belly afterwards, I would try a quarter of guinea pig. Luckily, I was full after lunch and a thickened juice with milk, the fruit of which I don't remember. We shopped our hearts away, then headed out for a night of dancing at the local discotecas. We had a great time, getting in free because Merit and I were foreigners, and as Maria explained it, we attracted local men so did not have to pay the cover charge. Prior to this, I was also able to procur some eye shadow and a watch, considering that was the one thing that I had forgotten at home. We ate some fresh pizza and papas afterwards while catching bits of a Harry Potter marathon that was playing on TNT. We also grabbed an ice cream, then headed in for the night. Tomorrow, breakfast at the chocolate shop, then on to Quito. Then Portugal the day after that . . . it's going by so quickly.


Merit, myself, and Maria enjoying the pretty view in Banos


Chocolate caliente con queso, an Ecuadorian specialty. I had some with my pancake and marmalade for breakfast in Banos.


Our selection of Ecuadorian chocolate from a local shop in Banos

Posted by WanderingWorld 16:28 Archived in Ecuador Tagged people food jungle insects amazon banos ecuador foot_shot sacha_yacu Comments (3)

Sacha Yacu Animal Center

Part 1

Amo a Ecuador! This country and its people have stolen my heart without a doubt and I am sad to be leaving, no matter how much I am looking forward to exploring Portugal. My first introduction to the graciousness of Ecuadorian people was with my extended family who picked me up from the airport, and as I traveled to Sacha Yacu, my love grew. Sacha Yacu Animal Center is about an hour outside of Puyo, Ecuador. Our duties included preparing and gathering the food for the animals, feeding the animals, cleaning the cages, creating new cages, maintaining pathways to the animal areas, helping to repair the cages, maintaining the house, and so forth. We got up at 8 AM, worked for perhaps 3-4 hours depending on the assigned duties, had lunch break and rest until 1430, then worked until approximately 1700 before preparing for dinner. It was hard physical labor that left me feeling exhausted and satisfied with what I had worked on that day.

Once at Sacha Yacu, I got to know each of my fellow volunteers and the owning family quite well although my stay was short.

Flavio, our fearless leader who understands the awesome responsibility upon his shoulders to maintain quality care for each of these animals in need of care and rehabilitation.

Julio, Flavio's younger brother with a mischievous smile and a quick laugh. With his limited English and my limited Spanish, we gave each other a difficult time with limited words. (Note to self: never forget that Julio es loco.)

David, Julio's quiet friend who lived nearby. A more serious figure, I was able to get a few good laughs from him before my days at Sacha Yacu were up. Muy guapo and muy graves!

Franziska, a German girl who is experienced in the ways of Sacha Yacu and immediately took me under her wing to explain the intricacies of my new home. Franzis was blunt, open and completely approachable.

Maria, my musically inclined Ecuadorian roommate with effortless beauty in a jungle climate.

Merit, an explorer by nature and vegan by choice, she was preparing for university in Germany and improving her Spanish-skills each day.

Luca, a jungle man from Switzerland who enjoyed yielding a machete and creating door handles & hooks from the local tree branches.

Julie, a fierce Swiss miss who saved me from a poisonous frog in the shower and matched the artistic nature of her man Luca by adding quirky paintings to the Sacha Yacu bathrooms.


Left to Right Top Row: Julio, me, Maria, Franziska, Julie

Left to Right Bottom Row: David, Raul, Flavio, Luca, Merit

Below are notes from my journal and some of my photos during my time there.

8/25/14 at 2006 (Quito time)


Quito -> taxi to Quitumbe Station in Quito (1 hour) -> bus to Puyo (5 hours) -> bus to kilometer 35 (1 hour) -> hike approximately 20 minutes in the jungle to Sacha Yacu Animal Center

Lessons learned:
- don't take an open air shower in the jungle late at night with the light on
- after 8 hours of travel, use the bano before the tour of the grounds
- when the first taxi guy tries to swindle you, don't think the second taxi guy will try to swindle you any less
- although you have no idea what it is, taste the gelatinous purple drink. It's grape. And it goes amazing with fried fish, plantains, an orange fruit that tastes like lime, a side of white rice, and vegetables doused in mayo
- people who warn you about snakes in the toilet and rats in the room are good friends


In Puyo, I met up with Raul and Andrea who were part of the Sacha Yacu family. They helped me with the transfer to a second bus terminal and guided me in buying a small packet of street food, which from what I gather was different stewed beans covered in a mildly spicy sauce with various peppers. Raul spoke to the bus driver so that they would know to stop at the 35 km mark so I may disembark.


I was met by Armando on the side of the rode with his grandson Anderson. Armando spoke no English and my limited Spanish made for a quick introduction, then he helped me with my bag and we started our way into the foliage.


While making the trek to Sacha Yacu, suddenly the trees cleared and there was a small white dot amongst the green, so small and far off I wouldn't have known if 10 year old Anderson had not pointed it out, "Aqui, aqui!" He said something about a discoteca, which I have yet to discover.

As I did my best to maintain pace with Anderson's abuelo and not fall down the steep rocky steps, the following thoughts were going through my head:

"Holy shit, I'm hiking in the jungle. Holy shit, holy shit. He's going fast, they both are. They must know the stones by name. Holy SHIT, I'm actually hiking in the jungle. I'm so glad I have that suitcase that converts to a backpack. Best EVER! Holy shit, this is happening. Amazing . . . it's so gorgeous. I'm here. I'm really here. Whoa, I can't see them anymore, I better take these steps a little faster. I'm alone in the jungle. Holy shit, I'm alone in the jungle."


My room and what would eventually become my boots.


The grounds are beautiful and simple, with large dorm style rooms and a main house/kitchen area. Two bathrooms, two shower facilities, and everything is open air. The lights are on at this time, as they are for 2 hours each night.

There is a young German girl, about 18 years old who has been here for 2 months and will be here longer. Another German girl said it is her 4th time here and she showed me the grounds, including tidbits of important information like throw the toilet paper in the trash can and not the toilet, but also make sure to lock up the bathroom when you're done because the pig on site likes to eat it. There is a Swiss couple, who have been here for one week so far and are traveling all around South America. There is a girl from Ecuador, who like myself, arrived today. Her name is Maria, she is my roommate and she plays contemporary piano.

Flavio is the son of Armando and our main ringleader. His brother Julio is here as well.


Julie enhancing our bathrooms with some of her excellent artwork.

Once at Sacha Yacu, I took a quick shower to rinse away the sweat and grime of the journey, was accosted by several large insects to my breast and face, laughing as I did the necessary flapping-freakout and knocked my conditioner through the open air window to who-knnows-what on the other side. "Well . . . guess I'll get that in the morning."

Dinner was simple, fried salty bits of flatbread, white rice, pasta in a simple sauce, and a vegetable salad mix. My roomies kept my plate warm while I battled bugs in the shower. The lights will be going off soon and Flavio is preparing his laptop for us to watch Oblivion. Candles in beer bottles with dripped wax from many nights are ready to be lit. I'm enjoying being the new kid, the quiet kid. In about 3 minutes they say the generator will turn off and we'll start our movie night.

  • *correction: it ended up being Elysium with Matt Damon. It was in Spanish and I think I got the basics down.

Remembering the bus from Quito to Puyo:

I had been told, "Go with San Francisco bus company, it is least likely to have a drunk driver." I had been told, "It's 5, maybe 6 hours. It is long, tedious." $5.20 for a 5 hour bus ride and the ticket seller even let me borrow her cell to call Raul from Sacha Yacu to let him know what time I would be arriving in Puyo. I had purchased a bottle of water and settled in at a window seat with my backpack, ready for a little sightseeing. I was not expecting to love the bus ride, to see it as a succinct vision of Ecuador and its people. "DJ Hits Caliente" played in the background while our driver and ticket taker worked the road. The driver was young, perhaps mid-twenties and traveled at the advanced speed of one who knew the curves and bumps of the road well. The ticket taker was of gentleman age with slicked back hair and a comb in his shirt pocket. He broke his business demeanor occasionally to laugh with the boys or to help a toddler down from the tall passenger seats in the front. The neighborhoods evolved along the trip, starting with graffiti ranging in talent and ending with stretches of lush green, tall mountains, small waterfalls, and men walking down the street with machetes. I was impressed by the artistic nature within the Ecuadorian cities we passed through. Large scale murals covered many buildings. Men worked on a sculpture of parrots and jungle greenery approximately 20 feet tall. Several wood carvings flashed by as we drove through the towns. Homes and businesses were anything from concrete with pealing teal paint, wooden with tiki-influences, and modern with blue glass over the balconies. Even when surrounded by nature, most homes had potted plants and vegetables growing on patios. While the lively Latin music continued to play, we sped through rock tunnels as water dripped on the windshield and occasionally slowed enough for a vendor to jump on or off the bus. The vendors walk down the aisles, selling water and bottled sodas, fruit cups topped with whipped cream, small bags of unknown proteins, fried potatoes and more. I kept my window open until the cold air made my face numb. The wind brought in smells of smoke and char, fresh fruits and the smell of earth.


8/26/14 at 1153 (Quito time)
Title: Sewing Fail

Turtle cage: 1
Sarah: 0



I would like to give a shoutout to betadine from Sacha Yacu, and my tetanus shot, Riverside Community Hospital purple sewing kit, bandaids, and back-up pair of pants.


Behold, the Frankenstein of all torn-pant sewing jobs. Sorry, Mom.

This morning, Flavio gave a tour of the grounds to Maria and I, which consisted of a 3 hour trek down muddy slopes, holding on to bits of branches for support, touring up and down a rocky river bed at low tide, and accepting the fact that my shirt was sopping wet and I had an unfortunate case of butt sweat.


Flavio with the younger of Sacha Yacu's two ocelots, demonstrating that the younger is tame and playful. The older is aggressive and you are not to enter the cage or face risk of injury.


Posted by WanderingWorld 12:58 Archived in Ecuador Tagged animals food jungle amazon rtw quito foot_shot sacha_yacu Comments (1)

Round the World (RTW) Packing List

As I work on my Ecuador entry, let me post this instead =P

One of the major questions I had when preparing for two months of travel was "What exactly do I bring and what should I leave behind??" I read a lot of blog entries and articles on the subject. I ended up compiling my own list based on the necessities I would need and the splurge items I knew I would want, such as a loofah or my travel sized make-up items. Below is a list of everything that came along.


My supplies and clothes for 2 months travel.

Round the World (RTW) Packing List


  • Credit cards (x2)
  • Debit cards (x2)
  • Undergarment card holder
  • RFID blocking card holder
  • Cash
  • Copy of purchased visas
  • Copy of flight itinerary
  • Copy of passport


  • Compact travel extension cord
  • Digital camera
  • Camera batteries (x3)
  • Camera battery charger
  • 32GB SDHC memory cards (x2)
  • 8GB SD memory card
  • Travel cell phone
  • Cell charger
  • iPad
  • iPad charger
  • Zagg bluetooth keyboard/iPad case combo
  • Memory card adapter for iPad
  • Headphones
  • Electricity adapter/converter combo
  • Flashlight


  • Underwear (x6, including quick dry/wicking underwear)
  • Socks (x6)
  • Bras (x2)
  • PJ pants
  • Sunglasses
  • Tank tops (x3)
  • Short sleeved shirts (x3)
  • Zip up hoodie
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Lightweight pants (x2)
  • Shorts (x2)
  • Long skirt
  • Athletic/walking shoes
  • Converse casual shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Pashmina
  • Thick work gloves


  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Body wash
  • Mini loofah
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Microfiber towel
  • Travel brush
  • Hair oil spray
  • Hair barrettes/bands
  • Face wash
  • Sunblock
  • Lotion
  • Travel razor
  • Travel sized make-up
  • Make-up remover wipes
  • Small handheld mirror
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tweezers
  • Band-aids
  • Pill container (antimalarials, probiotics, diflucan, aspirin, tylenol, dramamine)
  • Chapstick
  • Small toilet paper roll with center cardboard removed


  • Anti-theft messenger bag
  • Passport holding necklace
  • Carabiners
  • Sleeping mask
  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • Compact travel laundry detergent sheets
  • Sewing kit
  • Plastic bags
  • Money Belt
  • Mini combo lock (for hostel lockers)
  • Retractable bike lock (for securing luggage when out)
  • Journal/pen
  • Chewing gum
  • Snacks (beef jerky, trail mix)
  • Fake wedding ring (to help deter the crazies)
  • Door stop
  • Compact jewelry holder (for future purchases)


Everything packed and ready to go!

UPDATE: After my time at Sacha Yacu, I donated my gloves and rain pants and threw away one torn/stained pair of pants & two pairs of socks.

Posted by WanderingWorld 17:26 Tagged flight packing rtw getting_ready Comments (0)

Safe and sound in Quito with extended family!


After a day's worth of travel, I'm here in Quito relaxing with my new buddy Mufasa and the animated Arellano family! My cousin Garrick saw on facebook that I was planning a trip to Ecuador and suggested I speak with his girlfriend Diana. She gave me lots of good advice and spoke with her family about me possibly staying with them. They were gracious enough to pick me up from the airport! I got a nighttime tour of the city and we went on a quick run for a burger and some papas. Gaby and Fernanda picked me up and luckily they speak better English than I speak Spanish! At the house, I met their sister Sheyla who just flew in today from Argentina, her boyfriend Poncho, the girls' mother Mercy, and Mercy's sister. There was a lot of hugs, cheek kisses, and some delicious Argentinian chocolate that cracked open and had a gooey center that tasted like a mix between ganache and caramel.

On the drive, I saw large amounts of graffiti, from simple tags to large scale stylized pieces of artwork. I hope to catch some pictures tomorrow during my travels. I spoke with Gaby and Fernanda about the graffiti, who said that it has become a large problem. The punishment is 6 days in jail if you're caught doing any tagging.

And now, a few tidbits from earlier in the day . . .

A picture of me fresh this morning before the trip! Thanks again to Brad for driving and seeing me off! And a special thanks to him for downloading U2's "It's a Beautiful Day" to be played on the way because he knows that's my favorite travel song! =P

8/24/14 at 0729 (Los Angeles time)
First off, TSA Precheck is amazing! I bypassed the crowds, checked in with an agent where there was no wait, was able to keep my shoes on, and did not have to remove my electronics or fluids. Simple, easy, and I was on my way! $100 for five years includes TSA Precheck (good for some departing domestic/international flights) and Global Entry (good for some international returns) . . . not too shabby.

Now on the plane, getting ready for the first leg to Miami before moving on to Quito, Ecuador. As is tradition, I touched the outside of the plane before boarding. I don't know exactly when I started touching the outside of the plane and I'm not sure exactly why either. Maybe it's for good luck or maybe just because I think it's cool. The outside of that plane will soon be thousands of feet in the air, going in and out of the clouds. Either way, it makes me feel happy . . . especially since this plane has the oneworld logo right on the outside of the plane where I always make contact.

Moving on, I have aspirin in the system and my compression stockings on. I'm ready. Let's do this! =P

8/24/14 at 1527 (Miami time)
While descending in preparation for landing, the pilot made the standard announcement requesting passengers be buckled in. Following this announcement, the plane hit severe turbulence, jolting from left to right with a little drop in altitude. The plane stabilized, and a moment of silence passed before the pilot came back on the loudspeaker. "Well, were you buckled in?" Haven't heard a nervous plane crack up like that before, it was so great.

8/24/14 at 1820 (Quito time)
Not too much longer and we'll be there. I know we flew over Cuba and various islands of the Caribbean but I'm sad to say I couldn't make out where we were each time.

Posted by WanderingWorld 16:27 Archived in Ecuador Tagged dog rtw quito ecuador foot_shot Comments (1)

Where do you go to my lovely when you're alone in your bed?

Morning of . . .

Listening to The Darjeeling Limited soundtrack and eating leftover Indian food as I am getting ready for my flight this morning . . . a dream come true is starting this morning.

Posted by WanderingWorld 04:12 Tagged food flight indian rtw Comments (1)

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