That time I trekked for 3 days solo in the Amazon Jungle with just a tribesman as my guide and his machete!
So you know, just the usual. Trekking for 3 days in the Amazon Jungle with no-one except my Amazonian guide (a local tribesman) who just happened to be carrying a large machete with him throughout the entirety of our trek. Ok, so obviously I’m joking about the whole ‘just the usual’ part, but I have to admit crazy things do seem to happen to me a lot on the road and in all honesty this didn’t seem that out of the ordinary at the time. In fact, it seemed completely normal. It’s only after posting a jokey facebook message on my personal account about said machete and my guide and people were like “DON’T TELL YOUR MUM” that I began to think, “oh yeah, I suppose this was a bit mad!” Then I began to think back on the entirety of the past 3 days and I realised so many crazy things happened throughout the entirety of my tour and yet during the long days of trekking it didn’t seem like that at all!
How I ended up going solo
So let me explain. I booked a 3 day tour of the Amazon Jungle from Baños (a town close to the Amazon in Ecuador). For some reason the company that I booked through (Adventure Equatorland) usually only sell 1 day tours. They have the advertisement for 3 day tours up on the window of some of their partner stores, but apparently they rarely get anyone booking for this duration, and if they do it’s a group. This probably explains why the price was also so cheap – $120 US for 3 days including all food, the guide, transport, equipment, and accommodation. It was $40 US for the 1 day tour and $40 US per day for any extra days thereafter. In my eyes it was therefore worth booking more days because with the 1 day tour you don’t get to stay overnight in the jungle and you leave before dinner. For essentially the same price per day I was also getting accommodation and more meals. Couple that with the fact that the cheapest price I could find prior to my arrival in Baños was $230 US for the same time period (advertised through CarpeDiem in Quito), I jumped at 3 days / 2 nights for $120 US!
It wasn’t until I got in the van ready to go the next day that the driver said “You do know you’re going solo for the 3 days don’t you?”, and I was like “Whaaaaaat?”, that I started to realise my tour was going to be a little bit different from the norm. He explained that whilst I’d be joined on the first day by a group who had booked the 1 day tour, when they left around dinner time I was going to be on my own, and nobody was coming the 2nd day. It would just be me and the guide for almost the entirety of the 3 days. We would pick him up later once we got closer to the Amazon. To be fair, the driver did then ask me was I sure I wanted to do it solo? To which I did have a brief thought that maybe I could get a refund on the remaining 2 days but figured they probably wouldn’t be keen on giving me some of my money back. That and I really wanted the overnight experience in the jungle. In large part this Amazon tour is major reason why I came to South America. I didn’t want to miss out on any part of the experience. So I decided to take a risk and say fuck it, lets go stay for 2 nights in the jungle alone in a lodge with a guy I’ve never met before who probably has the skill set to kill me if he wanted to. It was only on the morning of day 2 that I found out about the machete, but by that time I was already there alone and knew no-one was coming for at least a day so I thought fuck it. If he was going to kill me he’d have probably done it by now, but if I’m going into a predator-filled jungle I’d rather have a guy who carries a big fucking knife with me!
Trusting my instincts and the most amazing guide
Whilst I’m not necessarily recommending you follow the same path as I did if you want to do a jungle tour (as looking back it was somewhat irresponsible of me and spur of the moment to go without a group), I must say from a personal point of view I am glad I trusted my instincts and decided to go ahead with this tour. My Amazonian guide Willian was in actual fact the best guide I’ve ever had on a tour when it comes to knowledge and just pure skill in dealing with his surroundings. In fact, I’m somewhat enamoured by the guy and honestly couldn’t have felt more safe than when I was with him out in the rainforest. I was completely over-awed by his capabilities in such a harsh and dangerous landscape.
When we ran out of water Willian would cut open a bamboo tree and take the fresh water that was inside and use it to fill my bottle. When we passed by a particular type of tree (I regret to say I can’t remember the name of it) he cut off the branch, and when we stopped for a break he carved me headbands and bangles out of it with his machete. He ate termites, we ate wild jungle fruit together. We swam together underneath a waterfall hours into the jungle far away from any human settlements. He took me out at night to spot tarantulas and giant toads. We saw monkeys. He taught me to speak a little Quichoa, his local indigenous language. When we ate it was only food or meat that was grown or caught around the land which we were living on. That and he had a tiger tooth on his necklace and could catch giant lizards with his hands. Need I say more?
I honestly think you could drop this guy anywhere in the jungle with nothing but his trusty machete and he’d survive. In fact, he’d probably find it quite easy.
So was it worth taking the 3 days instead of 1?
100% yes. In actual fact, by the time the others left on the 1st day I was actually feeling slightly disappointed with what we had seen so far. It was only on my 2nd and 3rd days that I really got to see the best of the jungle, and when I got to go to places almost no-one ever really goes to. This was also when I saw the monkeys, snakes, and got to taste all the jungle fruits as we trekked. It was also during this time that we got to take a swim in a place where no-one ever really goes to. It was definitely a more off-the-beaten-track experience because you had more time to explore. I mean, we literally had to chop down trees sometimes just to pass through a particular spot because there was no pathway that had already been trodden. You genuinely can’t get further away from the tourist trail than that!
- So needless to say my “machete-wielding” Amazonian guide was in actual fact just using the tool for what it was meant for. Cutting down branches and carving things out of wood. When you see someone delicately carve out a headband from such a large and sharp tool it’s very hard to view them in the same way as you would if they were carrying the exact same tool in a city centre for example. Or rather this is when you would start referring to it as “weapon” rather than a tool, but with Willian you never once thought of it this way.
I entered the jungle feeling a little nervous and scared, worried about the creepy crawlies, thinking about whether going solo with just a guide for 3 days was completely insane? By the time I left though I honestly yearned to stay longer. Never in my life have I felt more at peace somewhere than right out there, listening to all the sounds of the insects and animals at night. I’m glad I had this experience, and whilst the humidity was hard at times, and the treks often strenuous (or they were for me, Willian never broke a sweat!) It was all completely worth it.
Don’t miss out on the Amazon should you ever come to South America. It’s such an incredible experience.