Karla Wall Tuesday, April 29, 2014 0

Local Photographer Euric Fuselier’s Journey To The Amazon Rain Forest And Cotopaxi

Story By Karla Wall • Photos By Euric Fuselier


euricWhen Euric Fuselier decided, about seven years ago, that he’d rather have a career in photography, working with his wife, Emily, than remain in a “boring desk job,” he was imagining, probably, the usual local photographer’s life — weddings, children’s portraits, senior portraits.

But, during the last week of last December and the first week of this January, Fuselier discovered that photography can also be an extreme adventure, as he spent two weeks in an Amazon River rainforest in Ecuador, shooting photos of amazing wildlife and getting to know a bit about the indigenous people of the area.

Fuselier says his adventure began when a friend, Charles Talen, who Fuselier describes as a “serious world traveler,” invited him along on a two-week trip to the Amazon.

“He gave me short notice,” Fuselier says. “Just three weeks, which isn’t long when you’re talking about a trip to South America.”

ef2Fuselier and Talen flew from Houston to Quito, Ecuador. Then came a flight to a small town called Coca, a flight during which Fuselier says he marveled at the unspoiled wilderness.

“There were no roads, no villages, just miles and miles of jungle,” he says.

And the journey was far from complete. From Coca, the travelers took a three-hour motorized canoe trip further into the jungle. And what Fuselier says he remembers most about traveling by water along the Amazon was the traffic.

“The river was like a highway,” he says. “There were big boats with tractors on them, and barges carrying supplies.”

The river, Fuselier explains, is the only way to bring supplies in to the jungle.

“Whatever is brought in has to be brought in by boat,” he says.

The canoe took them along the Napo river, the largest tributary of the amazon, and then down a 1-ft wide blackwater creek, Fuselier says, which opened up into a “gorgeous lake,” Lake Anangucocha, on the shores of which sat, in a small clearing, their destination: the Napo Wildlife Center, a private reserve in Northeast Ecuador owned by the Anangu Quichua village.

The lodge, built with natural materials, had cabanas with bedrooms and showers (with water, Fuselier says, directly from the lake), and communal facilities such as a dining hall.

The area, Fuselier says, actually reminded him of the marshes of Southwest Louisiana in the summer. As it wasn’t quite yet the beginning of the Amazon’s rainy season, the heat and humidity were similar. ef3

“The smells, the lily pads on the creek and lake — it was all like the marshes here at home,” he says. “Of course, the jungle there hadn’t been touched for thousands of years.”

That similarity, he says, made working with his equipment similar to working at home, although, he says, he did find a bit of moisture in his lens on his last day of shooting, which he says he was able to take care of without too much trouble.

What was different, on a huge scale, was the wildlife, of course. The wildlife preserve boasts 500-plus species of birds, 11 species of monkeys, otters, reptiles and much more.

“There were tarantulas the size of a human hand, and snakes everywhere,” he says. “There were beautiful macaws, parakeets — every jungle animal you could think of, we saw.”

But what stood out for him, he says, was the insect life.

“After the sun went down, there were amazing insects everywhere — they covered everything. The funny thing was that I knew if I’d seen any of these insects in my home here, I’d have panicked. But there in the jungle, they were just part of the system.”EF4

In fact, Fuselier says, the insect population is so healthy that the one drilling company allowed to drill for natural gas just outside the preserve has to “go out every morning and wipe the bugs off of the equipment. They just cover everything.”

His favorite photo opportunities, he says, though there were many, were shots of the lake, smooth and calm one morning, with the surrounding trees a mirror image in the water.

There was another special moment as well, he says, when he was photographing a large flock of parakeets eating in a mud pit.

“There was a large macaw perched above the pit,” he says. “As I was photographing the parakeets, the macaw swooped down into the pit, scattering the parakeets. There was just brilliant color everywhere. It was just unbelievable timing.”

While the jungle certainly provided plenty of photo ops, it also provided some unique challenges, Fuselier says.

“One of the biggest problems was taking photos that would make sense of the jungle. There was so much chaos, it was difficult to balance the framing just right, to find just the right light and angle so that the photo made sense,” he says. “But I enjoyed the challenges.”

Fuselier also got to spend a day in the Anangu Quichua village itself, and that, he says, was an adventure in itself.

“I loved learning, seeing what they did and how they did it,” he says. “They showed us how they make rope using strands of young fern plants, how they make medicine from the roots of different plants, how they burn termite nests, with termites in them, for insect repellent. They don’t have one percent of what we have here in the U.S. They use everything — nothing is wasted. I realized that we in the U.S. couldn’t survive out there.”

The villagers performed traditional dances for the visitors, and also sang traditional songs for them, Fuselier says.

And the adventure wasn’t over. Leaving the reserve, Fuselier and Talen returned to Quito for three days, where they enjoyed touring some of the “beautiful old Spanish homes.” They did set aside one day to hike up Cotopaxi, an active volcano in Quito. The volcano stands 19,000-plus feet above sea level, Fuselier says, and hiking the “impressive” mountain was “one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done.”EF6

From sea level, Fuselier says, they drove to a parking spot at 14,000 feet, and “parked our cars in the clouds.” They hiked nearly to the summit, some five thousand feet in altitude.

“What was funny was that, at 16,000 feet, when we were trying to catch our breath, there were nine- to 10-year-old (native) kids running around like it was nothing,” he says. “A little girl, no more than 3, hiked up with us like it was no big deal.”

Fuselier came away with stunning photos and lifelong memories, but the trip was, to say the least, a bit more difficult than the normal vacation. Did the challenges of the jungle dissuade Fuselier from furthering his resume as an adventure photographer?

Far from it.

“Charles and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica in three months,” he says.