Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Amazon!!!

Hello again from Baños. When we last spoke, we were just preparing for our Amazon journey. I am happy to report that we returned safely early this afternoon with no major injuries, missing limbs, or new pets. We did however acquire some bug bites. To get to our little corner of the jungle we took a bus to Puyo, and then caught the bus going to Macas telling the driver to drop us off at kilometer 48, where the reserve is. There we met Jose, our contact person, and a member of the Shuar tribe that lives on the Arutam reserve. We ate lunch and got settled into our very rustic surroundings. Our roommate was a really neat flying beatle. We also got to use our mosquito net for the first time ever!! That afternoon we took a brief hike through the jungle for about an hour and a half with one of the Shuar tribesman who chopped down a tree which we later ate for dinner. It was a palm tree, and we ate the heart of it.

The next day we ate breakfast, which consisted of about a dozen fried bananas and some banana/yuca patties and then we set off into the jungle. After a few hours of fairly strenuous hiking and looking at very small monkeys we arrived at the jungle house, a significantly more rustic wooden building with nothing but wooden planks and the soul of the Amazon to sleep on. We ate lunch and then hiked down to the waterfalls which required a bit of ropework to navigate down the mountain. These waterfalls are a source of strength for the Shuar, and they consider the waterfalls a place to communicate with their deity. We then hiked back up to the jungle house for dinner, and a dessert of fire-roasted caterpillarsb (or grubs)!!! The neat thing about these caterpillars is that they are very fatty, so when they are cooked, the fat comes out and almost fries them. I thought it tasted like a cheesy french fry, Sarah had to spit hers out, but our guide said that live ones are even tastier. We slept that night on wooden planks, not exactly comfortable.

The following day we journeyed down to the river using a path that hadn't been traversed in some time. On the way our guide chopped apart a fallen tree and grabbed a half dozen caterpillars. We ate a few, and the rest were to be used for fishing. Again, I found the live caterpillar to be delicious, very crunchy and juicy at the same time. Sarah however, was less than thrilled and didn't even try it. Anyways, it is interesting to mention that there were quite a bit of fallen trees with other plants growing on top. You can really see the cycle of plant life in the Amazon with some trees growing very tall, falling, and then hundreds of little plants growing on top. We eventually arrived at the river and went for a swim while our guide did some fishing. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, so after an hour or two we headed back to the jungle house. We had a late lunch, and decided that we didn't want to sleep on a wooden plank again so we hiked all the way back to the main village for dinner. This morning we woke up, ate breakfast, caught a Quito-bound bus on the side of the road, and hopped off in Baños.

A few reflections. We realized that modern technology and city living has changed the culture of the Shuar people significantly. They all have cell phones, and even the grandmother had a television. One of the dinners we had in the jungle included Quaker oatmeal. However, Jose, our contact person, is one of 23 brothers and sisters between his father and his two wives. It is also a very male-dominated (borderline chauvinistic) society. Sarah wasn't even allowed to touch the flute during a bonfire cultural explanation even after I explained that she was the musician, nor was she permitted to eat the spicy sauce with dinner the first night. I'm prettynsure the only reason she was even allowed to eat at the table was because she was a paying guest - everyone else at the table were men. The last night there was some birthday cake, and the grandmother ate hers crouched in the kitchen on the edge of the dining room; not entering as her culturemdidn't permit her to eat in the room with men. Of course, there are many beautiful things in their culture, too. They have a unique relationship with the jungle they live in and know many of its secrets. Unfortunately, it seems their culture is slowly evaporating as many of the children prefer to speak Spanish and are chosing to live a non-Shuar lifestyle. We got the feeling that in two or three generations the only Shuar left practicing their traditional culture will probably just be a few who operate the reserve for tourists and the families that love extremely deep in the jungle, rarely interacting with modernity. I suppose only time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. The best part of this video is Sarah's expression at the very end. Loved it!