Meeting the shamans in the Amazon jungle
Wandering through South America without making a trip to the Jungle is like visiting Paris without seeing the Tour Eiffel! We couldn’t miss it and the best option was Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve in the North-Eastern part of Ecuador.
The way there was long and tiring: 8 hours bus from Quito to Lago Agrio, another 2-3 hours bus to go deeper into the jungle entry and yet another 2 hours boat to our lodge. But every minute of it was worth it!!! We found ourselves surrounded by nature and wildlife, with no TV, internet or phone network, with limited electricity and cold water. We spent 4 days doing day and night jungle walks and hours and hours of boat rides on the narrow Amazonian rivers and lagoons.
It was amazing to see pink dolphins (in fact they are grey and they only become pink when they are hot) more than 8 species of birds we’ve never seen before (e.g. Hoatzin – prehistoric bird, Blue and yellow Macaw, Buff-throated Woodpecker, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater Ani, White tailed Trogon), tarantulas, scorpions, boa snakes, 3 species of monkeys (e.g. pocket monkeys, devil monkeys), big lizards and so on. But what was more spectacular was swimming in the Laguna Grande at sunset. I didn’t do it, but the Bear did and he only later found out that the Laguna is home to anacondas, caimans, piranhas, electric eels, manta rays…he was quite lucky to escape just with the amazing feeling of floating in a jungle lagoon while viewing a beautiful sunset. Just perfect!
We also visited a local community one day – ancient tribe that are now dressed like we are, have normal houses and phones, drink beer, etc, but refuse to move closer to “civilization”. They live in the jungle, hunt and fish for dinner, make some basic agriculture and relax the rest of the day. The government protects them as national heritage and even built small school rooms with computers in there so that children have access to basic education. Isn’t this wonderful? I think all governments should learn from them – if it’s possible in the middle of the jungle, I guess it should be possible almost anywhere. We had the chance to cook yuka bread together with one of the women (delicious) and, as we are lucky (I guess you already figured that out), we were there during one of their most important festivals: we saw the shamans in action curing back aches, we assisted to a spear throwing contest (and the Bear even tried to compete – it seems that we’ll starve to death if we have to hunt in the jungle…), to a swimming competition and … to a chicha (local drink from fermented fruits) drinking contest.
We also felt the force and the unpredictability of the nature during this trip. One day, as we were going down the river a tree fell in the water just in front of us, blocking our way! We had to go back to borrow a machete from the local community and cut our way through.
It was a unique experience and though I am not a big fan of cold showers, spiders or snakes, I really enjoyed the time there.