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Monday, May 4, 2015

The AMAZON!!! (Part 5-- Waterfall Hike and Limpia)

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Pegonka and me at the magical waterfall

Hello again!

So, this post will wrap up the Ecuadorian Amazon portion of my trip! After spending a few days at the Huaorani Ecolodge, we packed up our stuff and headed downstream by dugout canoe on the Shiripuno River.  There we camped for a night before leaving the jungle.

 

It was so peaceful floating down the river...


Our lodging situation was great-- tents to keep out the bugs, a nice platform and roof... and just down the hill were some showers and bathroom stalls... luxurious camping!

Here I am with Pegonka, my fantastic guide (with the yellow boots).  On the other side is cute little Fernanda and her mother, Inez, both of whom I really loved spending time with.


And here's Inez's youngest daughter, sweet little Vicky...



They taught me to weave bracelets with strands of palm...


I came home with lots of these beautiful bracelets, naturally colored with plant dyes from the jungle.  Here I'm showing off one on my wrist that Inez made for me...

*I still have achiote on my face from earlier that day... it's just smeared with sweat at this point!*

This is Inez's daughter with her adorable baby...

 

From the campsite, we took a gorgeous hike to a waterfall, along a ridge and down a steep canyon into a magical valley.

Pegonka plucked a plant on the way that we all used later as a natural shampoo in the pool beneath the waterfall. When you broke open the stalk, there was a gooey, foamy substance inside that lathered up nicely...


We stopped to relax in a natural vine hammock along the way.  Pegonka talked about how when he was a kid, he and his friends would swing on vines like this across the valley...

As he told me about his childhood shooting blowguns and climbing trees and swinging on vines, I kept thinking about Lil Dude and his 7-year-old classmates sitting all day at desks and staring at worksheets and whiteboards except for a few brief outdoor recesses... and honestly, it made me kind of sad.  I've observed that his natural inclination as a 7-year-old boy is to swing, run, climb, throw stuff, and pretend to shoot stuff.  Of course, I think education of children is important... I just wish that our education model involved more active interaction with the natural world.

Pegonka didn't start school until he was a young teen, so his childhood was blissfully free...  (Waorani kids nowadays in his community do start school at a younger age-- and then after school they swing and climb and shoot in the jungle.)


So relaxing....


With amazingly keen eyes, Pegonka spotted some fruit in the treetops and climbed up several stories to retrieve it.  He tossed it down to us, far below.


In the first post I did, I showed pics of him climbing using a woven ring of vines to help him climb... but he only needs that when he's climbing while carrying his blowgun and spear.  With his hands totally free, he doesn't need any extra help.  He said that by the time kids are 7 or 8, they've mastered the skill of climbing trees that are over a hundred feet high.  (My Lil Dude would definitely prefer mastery of tall-tree-climbing over mastery of double-digit-addition any day.)


I have no idea what the name of this fruit is in English... or even if an English name exists for it... but it had large seeds with very tart flesh around them that you sucked on.


We descended this steep staircase into the valley.  Pegonka said that before they built the stairs (for tourists like me, mainly), you had to use ropes or vines to get to the bottom.


And behold!  A magical piece of paradise awaited us!


After Pegonka did a quick caiman check with a stick (no caimans that he could find), we entered the water-- me, Pegonka, and Javier (the other awesome guide).  At first I was a little squeamish about where I stepped, worried it could be straight into the jaws of an annoyed caiman, but soon I forgot about that...

Pegonka and Javier showed me how to do a limpia-- a spiritual cleaning-- beneath the cascade.  It felt amazing-- so intense with the pounding water and mist.  The whole time, the sunlight was sparkling and bright blue morphos were fluttering around... and by the end of it, yes, my spirit felt gleaming new. :-)  

Pegonka told me that people-- especially shamans-- get power from waterfalls.  I asked him about other things considered sacred and powerful in his culture, his answer was jaguars (which had already come up in earlier conversations, in fact.)  When people die, their spirits become jaguars or other wild cats, and sometimes after a loved one dies, you might spot them in their feline form.

Afterward, we ascended the staircase, our spirits clean and soaring....


The last day, we headed downstream toward a road at the jungle's edge, where we would be picked up by a driver in an SUV.  I savored my last hours in the forest...

Here's Pedro, shielding his wife, Elizabeth, and their baby from the sun with a palm leaf in the canoe...


I sat next to Inez for these last hours in the canoe, and we had fascinating conversation about the past few decades of Waorani history in this territory.  I won't get into all the nitty gritty details here (you can read the book ironically titled SAVAGES if you're interested), but suffice to say that the various cultural groups in this area have a gory history of spearing each other on sight.  In the past several decades, a tentative peace has been reached, and there has been some intermarriage.  Inez has a Quichua husband, for example.  (Note that culturally, the Amazonian Quichua are very different from the Andean Quichua in my book THE QUEEN OF WATER.)

She told me that when she was a little girl, she went to school for just a couple years.  She had to swim in the river for an hour to get there, while holding her notebook over her head with one hand to keep it dry.  If it got wet, the teacher would hit her.  In third grade, she quit school because it was too hard to keep that darn notebook dry and she was sick of the teacher hitting her.


It was sad to leave the rain forest... I felt like we were leaving a piece of heaven.  Maybe I would've felt differently if it had been really rainy (it was sunny nearly the whole time-- this was in late Feb, just before the beginning of rainy season)... or if the bugs had bugged me (but that permithrin spray Ian put on my clothes back in Colorado made all bugs stay away from me.)  The whole trip felt so comfortable and natural... and I want to go back!!!

It was devastating to see the oil drilling operations at the edge of the jungle.  The documentary CRUDE shows all the horrible cultural and environmental and health consequences of these operations.  And unfortunately, President Correa has recently sold oil drilling rights in an enormous tract of territory also in the Yasuni National Park.  Heart-breaking, but it's prompted me do my own little part to try to support the indigenous groups in their effort to protect their land. 


If you missed my other posts about my trip to the Amazon, you can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here.  And stay tuned for one more Ecuador post, this next one in the Andes, with my friend and co-author Maria Virginia Farinango in her home town of Otavalo. Thanks for coming by!

xo,
Laura

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful wonderful trip. The photos were fantastic - Beautiful people and amazing natural beauty.

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