I wanted to make this blog post about my specific adventure into the amazon jungle (read about my south American adventure in the previous blog) and my interaction with the communities and natural environment in such a remote place.
The journey started off with us meeting other fellow travelers, sharing stories as we rode 2 hours to just outside the amazon to an animal refugee. It was home to animals that were abandoned at birth, creatures people did not want near their homes, or animals that are unable to be relocated. There were animals of all sorts from monkeys to turtles to leopards. One thing I found funny was they raised the chicks and a boa constrictor snake in the same cage, so whenever the snake got hungry it could just have a light snack.
(2 Leopards relaxing on the hot day. If you look closely on the second picture you can see the little birds)
Our first stop in the amazon jungle was visiting a village, even in the remote region they still made space for a small soccer field. One thing I found interesting was their interaction with their environment. They domesticated the local wildlife to be used as pets so that tourists like us pay the village money to take photos, they would make fermented drinks (chichi) from maize, and they would use Achiote seed pods for face painting. These seeds would be cracked open fresh from a nearby tree to produce a red paste which is then applied to the face, customary to do during war or festive times.
(Me getting my tribal painting. Photo of Achiote seed, photo https://goo.gl/TmsN5Qfrom)
- Achiote seed pods were used not just for face painting, but also as a flavoring for cuisines and to add the red-orange color. They are soft to the touch and abundant in the amazon rain forest.
When we finally got to the lodging where we would spend the next 3 days, the view there was breathtaking. You could see so far, your line of sight becomes blocked by the Andes mountains (I actually got to see the Pichincha Volcano erupt, sending ash into the atmosphere from this distance).
We started to learn more about the villages in the area and how they interact with the environment, every single village had to grow their own food (chickens, pigs, and even alligators). We were taught how to fish in one of the rivers (no fish were caught). Every village would have pets (toucans) that stood in the trees and watched over the whole village.
(If you look closely you could see in this picture you could see: humans, a black dog, a brown monkey, a small bird, a bunch of guinea pigs).
One of the days we took a whole half day to just hike through the amazon jungle to see the different waterfalls in the area. This opened my eyes to how large the jungle really is. We were losing our way, finding new paths, and every turn looked exactly like the last (we got to the point where we got so off track we had to scale down a 20-foot rock sheer to get back on track). This trail was used by villagers before so there was one point where we found a swing and a platform and we all had the great idea to trust it and swing back and forth through the forest on it.
(My brother on the rope swing going through the forest clearing)
We even got to a point on the hike where we were all stuck in the mud, waist deep and needed to throw a rope to get each other out. Eventually, we found the waterfalls we were looking for and could finally relax with a cold water swim.
One of the most interesting things I found on this journey was a tree I found, which the locals called the Penis tree or the Devil’s Penis tree. Since I don’t have the scientific name for the tree I am not able to do further research, but it looks like a fungal growth protruding from the tree with something sap like at the end.
tree with something sap like at the end. Locals call it the Devil’s Penis Tree.
Overall, the experience was worth it. Living in the jungle, listening to the bats fly around at night and to be woken up by a parrot that said HOLA if you said hola to it. The view was amazing and to learn about the local communities and how they use nature to their advantage. Even though we were not into the heart of the amazon, it still gives perspective to how dangerous and large it is without the proper knowledge about the environment.
By – Shesan Govindasamy