Achote Excursion

Ella Egman-Lawless


January 9, 2013

It all started when my host mom came to my door and asked me if I would like to go to the Achote River. I of course wanted to get to know more and more of the land that surrounds my house so I said yes. When I walked outside to my delight and horror two horses were there waiting. My family had been asking me if I knew how to ride a horse, I hesitantly had said yes because it’s true I have ridden a horse before but always with a saddle and always on a legitimate path. I guess they took that as a “yes Ella wants to ride this horse to the Achote.” After a generous butt lift from my mom I was up on the horse with only a blanket and a couple of feed sacks separating. My sister graciously folded over a rope to make me some stirrups.

My mom grabbed the machete and we were on our way. When we started moving my mom told me the story of how she broke her leg riding on the horse I was currently riding. She also told all about how jumpy it is. With those words I gripped onto neck of that horse as hard as I could. After we crossed the first river I was warned to watch out for the branches that were coming up. We would soon be going the through the cacao and coffee trees. Before I knew it my head was down and stayed down for fear of being slapped in the face by a cacao branch. Then we entered the jungle, I felt so giddy saying over and over to myself  “Oh my God Ella you’re riding a horse almost bare back through the Ecuadorian jungle Oh my God.” Pretty soon we started moving downhill at a very intense angle. My horse started to slip and trip all over the place as went down the muddy river valley. This is when I gripped so hard onto the neck hair of that horse when I pulled up my hand for one second I had a handful of black course hairs. I quickly threw them aside, partially so no one would see but also because I had to hold on again before we crossed more small rivers and went down more slippery slopes. After a good chunk of time (my sense of time here has gotten a little fuzzy maybe 45 minutes) we finally arrived at an opening and I realized we had (for the love of god finally) arrived at the river!

I happily got off the horse and walked over to the bank of the river. After I took in the beauty that surrounded me I realized I didn’t really know what we were doing there. My family had told me before they go to the Achote to fish, but I didn’t know how. Soon enough my family still fully clothed walked into the river laid, stomach down around a rock and stuck their hands all around the edges of the rock. I described to my mom catfish noodling and asked her if that is what they were doing. She kind of shrugged and said yes. As I said to myself “alright you’re going to go noodling Ecua-style” I squatted by the rock and stuffed my hand into the deep dark unknown crevices of that rock wiggling my fingers around searching for fish. After a little while my whole family got excited and realized that we had found a fish. They corralled it over to my side of the rock telling me to catch it. (This is when I realized it wasn’t noodling it was just catching fish by hand.) It was so slippery and I couldn’t get it. Then the fishing team started to wrangle a sock on my hand, I put two and two together and with my now frictiony hand I pulled the fish out of the water. I caught my first fish by hand! It soon met the machete, its guts thrown to the rock and then thrown in the bag. This process got repeated over and over again that day until our sack was full of fish and we were tired and ready to go home.

Before I could offer the horse to one of my siblings so that I could walk and not ride the horse, I got butt lifted again onto that horse to do that whole journey in reverse. This time I was holding onto the neck hair for my dear life as the horse tripped up the muddy slopes, over streams and through the cacao and coffee branches. We finally reached the last river I was so happy to know I was almost home. When we got home I got off the horse, the machete got put on the shelf and we started to cook up our catch of the day. My whole family of 7 feasted on fresh guanas, which is what the fish is called, and of course rice.

Once again to see the full glory of  the pictures please click on them.

Ella Egman-Lawless