Satan’s Talons

Alright kids, gather round, it’s story time here on Indie Road.

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting my friend Louisa, who was a wolf in a previous life and was also once chased by clowns, in my humble abode. It had been a while since I last saw her as she lives all the way on the other side of Germany (at least for the purposes of this story) and I had been to several places since our last meeting. We were talking about some of the photos on my wall of distant lands travelled, and, amazingly, I realised that I hadn’t talked about one of the most tragic but hilarious things that happened in South America as my eyes glazed silently over a picture of a bird that I failed to mention to her at the time.

This, my friends, is one of those awesome stories that I seem to be renowned for accumulating, and for once it’s not even about me.

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So, at the end of last year and for the beginning of this one I was lucky enough to be exploring Ecuador. My real reason for visiting involved a failed takeover of the Icelandic Consulate office (from the inside), but that’s a story for another day, as is nearly passing out in front of the Japanese Ambassador during his speech, falling off a bicycle on the side of an active volcano because the brakes were backwards, getting stalked by Norwegians, and having my dessert presented by somebody who could be misinterpreted as a fabulously colourful KKK supporter (and sometimes I wonder why Claudia picked me to start a blog with…). While taking down the Icela- while exploring Ecuador, it was obviously on my list to go to the Amazon Rainforest, and the opportunity presented itself as a trip to the Cuyabeno Reserve, which was actually founded by the father of my beautiful host, Julieta. It has had a bit of a shaky past since becoming a tourist destination, but is very safe to explore these days and is well worth a visit.

A typical trip to this region involves sleeping in tiny huts that barely seperate you from the caimans, jetting around the piranha infested water in little boats, and trying not to step on the world’s deadliest spider. Actually, when I put it like that, it sounds truly terrifying and comparable to Australia’s Cape Tribulation, but everything about this place is really fantastic. The sound of the rainforest at night as you try to sleep (I’m sure there’s a joke to put in here) is truly magical, although it does leave you wondering just how effective the mosquito nets are (especially after they let in a domestically abusive frog, but that’s a story for another day).

We were part of a small group consisting of a boy from the Netherlands with the most awesome name I have ever heard of (Tom, he was called Tom. Isn’t it just beautiful?), a slightly older but no less awesome Australian couple, another Ecuadorian girl who lived in Canada, a Belgian girl, our guide, our boat driver, Julieta and I. For three days we traded stories as travellers do, and, like every travel blog you have ever read, I HAD LIKE A REAL GOOD TIME AND I LURVED IT YEAH and you should like TOTALLY go, it will be awesome, yah.

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But this is Indie Road, so yes, dear friends, this story takes a dark turn.

The tour took us all to this remote indigenous village, where we met some of the local people and tried out some blowing (ha!) of darts and making a tapioca style bread from yams that we harvested ourselves (I actually just watched because the harvesting seemed like hard work, and it was a vacation after all). After we cultured ourselves and burned our tastebuds off with the smallest chilli I have ever seen, we took a short walk around the village. On top of this wooden post sat this beautiful parrot, who seemed to be repeating what we said back to us and chuckling, so of course, we started trying to speak to it, taking lots of photos of the cute little bird, and trying to get it to repeat profanity and insults.

If you take nothing else from this story, just remember that looks can be deceptive, and that cuteness kills.

The Belgian girl saw this treehouse and, in what I think was a move to try to take a good photo of the parrot from the same level, decided to climb up the steps. The parrot seemed to realise this, and before the Belgian could reach the second step, the parrot had descended, as if in slow motion, upon her in a raging fury, kicking and scratching at her face while maniacally laughing as she struggled and screamed at the beast. Of course, as bystanders, at first we thought this was hilarious, and we started to laugh, maybe for five seconds before we realised it was actually quite serious. Bad friends.

She got away from the bird in a desperate scramble, but then it jumped back in and attacked again, laughing once more in terrifyingly human-like tones. It would have made a third attack if one of the local villagers hadn’t scared it off. Our friend, battered and bleeding, walked back towards us as we all asked if she was okay. Amazingly, and for this I have retained so much respect for our protagonist, the first thing she asked was if anybody had caught it on camera. Unfortunately, we all missed the opportunity out of genuine concern (that’s right, sometimes I can be a nice person). She was actually quite upset that nobody had at least photo.

Now, those who know me quite well will probably also know that I tend to travel with a first aid kit, but the reality is that I never have the chance to use it. Luckily, for our friend, I was able to swoop in like Batman, armed with an antiseptic wipe to sterilise the wounds. I’m pretty sure they currently have a big lamp that shines a giant penis into the night sky over the Amazon when they request my superhero services.

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It was thirty seconds of insanity to witness, but to experience must have been something unreal. Picture this; you are innocently trying to take a picture of a cute parrot, when out of nowhere it is persistently scratching at your face and pulling at your hair while chuckling as if it were some possessed demon from Hell. Also, imagine out of all of the things that can kill you in Amazon; caimans, anacondas, piranhas, spiders, snakes, jaguars, ocelots, poisonous plants, airborne fish, badly positioned rocks, pink dolphins with lasers attached to their heads and malaria – that the most deadly encounter that you had was with an adorable parrot. Later on, we realised that maybe the parrot was a problem in the village as we saw it swoop towards some kids playing football and they all dived out the way, possibly quite accustomed to its attacks.

If you do go to Ecuador, please do yourself a favour and spend some time exploring the country instead of just staying a night en-route to The Galapagos. There is so much diversity in such a small space, and Ecuador deserves just as much love as the rest of South America which often steals the spotlight. A trip to Cuyabeno will not break the bank, and will leave you with some completely unforgettable memories, particularly if you get beaten up by a little birdy. I would also like to point out that while malaria is present in some parts of the Amazon Basin, Cuyabeno is rather safe and you are not likely to contract any tropical diseases, apart from this really common one which warms you up from the inside and leaves you feeling a little bit sad on the way home. I’m still experiencing side effects from my infatuation induced infection to this day. Oh, and this is my only photo of the violent bastard, looking all innocent and angelic from its vantage point, picking out its next victim.

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– Tom @ indieroad

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