The first step in starting my research began long before I set foot in Ecuador. I researched on the web and read numerous books on the rainforest and indigenous peoples. Information on the Achuar was quite limited at that time. I prepared outlines and questions for my interviews with the Achuar. I also spend many hours in my attempt to learn Spanish. There was also the preparation for the trip itself.
Now that I will be returning to the rainforest, I am remembering what I had to do to prepare for my first research trip. I checked with the health department to find out what immunizations were required and what were recommended. Recommended were Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies, MMR, and Tetanus. I decided I needed the rabies protection, since I would be staying in the communities. Ten Achuar children died from rabies transmitted by vampire bats in Morona Santiago province in 2011. This is the area where I would be staying. It is not possible to get the needed immunizations in Yuma, AZ. I had to travel to El Centro, CA. I visited my primary provider for scripts for mefloqunine, cipro, an anti-dirrheal, and an anti-fungal cream. I also needed an adequate supply of my regular scripts.
Then came the decisions about what to take. I was allowed 25 pounds. The last legs of the journey to Kapawi ecolodge are in a small aircraft and then a canoe. Less is more when traveling that way. Packing was very challenging. I would be staying in Kapawi for 7 weeks. The lodge provided a list of suggestions for the tourists that visit for a 3 or 5 days stay. Three changes of clothes and knee socks. limited personal items.That was a start. Eco-friendly shampoo/soap would be provided at the lodge. Electricity would be available for recharging cameras. What is important is long sleeves, long pants, and knee-high socks to help prevent insect bites. I would need lots of flashlight batteries, insect repellent and hand sterilizer. One mistake I made was to take my lace-up hiking shoes. After one hike in the rain they never dried out! I packed and repacked many times, continually triaging and eliminating items. Surprising what you can manage without when you have a 25 pound limit! What I will take this time is powdered gator aide and chocolate.
My journey from Yuma to phoenix to Miami to Quito went well. I arrived at the hotel late and had an early morning meeting with the Kapawi staff in the Quito office. We reviewed the logistics and discussed the parameters of the project. Fortunately, their English was better than my Spanish. Since we were meeting for the first time, it was a relief to find such able, helpful, and cordial staff. The following day was sightseeing around Quito and dinner with Sebastian, our Ecuadorian naturalist guide from 2008. We had a wonderful visit and he gave me guidance regarding my stay in the communities.
Next, the bus ride through the Valley of Volcanos to reach Shell, Ecuador