As a local guide and connoisseur of the forest, he has added his own wisdom to the knowledge of the experts and has himself been enriched.
“Up in the trees there is so much life that I now understand how much was destroyed.”
Now, José knows the particulars and scientific details of what lives among the trees, in the canopy, all about the birds. He loves the diversity and beauty of the orchids, and knows thousands of characteristics of plants and animals. In his rounds of the forest he has found 200 of the 400-and-something orchids catalogued in Ecuador.
“We now understand that this is what we have to care for if we want to have a healthy life in the future,” he explains.
Walking through the forest, you have step firmly, he tells us, as in the forest it is said that over the track that you leave, a puma might place its own. And if its senses that the man has been trembling, the beast will hone in on the man’s fear and will make him its dinner.
He remembers that the paths that fascinated visitors pass through today were created with machetes, pick and shovel. Workers went about opening narrow paths among the dense vegetation, zigzagging them on the hillsides so that the descent would be safe.
Maintaining them demands constant work, just like attending to a group of visitors: guiding them through the forest, caring for them, sharing knowledge and secrets. He reveals to us that the reserve has around 40 waterfalls and takes us to one, recently made accessible. Pure, pristine water, a fresh bath and an unforgettable experience.
Five years have passed since the opening of the hotel to the public, and José shows us the braids made with hanging roots that some of the first visitors made. Other guests continued the game, and they became thick, big, strong braids that hang from the highest point of this enormous tree. In the same way, José’s conviction that Mashpi is a natural sanctuary has grown, strengthened, and continues to amaze and delight.