For the past couple of weeks, I've been in a bit of a rut. I wasn't doing anything, I felt like I wasn't improving much in Spanish, and I was dreading my next three months without school. But if anything could make me feel like I was where I was supposed to be, it was my trip to the Amazon rainforest with Rotary.

As usual, I didn't really have any idea what kind of trip we were going on, but honestly, I didn't really expect too much judging from the last trip we went on to the beach. I expected we would go somewhere super touristy and cheap. Instead where we went was one of the most beautiful, interesting and authentic places I have ever been.

It's called Sacha Lodge, a place I was later informed is coveted as one of the best birding spots in South America! And I really love birds.

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To get there I flew with the other kids in Guayaquil to Quito. There, we met up with the rest of the group (about 25 in total) and from there flew into a small city called Coca, which is named after the coffee bean! Sadly, we didn't have time for coffee as from the airport we got on a bus to the sort of launching point of lodge. There we enjoyed a delicious lunch and learned about the lodge's history and some other information from the director. Next we took a motor boat for about two hours down river. From there, we got to the beginning of the lodge's land, and walked through the jungle for about 30 more minutes. Then we got in canoes and were paddled down a small stream to the lodge which is located on a lake with several small tributaries spreading out of it. We were seriously IN the rain forest.

Sacha Lodge is a 5,000-acre private reserve, the kind of business that has the capacity to save the always-endangered wealth of jungle Ecuador has held on to for so long.

We had beautiful rooms with electricity and hot water, three meals per day of wonderful healthy food, two to three tours through the jungle per day with a native guide and full access to the trails, swimming in the lake, fishing for pirañas, or, if you're like me, lots of bird watching.

I could write in full detail about every single incredible thing I was able to do there, but instead I'll just sum up a few:

Fishing for pirañas, swimming in that same water with the pirañas and crocodiles, canoeing on the lake at sunset and watching the stars and brilliant colors reflect of the water, walking along the canopy walk, 100 feet up, at the same height as the tree tops, getting up close with tarantulas, poisonous frogs, deadly conga ants, learning about the medicinal powers of different plants in the jungle from my indigenous guide, feeding bananas to the monkeys that frequented the lodge, waking up to watch a true rainforest thunderstorm, and feeling the floor shake with every clap of thunder, going to a indigenous village to see how they live, hunt, cook and celebrate, bird watching from 130 feet up in the canopy, watching the sunrise on the lake on my last day ...

My only complaint about my trip was it was too short. It was a whirlwind, but I plan on doing everything in my power to spend some time in the Amazon again before I leave. It is truly an incredible place full of magic and surprises.

Held several positions at The Press including staff writer, entertainment editor, creator and longtime editor of teen section Generation Next.

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