Hands on Jungle: Feb 2
It’s an early start – the noise of diesel generators wake me at 5am – rolling over, I catch a few more hours sleep. Barb and Dave must leave today, we say our respective good byes on to the boat dock. The plan is to get dropped off down stream and make our way back all day, a five hour trip to the lodge. Although walking raises my core temperature to near boiling (LOL), I’m glad to move after all the boat sitting yesterday.
It’s to be a cultural day as well. The first thing we do is try to build a typical Huaorani shelter. Splitting palm leaves first, then lashing them with vines to cross pieces, then overlaying the cross pieces with whole leaves, positioned to shed rain. My attempts are laughable, the tie vines twisting exactly in the wrong direction but its fun trying.
Fausto points out the rubber tree that bleeds white goo and later dries as latex. Poison tipped darts are made from the curare vine – scrapped off, boiled into a black concentrate – a few drops are applied to the sharpened wood tips. Interesting that it also has medicinal uses (in smaller doses and prepared in a different manner) like fever reduction, antiseptic, mild laxative. A huge partially completed dug out canoe awaits finishing, the it’s a group effort of several local men.
The stream crossings vary from mud ditches (most common) to clear shallow rivulettes with bottoms lined by cream coloured quartz type pebbles. Pretty and enticing, I frequently stop to splash water on my face. Tiny minnows dart away, hiding under overhanging banks.
twisted vines – look for person in background (hint: look for dark blue)
Along the way, I under go a ‘cleansing’ process to cure me of bad energy. Yes, I volunteered to be the guinea pig! Fausto tied a small bunch of twigs together, brushing them over my head, shoulders as I kneeled before him. Smoke was blown on top of my head, the bad energy thrown skyward – a lightness of being came upon me. Feeling relaxed, I smiled like a well fed anaconda, not minding the sticky sweat any longer.
In the afternoon, we try using the Huaorani blow gun. Used to hunt monkeys and birds, it takes skill to maneuver this 3m pipe in the tangle of jungle undergrowth. Not only skill I find, but also brute strength just to hold the weighty gun steady enough to aim!
Peter steadies the blow gun for me, note target in distance
Fausto splits straight pieces of wood to make the 12” darts. Cotton from a guava flower is wrapped about ¾ of the way down, near the rear, to act as a counter balance and to keep the dart’s aim true.
The 3m pipe is typical for a male hunter while kids would play with pint size 1m models. Constructed of 2 pieces, the halves are glued together with honey, then wrapped with vines. The hollow chamber is more oval than round which apparently aids in accelerating the speed of the dart.
Ron is a natural – he holds the gun steady, and with great teacher lungs, blows hard, hitting the target 15m away
I leave the boys to play hunter and head for the kitchen pond. Earlier, I had spotted a small dug out canoe – carved by Fausto three years ago, it is manageable by a solo paddler, namely me. Very stable, the flat bottom, squared stern end, tapered bow with three single seats barely were just barely off the wet canoe bottom. A slight leak somewhere and the interior is slick with green slime. Launching the canoe, submerged juvenile caimans scatter, hiding in the long rushes.
Ron gives the canoe a try, Fausto looks on
With a few deft front strokes, the dugout which appears heavy and cumbersome, glides silently across the stagnant water. I take a closer look at chicken like bird (later I find out it’s a hoatzin) perched on the bushes – flapping dull, rust coloured wings, it gives a hoarse croak, the feathered crest rising before settling back down again, beady red eye following my movements closely.
That evening, Fausto leads three of us on a jungle night walk to look for insects. Although it’s hot enough for shorts and short sleeves, I feel psychologically more comfortable with covered arms and legs! With rubber boots and headlamps, we are well equipped. Amazing to me that Fausto can see so well, not using a headlamp and still finding and ‘seeing’ things that we can’t even with light.
It’s a non stop parade of night life. Surprisingly, despite our tromping feet and lights, the wildlife and insects do not flee. First a tiny brown bird, creeping amongst the raised tree roots, picking at bugs. Tree frogs, caught in the act of mating, the smaller male on the back of the female. A completely white spider with short stubby legs, thick hairy body, crossing the leaf litter. A red bodied spider with impossibly thin red legs. Black spiders with white speckles. Emerald green grasshoppers sitting motionless except for long waving antennas. A green scorpion, a black scorpion both climbing up tree trunks. And the only thing I found really yucky, a slinky black millipede! A slow moving harmless creature but something in me recoils at the sight of these things. I’ll take a scorpion any day!
Back for dinner at 8pm, I see my first cockroaches – or else just notice them for the first time. And on the dining room table! Double yuk. It scuttles across the table as I squawk and Peter moves to squish it. It takes flight, disappearing into darkness. Walking back to my room, a 4” roach slips between the wood floor boards on the elevated boardwalk. A yellow and black roach lingers on the wood hand railing. Did I somehow over look these creepy crawlies in the past nights? Yikes! I double check the room for anything moving, but find nothing…taking no chances, I tuck the mosquito net tight around my bed.
(in the morning I notice a few red spots around my belly button. Ron however, is covered with red welts…fleas maybe? Later I see the caretaker with a big spray bottle of what looks like insecticide dousing bathrooms and Barbara’s old bedroom. Bugs: a fact of life in the jungle – deal with it!)