Friday, 16 September 2016

Elephants on Parade

 This summer, I visited the continent of Africa for the first time. I climbed sand dunes in the desert for the first time, went in a microlight for the first time, ate oryx for the first time and yes, went on safari. Several times. Today I want to share a few pictures that I took of some of the elephants we encountered.
First of all, it's worth stating for the record that elephants are huge. Like, really huge. 
And they absolutely don't care about anything. Why would they? They're peaceful, have very little to worry about on the predator front and puny humans are simply of no concern. They supremely and regally ignored us.
The first time I saw elephants was in the Etosha National Park in Namibia. We were camping in a fenced off area, and once we'd arrived and pitched our tents, we wandered down to the watering hole. 
And my jaw dropped. Elephants. Loads of them. Drinking and showering in water and dust in the dusky twilight.
The watering hole is on the other side of a pretty sturdy-looking wall, and on our side were benches to sit and perch and watch. And so we did, mesmerised by the spectacle. The elephants bathed and splooshed and went about their business and eventually wandered off. Seeing elephants that close and in such numbers was so far beyond my expectations. I had sort of images that going on safari is long periods of nothing with the occasional dot on the horizon that may or may not be an antelope. If you're lucky.
I did not expect whole herds of elephants to be chilling in prime photography position by the campsite.
 We spent literally hours that evening, quietly spellbound, sitting and watching by the watering hole. More elephants turned up for their evening ablutions periodically. And we would joke in a whisper that the seven o'clock show might be done, but the 7:30 performers would be along soon. And they always were.
Sometimes interlopers appeared. A nervous giraffe, afraid of his own shadow put in an optimistic appearance but was never brave enough to make it to the water. There were springboks galore too, and the odd rhino. But when the elephants arrived, they cleared everyone out of the way, snorting and even charging until their demands were met. And really, who's going to argue? No wonder giraffes are nervous.
And we watched, as sunset gilded the horizon, as the elephants became grey shapes shambling through the dark. And we still watched, into the night.
We spent more time at the watering hole the next day and into the evening, enjoying the antics of a little one who was enjoying a bath, and clearly desperate to fit in with his much bigger family. I think he was my favourite, and I absolutely know he smiled at me, especially for my pictures.
Our other big elephant experience was staying at Elephant Sands in Botswana. Not far from Nata, Elephant Sands is quite literally a place in the sands with elephants, a camp around a desert watering hole frequented by these impressive giants.
Big permanent tents are arranged in a wide arc around the water, and there's a bar and terrace which completes the ring. There's nothing else for miles around because you don't need anything else: you come to see the elephants visiting the site. And my goodness, there are elephants.
They appear from nowhere, suddenly on the horizon, making a beeline for the water. These elephants are somewhat more frenzied as this is the only water for miles around. They aren't really into sharing and operated on a much more take-what-you-can-get attitude. 
I was so excited to watch that I just chucked my bag in the tent and bounced impatiently until my roommate was ready.
Armed with my elephant safety guide, I set out. Elephant safety training goes something like this: Don't annoy one because it's bigger than you.  So don't be an idiot, don't get in the way, keep a safe distance, don't get between an elephant and something it wants, such as water, or its baby and don't make a lot of noise.
If you do annoy one, you will know because it will start flapping its ears menacingly at you.  At this point, you need to leave, calmly and briskly.  Next it will mock charge.  At this point, you need to have left already, because after that comes a real charge, and after that, frankly what's left of you could be spread on toast.
There is some etiquette at Elephant Sands. It's important to remember that a) Elephant Sands is completely open, no fences to keep out the wildlife. And b) weirdly, elephants make no noise when they walk; they're strangely light of foot. So to head to the terrace for good views, you have to dodge from tent to tent, peering around corners, checking for elephants and then walking calmly around once you're sure there are none coming.
We spent the whole afternoon and evening watching the elephants, having a drink on the terrace, dinner outside and then settling down again. We were so close to the animals but again, they were so disinterested in our presence. After all, why bother with the tiny people when you can trumpet at other elephants, snort and clash tusks or run one another away? The elephants were somewhat restless and crotchety, barging into each other, huffing their displeasure, at times moving with surprising speed. As dusk fell, a fire was lit in the pit on the terrace which kept us warm in the cold African night, something we had come to expect after each hot, sun-drenched day.
We were seated in chairs lined up along the edge of the terrace, as close as we could be, scant feet away. You could feel the collective intake of breath and see the way we all involuntarily leaned back whenever an elephant barged in our direction, ears flapping a warning. My goodness, they can move, and they can really seem threatening. But even when the pachyderm prickliness came in our direction, it was never at us, always at the approach of a more interesting, and often much larger, competing elephant.

We were sent to be not long after ten, as there had been a lion alert nearby.  Lions do use the watering hole, but not while the elephants are there.  But the issue is apparently the lions will lie down beside the tents waiting for the elephants to leave, which can be awkward for humans who accidently stumble into one.
I suppose awkward is an understatement.  Anyway, we all went to bed before the lions came, stumbling through the dark, checking for elephants and curling up in our blankets, willing the onset of the new day which might bring the dawn trumpet of more elephants.
A truly magical experience; I look forward to the day I return to Africa.
Kisses xxx
P.S. Africa (the entire continent, I'm convinced) is photographers paradise.  Have you explored any of its countries?  Are there any you would recommend?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Back to School

Over the past week or so, the summer has drawn to a close and students and their teachers have returned to school. For me this happened on the 31st of August which seems intolerably early, but I cannot complain as I have had a wonderful break and equally I am enjoying being back in the school routine. Crisp new exercise books, eager students, a clean whiteboard and a brand new cake rota for those lessons that we all, pupils and teacher alike, just have to get through.
It's all about the little things that help along the way!
Summer was wonderful: a long break from school brings with it the opportunity to travel which I seized with both hands. With travel, I find the more I do, the more I go, the more I see, then the more I am inspired to go further, explore more, adventure more, experience more, try more! In July, I travelled for the first time to the continent of Africa, making my way up the west coast of South Africa into Namibia and Botswana, before popping to Zambia and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls. In August I spent some time in New. Zealand with my brother, marvelling at the scenery and having some quite exhilarating experiences! It was a summer that dreams are made off, a summer where I achieved 6 of the ambitions on my list and have come away with more travel dreams and ambitions. 
Back to school brings new things to share here on the blog. I am gradually editing the hundreds upon hundreds of photos I returned home with. I'm looking forward to pairing them with entries from my travel journal, blogging about the amazing places I was so fortunate to experience, and of course, scrapbooking.
And speaking of scrapbooking, I am looking forward to the weather turning cooler, the approach of Autumn, the appearance of hot chocolate of an evening, and spreading out all the pretty things around the sofa so that I can sit under a blanket with a cup of tea, scrapbooking and crafting my little heart out! I have signed up to Wilna Furstenburg's new workshop called Artventure to give me scrapbooking inspiration for the next year, a class which my parents very kindly treated me to as my Christmas present.
Back school also means back to Guides and getting excited as we fundraise for a unit trip we're planning next year to Switzerland.
Back to school means Bake Off. Enough said.
Back to school means commuting and a new knitting project as I work on the shawl that will wrap around me and keep me warm when the temperature drops.
Back to school means new recipes in the crockpot, making soup and experimenting with delicious new curry recipes.
Back to school not only means reflecting on the joys of travel in the summer, but it brings cosy evenings planning the next adventure; a time to go away with the man and the excitement of spending a week in New York together, just the two of us.
So all in all I like September. It's like a new year to me; as a teacher the academic new year I think resonates more with me than the calendar year. Its time to look forward to the coming year, make plans, reflect on golden summer days and enjoy the cool approach of Autumn with a cocktail in the last few rays of sun. I'm excited and I'm looking forward to sharing more here.
I wish you well if you're returning to education this week. And a very happy new year to all!
Kisses xxx
P.S. If anyone has any New York must-sees let me know!  I've been before but the man hasn't so we will do a mixture of the usual tourist spots and taking in the sights, but also aim to try some more unusual things too!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My Scrapbooking Style

This weekend on it's time for some inspiration!  Each of the contributing designers for will be sharing a page which both showcases their individual style and takes inspiration from something created by Shimelle or the scrapbooking community.  It's a great weekend to stop by and see the range of different projects the team have come up with!

It's such a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the team, and there's some amazing talent on display.  This is a wonderful chance to see how we all scrapbook differently; everyone has their own way of doing things and it's lovely to embrace that and see what we create.  And that applies to any scrapbooker: we can all make things that are different and beautiful and personal, even if we start from the same point of inspiration.

I went back to a sketch that Shimelle designed a few years ago for my page, and you will find the full layout and the way I used the sketch and incorporated my own signature style on Keep checking back as there are lots of lovely things heading your way!

Kisses xxx

P.S. My page tells the story of the Very Friendly Zebra, which you can read about here! 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Sucre and the Friendly Zebras

Sucre is a town in Bolivia that was once its financial capital.  Despite its South American location, the Spanish influence is clear in its architecture an we spent a lovely morning touring the streets and getting to know this town a little better. Today, the power has moved from Sucre (which means sugar) to the capital city of La Paz which is a vast and sprawling metropolis.  But for me, Sucre has all the charm.

Exploring the market was fascinating; it was really bustling and spread across several floors.  Vendors are grouped together according to their wares, so we found all the butchers together, all the bread sellers together, all the stalls with grains and nuts together... It seemed endless and everyone was competing for the next sale or the best deal.

We explored the park which our guide told us was a popular date spot, with lots of couples meeting at one of the many benches.  The little avenues were lined with trees, unusual for some of the regions of Bolivia at higher altitude, and it did indeed have a very European feel.

So we had a lovely morning exploring this lovely little town.  However, one interesting feature we spotted wherever we went were the livelier than average zebra crossings...

Bolivia has something of a problem with road safety. Drivers are reckless, there's no two ways about it, and they tend to treat the rules of the road as casual suggestions.  One such studiously-ignored "casual suggestion" is the zebra crossing system.  These systems are controlled by lights, and when the lights are red, the cars stop, and the people go.  Except the cars don't stop, and as a pedestrian you take your life in your hands.

The Bolivian government came up with a uniquely lovely solution to this issue. Teens in Bolivia go to school for half of each day: some in the morning, the rest in the afternoon. They can use the other half way to earn some money and help support their families, but there aren't a lot of jobs going and life is difficult for many communities.  So the government employs the students to stand by the Zebra crossing, dressed as zebras, and manage the traffic.  When the lights are green for cars (and thus red for walkers), they cheerfully remind pedestrians to stay on the path.  When the lights change, they gambol out into the street, chastising any naughty vehicles trying to keep going and helping small children cross the road and appreciate the rules of the road.

What's lovely is that they do it with such enthusiasm and pizazz. They are always dancing and they frolic across the roads in gleeful style.  They seem to make everyone smile, and more than once, we children waving and laughing and talking to the zebras, who are a regular feature in two or three Bolivian cities now.  And the traffic has to listen.  You can't run down a loveable, cuddly zebra. And anyway, they are fearless, and not to be messed with.

Nailed it! We spent a happy afternoon in a coffee shop overlooking the town square watching the world go by, and chortling as they danced, managed the traffic, hugged small children, helped old ladies, and generally made the world a better place.

In fact, one of my favourite moments was seeing a little lad run beaming up the path shouting "Hola, cebra!" and leaping in for a cuddle.

Good job, guys!

Kisses xxx

P.S. One of my not-favourite memories was contracting food poisoning from a slice of cheesecake on that very afternoon, doing a large amount of vomiting and then having to catch a 12-hour overnight coach back to La Paz, get on a plane to Marid and another to London.  Safe to say, I just didn't eat anything for a while.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Ice Cream Cupcakes: Making Matrices Delicious

Heading towards the end of the school term, it's always a little bit harder to get my students to focus on Maths when their minds are already in the summer holiday.  Fortunately, I have some really fantastic classes, and one 6th form group in particular have been bribing themselves with cake. They take it in turns to bake (and yes, I take my turn too!) and then once we've learned the concept for the day, they can have cake while they do some practice.

In the final week of term, one student claimed she needed a challenge, and wanted to make something new.  She promised to bring in the results for our Friday lesson, and I in turn promised to teach them how to find the discriminant of a 3 x 3 matrix from the matrix of cofactors, and how the property of alien cofactors works.

Thursday night rolled around, and the message below rolled into my inbox:

" Dear Miss Smith, These are the goodies that I have baked for tomorrow. I am emailing you and the others a pic tonight because there is a 50/50 chance that they will not make it into school alive as they are very unstable and I wanted you to see that the inevitable squashed cupcake that I will turn up with tomorrow was once ice cream shaped :) See you tomorrow!"

She had sent all the class members a picture of a whole hoard of little ice creams lined up on the kitchen counter.  Although they weren't really ice creams at all!

Each ice cream cone contained a dense, moist sponge made with real strawberries, and was topped and swirled with butter cream. And a flake.  I was in awe!  But my student was very casual, explaining that it's easy to get the icing like that if you put food colouring in your piping bag.  I don't believe for a second that it's easy!

The students took to the matrices very well, and we all took to the cupcakes exceptionally well.  They were so sweet, but had a little tang from the strawberries, and a lovely glittery crumble from the flake.  My only complaint was that I didn't have my camera so I could blog and Instagram these little gems. So you know what?  They gave me a couple of extras to take home and photograph.

And eat.

I have the best students!

Kisses xxx

P.S. Apparently you can bake the sponge straight in the cones.  I am definitely going to be trying this at home!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Hallgrímskirkja Church, Reykjavik

This is Hallgr√≠mskirkja, a beautiful and striking Cathedral in Reykjavik.  On my recent trip to Iceland with Girlguiding, we had the opportunity to visit this wonderful, iconic building, crowning the hill and visible from lots of points around the city.

The interior was absolutely flooded with light: so calm and peaceful and it was a pleasure to sit inside, marvelling at the sweeping arches and the fresh, clean, streams of daylight.

It's possible to climb the tower for a small fee, and so we rode the lift up as far as the clock face and climbed the last few steps to reveal astonishing views. Reykjavik was spread out at our feet and we could see all the little chocolate-box houses in lovely colours, the sea in the distance, and the snowy mountains framing the horizon. 

This was a beautiful place to visit, and it's unusual design really made an impact. Yet another gem found in Iceland.
Kisses xxx
P.S. Reykjavik is a great city to explore for a day; so much of it is walkable and I would highly recommend it!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Deconstructing a Scrapbook Page with Shimelle

Today at I am sharing a project that I'm really excited about.  I like to think of it as deconstructed scrapbook page because it contains all the elements of a usual layout but spread out over a couple of page protectors.  If you read my post about my travels in Ecuador's rainforest, you might be aware that I had a lot to say about that experience, and a lot of photos!  So this project was designed to incorporate all those pictures, and all the writing from my travel journal into one spot in my album.

I'm so pleased with how the finished result turned out, and it was very satisfying to turn what felt like a huge volume of memories and comfortably include them into a layout for my album, without the need to make page after page after page on the some topic.

So do visit today to see the full project and find some scrapbook inspiration.

Kisses xxx

P.S. If you travel journal while your away from home, I'd love to hear how you go about it, before I set off on a new adventure this summer!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Deep in the Heart of Ecuador's Rainforest

Last summer I spent an incredible few days nestled in the Rainforest; it's an environment like no other and so today I wanted share the account I wrote in my travel journal....
I began this journey at Quito Airport, Ecuador.  I, along with a few others making the same trip, caught a flight to Coca.  The flight itself was only 30 minutes long and a we landed, the heavens opened.  My goodness, it rained! We were met at the little airport and after a quick swim across the car park, we hopped on a bus to the port, and then transferred to a motorised canoe.
We zoomed down the Napo river, an incredibly wide tributary of the Amazon, and spray leapt up around us.  After two and half hours, we alighted at a tiny, isolated jetty, walked over the bank to a much smaller river, and climbed into a 10-man paddle canoe.
It was another half hour's paddle to the lodge and it was incredibly atmospheric.  No one spoke; in some ways the forest seemed very quiet with the absence of human sounds, but in other ways its a real cacophony as birds, insects, frogs and monkeys compete to make the most noise.  The trees crowded in, concealing their secrets and were still. It was steamy and humid. 
The lodge turned out to be gorgeous: open and thatched, lots of windows screened only by mesh to keep the bugs at bay but let in the air, 4-poster beds hung all around with lacy mosquito nets in lacy swathes, and a magnificent rainfall shower.  For the first time in the 3 weeks since I'd left home, I was actually clean!  I was grouped with some other guests to make a party of 8, and we had meals together, went out on excursions together, and I really enjoyed the company.
We set out for an early evening paddle to explore the lake and our guide was brilliant; very knowledgeable and informative.  We saw tiny, roosting bats, stinky turkeys (that's actually what they're called), herons and even a little pygmy marmoset, the smallest species of monkey! The sun set as we returned to the lodge for dinner, and as we ate on the completely open first floor terrace, we were entertained by the wildlife in the surrounding trees, hunting for fruit and berries. Just magical!
We were up at six in the morning; it's early starts in the rainforest to make the most of the day.  We breakfasted, and then took the canoe back to the Napo river.  We went upriver to see the parrot clay lick: a place on the bank where hundreds of birds gather to lick up the nutrient-rich clay, and to socialise. Dozens of bright green parakeets squabbled with one another, flashing blue tails and wing tips and squawking madly.
We went downriver next to visit an indigenous community of the Amazon basin.  We were met at the riverbank by a number of women who are effectively managing the community to raise an income from tourism. The men mostly work away from home for long periods, and the women are expected to produce crops, bring up the children and generally keep things running.  Tourism allows them some independence as the women can bring in their own money.
A young woman with a tiny baby in a sling, and a machete gave us a tour.  She hacked her way forwards, clearing a path, and harvesting fruit and sugar cane for us to try.  Yum!  We visited the crops and were able to see the school (which was closed for the summer) and then we shared a meal.  We ate possibly the most delicious fish I've ever had.  It was a type of catfish, found only in this area, topped with heart if palm and roasted in a fire, wrapped in palm leaves.  It was so tasty and tender, with a hot chilli sauce that made it sing!
We also sampled white cocoa beans which were fire-roasted and delicious and tasted like walnuts, and finally the tried the local delicacy of weevely grub lavae things. They tasted sort of like bacon but were squishy and distressingly creamy on the inside.  We ate our full allocation between us which pleasantly surprised our guide.  He said most groups won't eat them, so he ends up having to consume the lot to avoid causing offence.
We washed all this down with plantain and a strange porridgey drink made of fermented sugar cane.  It was sort of yeasty, with a beer-like quality, and the fermentation is traditionally done by elders of the community chewing on the sugar cane and then spitting it into a communal pot.  Apparently this isn't usually done any more, but even so, I wouldn't say this was my favourite beverage to kick back with.
The canoe paddle back to the lodge was fantastic; we saw huge spiders and little turtles and the intensity of the rainforest crowded in.  I love it here; it genuinely feels like being lost somewhere and forgotten in another world.  But one where you can then go back to the lodge and have a hot shower.
In the afternoon, we walked through dense jungle to the observation tower.  The rain had begun again in earnest, and we shrugged into fantastic, voluminous waterproof ponchos.  They were terrific! We donned our wellies and enjoyed the scramble.  We were advised not to step on any boulders or rocks that look red, as they become extremely slick and slippy in the rain.  Of course genius here couldn't resist trying it out.  They are very slippy. The guides were right.  You shouldn't step on them.
We reached the observation tower and a couple of us raced to the top.  I came a very respectable second, and claimed that I wasn't even competing anyway.  And my goodness the views were worth it! There was a quick break in the rain and so I shrugged off my sodden poncho and hauled out my camera to capture some of the landscape.
The forest reaches forever in every direction, interrupted only by the wide, meandering path of the Napo. Early Spanish explorers of the area assumed that as the river was so wide, they must be near the East coast of South America as it must surely flow into the sea soon. But of course, they weren't. The Napo is just one tributary that eventually becomes part of the Amazon, but not knowing that, many groups of infantry were decimated by disease and died in their fruitless attempts to explore and reach the Spanish army arriving in Brazil.
The rainforest is an incredible place, and to be up above the canopy, on a tower swaying a little in the wind, was spectacular.
It was getting dark when we glided in our canoes back to the lake.  We climbed out of the boats some distance from the lodge to go on a night hike.  The rain was back doing its thing but I was happily huddled inside my poncho.  It was very dark and scrambled along in a line, calling warnings over our shoulders about stray roots and low branches, trying to be heard over the clattering rain. Glimmers of torchlight and deepening puddles pooled around our mud-splattered wellies.  We saw a click beetle, its neon-orange headlamps glowing ethereally as it flew.  How the guides spot anything in the dark is beyond me.  But somehow they glimpsed the front two legs of a tarantula, crouched in its hole and ready to strike. 
The guide gently tapped a stick just outside the tarantula's lair and it pounced, emerging from its den, before scuttling back inside empty handed.  It was an amazing moment.

Back at the lodge, torchlight picked out a young coral snake, coiled in ribbons around his perch.  That was the first snake we found and I'd never seen one in the wild before.
We were really quite damp by this point, so it was time for a quick shower, before dinner, a good natter, and nice, long sleep...
It's worth mentioning that I LOVED those rainforest nights.  As the rooms have only mesh and no windows, there's a slight breeze, and the sounds are wonderful.  I could hear the drip of rain, the chirrups of insects and all sorts of animal calls, echoing up to the night sky. I love hearing the noises at night while cosily ensconced in bed and it was a wonderful symphony to drift off to sleep to.

From this jetty, you can catch a canoe, swim, or fish for piranha.  Your pick!

Another 6:00am start and a misty dawn greeted us. The rain from the previous day was still falling with gusto, and so it was clearly a good day for a hike! Our group was reduced to three, with a family departing that day, and as we were all reasonably young and fit, the guide offered us the chance to hike a more challenging route.  We accepted!
We wandered who lived in these tiny little cocoons.

The now-familiar canoe paddle was wonderful.  In the rain, the tones of the surroundings are more grey and subtle, and fantastic structures loom suddenly out of the mist. We saw monkeys skitter around in the trees above our heads; howler monkeys calling to claim their territory and I recognised the call that I had been listening to in bed. The racket was phenomenal and sounded more like roaring lions than monkeys.  We also saw bebe-leche monkeys (baby-milk monkeys), so called because the tuft of white fur around their mouths against their black coats looks like milk. They were vigorously attempting to scare the birds out of their tree, somewhat unsuccessfully as they birds would simply perch, unruffled, on a different branch.

Our hike was extremely wet. The trail was indeed more challenging than the ones we had visited until that point, but less used meant more rewarding!  Walking was a bit like trudging through a waterfall. Even enveloped in my poncho and wellies the water seeped through into my clothes.  But it wasn't cold, and when you're so wet you can't get any wetter, it suddenly becomes irrelevant.  In fact, it was more than a little bit exciting, tramping through the wilderness in a downpour. The rainforest lived up to its name and I felt terribly advernturous, squelching along up to my ankles in mud and jumping in puddles, much to the guide's amusement.  Rainforest vegetation has a very high turnover; it's damp and things rot down quickly, providing essential nutrients for new growth. And lots of mud!

Spot the monkey!

The terrain was surprisingly hilly as we made our way through the Yusuni National Park.  The vegetation was dense and I sploshed and slithered along very cheerfully. This park is on of the most diverse regions in Ecuador (and Ecuador itself is one of only 14 countries in the world classified as Megadiverse, meaning there are a huge number of different species). For instance, in one hectare of rainforest there are as many species of trees as there are in all of North America.  Our guide was a wealth of information like this and patiently entertained all our questions.  He seemed able to identify almost anything: birds, plants, frogs, insects... he knew their Latin classifications and so much information about their habits and habitat. But he did claim to be bad at butterflies.  Apparently there are over 1200 species of butterfly about and he just stopped caring. Not a butterfly fan.

Buterfly!  But our guide wasn't really into them.
Despite the rain, our guide found us plenty to look at.  We saw gold mantle tamarind monkeys, tree frogs and rain frogs.  We saw an almost perfectly camouflaged cricket too.  As in it was so well in tune with its surroundings that even when it was inches from our guide's pointing finger, I initially couldn't see it.  We were also shown a patch of moss that suddenly wriggled and turned out not be moss at all, but lots of green, furry caterpillars.  We absolutely loved our off-the-track excursion; it was a real experience. 
I don't really have pictures though as the rain was so heavy and the air so humid that the lens would be simultaneously drenched and steamed up, so I couldn't get much focus.  Or see much.  So I abandoned the camera and stored up everything I could in my memory for my travel journal.
In the afternoon I went piranha fishing in the lake (with a Canadian Girl Guide I met - cool!).  More accurately, I went piranha feeding as the fish were being naughty: eating the raw meat bait off the end of my line, but not having the courtesy to hang on.  I could feel them tugging and pulling but they were too quick and bitey to be reeled in. The manager of the lodge took pity on us and said she knew a secret.  She fetched us a few bread rolls from the kitchen and said that the piranhas cannot resist fresh bread.  She was right: they ate all that too.  Cheeky beggars.
Our final excursion was canoe bound, and once again our merry band of three was paddled off the beaten track by our trusty guide.  He found a tributary that hadn't been used all year for us to investigate, as we were keen to see if we could spot caiman or anaconda, as both live around the lake. As the boat glided into mangrove swamp land, the guide balanced on the front of the boat, waving the paddle in arches through the air.
We eventually asked what he was doing.  And it turns out he was clearing out the spiders webs.  Either they break on the paddle, or they break in our faces. 
Please, carry on.  We weren't successful in our hunt, eventually accidently grounding the canoe and then struggling to turn it round and back out, but it was a lovely way to while away our last few hours of rainforest wonder.  Even the rain stopped.
We had to leave the next morning.  Which was sad.  I LOVED the rainforest, in case I haven't mentioned it.  And I will go back.  It was too good not to return.  But the next adventure was ready to start...
Kisses xxx
P.S. Ecuador is, I think, my favourite country I have ever visited. And I sort of went there by accident.  I cannot wait for the day I go back and explore further.