Exploring the Amazon from Ecuador- Day 3
Welcome back! Last time we left off I had a scorpion put on my face in the dark of the jungle at night. If you missed that and the first day of the amazon you can find them here. Day one and Day Two. But this wasn’t the end of our time in the Amazon. We still had one full day remaining and it exceeded all our expectations!
Up early once more we received a packed lunch and headed down river to new territory. The mission for the day was to visit a local community who live along the edge of the river. The people here have small houses and some of the modern conveniences of the city now but remain out here deep in the jungle for most of the time, only heading to the town of Lago Agrio for some supplies. We discovered too that the tourism industry helps them make an income as they get paid to show us around and also own the canoes the tour companies use thus receiving rent.
Before we arrived at the village we were to be shocked and amazed by another surprise. It was something we were hoping to see but in the back of our minds never really expected. A giant anaconda! Now when I say giant I mean giant, 7m in fact and according to the guides on of the biggest they have seen in their 12 years on the job. Jairo said it must have weighed 150 kgs! We pulled up along the riverbank and there it was only a few meters from us. The huge reptile sat there for some time and then must have decided the attention was too much and began to head for the water, which happened to be where we were. With a steady hand Shihad, a guy from the other canoe sat with his phone on record in prime position to catch the snake heading straight toward him and the water. We couldn’t believe our eyes as the giant beast slithered directly under the canoes and into the river. It made me think twice about swimming in the Amazon.
When we arrived we were greeted by the kids and a local woman who would show us how to make bread from a plant called yuca. The yuca plant is a root vegetable something between a potato and a sweet potato. After struggling to pull the root from the ground and covering our heads with palm leaves to protect ourselves from a sudden downpour we accompanied the woman to a hut where she began the process.
Firstly the yuca was washed and the outer skin cut off, then the yuca was grated. The yuca holds a lot of water and needs to be dried out which is done using a large sling made of balsa wood. The yuca is placed inside and the sling twisted tighter and tighter until all the fluid is removed. The yuca is now like a dry powder and is laid out on a flat iron plate over a fire where it is cooked and flipped. The result is a large tortilla made of nothing but the yuca itself, not water, salt or any other ingredient is required. Now I know what you are thinking, “that would taste like sh*t” but in actual fact as plain as it is it is quite addictive! We got stuck into our bread and the rest of our lunch and then had a little competition with a blow dart gun!
What better way is there really than to have a blow dart competition after a meal? A potato was placed on a stick and then stuck in the ground, this was our target. Jairo drew a line in the sand some 10m away and took the first shot. He hit the spud second go (practice makes perfect). I had first go and failed miserably, then it was Jen’s turn. Second shot she speared the potato and the group let out a mighty cheer! From there not another person in the group of about 10 managed to hit it, and we all tried multiple times.
Once the fun of blow darts was over we had one more surprise at the village. It was time to meet a real medicine man, the shaman! The shaman have been held in high esteem all through Latin America for centuries and are believed to hold the secrets of the jungle. They are known for their healing abilities and are still used as the first resort if a member of the community falls ill.
We entered the shaman’s hut to be greeted by a man in a jade green garment and covered in beads and straw. I couldn’t believe I was standing face to face with a real shaman, one who still knows the secrets of the jungle and uses them to look after his people. We all sat down and took sips of a local drink, chicha which is fermented by the local women who chew the plant and spit it into a bowl repeatedly to speed up the fermenting process. Of coure I had no idea about this process until after consuming the beverage.
After a short ceremony Daleo was ready to cleanse one of us and Jen promptly put up her hand. She approached the shaman and sat down in front of him. Daleo the waved a local plant around and hummed some words in a local language. Jen then had to lift her shirt to expose her back so that Daleo could finish the cleansing ceremony by whipping Jen’s back with the prickly branch. The shaman then used his hands to take away the bad spirits. The ceremony then finished and we said goodbye to the shaman and returned to the canoes. When we looked at Jen’s back it look horribly painful, covered in red welts but to our surprise she couldn’t feel a thing. In fact, Jen said she felt great.
Late in the afternoon once we had had our siesta we headed to the large lagoon area once more and I drew up the courage for a swim although I couldn’t stop thinking about what could be beneath my feet. We relaxed in the river and witnessed the best sunset of the trip before heading off to a spot where a particularly large cayman was known to rest. Jairo with his animal noises once more worked his magic and attracted the cayman out into the open. It was the perfect way to finish what had been an incredible day.
That night we enjoyed a few beers over dinner and thanked the team involved in making this such and amazing experience. The following morning we headed back up river and said goodbye to our new friends and the amazon and headed back to Lago Agrio and Quito. A part of me had gotten quite used to living in the jungle and the thought of returning to the hustle and bustle of the city was not that appealing.
Thanks to Jairo and the entire team at Cuyabeno Lodge for showing us all the incredible things the amazon has to offer.