Saturday, March 31, 2012

Creek Boating

Today, I maintained my healed state and was able to go out kayaking with Dan.  In the morning, I was harshly awakened at 8:30 with the tidings of french toast for breakfast.  I jumped out of bed, slipped on my swim trunks, pulled on a thermal top, grabbed my hat, and ran down stairs to the kitchen area.  I gobbled up the french toast with speed and hunger and ran to throw my boating gear in the taxi.  It was just Mom, Dan, and me today.  Dad was going boating with Jaime, a kayak instructor friend of all three of ours.  Soon Mom, Dan, and I were in the car and ready to leave for the water!  

After about twenty minutes of driving, we came to our put-in.  I got out of the truck and realized that the style of river was much different than anything I have boated before.  Instead of big waves, powerful water, and deep water, this was a narrow rocky river.  Once the three of us had our gear on, we pulled our boats into the water.  I was excited to finally experience true “creek boating” as I slipped into the small eddy on the side of the river. 

I love creek boating.  I had a blast dodging boulders and boofing medium sized rocks.  Boofing involves paddling the kayak over a rock and into the air. This was probably the best time I’ve had since scuba diving.  I loved paddling through small shoots between rocks and driving into small eddies behind boulders.  I had one combat roll (accidental roll) when I was trying to surf a little lateral wave in the middle of a small rapid.  That was exciting for me because it is hard for me to roll in waves and current.  Towards the end of the run, the river became wider, deeper, and calmer.  We had a brief lunch break and floated down to our hotel.  Our hostel is by the river, so we did not even have to take a taxi home.

I am getting my blog done early and I am hungry for a nice dinner.  Tomorrow, Dan is mountain biking with some other friends and can’t boat with us.  We will stay home and have a school day to get some math done while we can.  

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Splish, Splash, Gulp!

View From our Balcony

Today, I finally was able to leave the dreaded bed that held me back from so many days of fun.  In the morning,  Dan came by the hostel to help me outfit my boat,  lend me some gear, and simply pick us up for the long day ahead.  Once we had all our gear sorted and were loaded up in a taxi, we headed towards the river.  From the car, I could see our run and it looked pretty big.  I have to admit, I was a little bit scared.

Once Dan had gone over some brief review, we all jumped in our boats and slipped into the water.  From the put in, I could see that beyond a short and steep rapid, the river turned around the bend into the distance.  This rapid was a little too hard for me so I went down holding Dan’s boat, or “rafting up.”  There were some big waves and there was not much space to avoid them.  I was glad I rafted up with Dan.  Once we had turned the corner, we caught an eddy on the right side of the river. 

Around the corner, we came to a confluence and the river became murky, brown, wide, and powerful.  I was a little intimidated and became even more so when I realized Dan’s style of teaching.  He wanted me to lead!  I thought this was a little crazy, but it gave me a couple of advantages.  He said he could rescue me faster in the case of a swim.  Also, he wanted to have me learn how to take my own line down the rapids.  I agreed, and scouted the rapid from my boat behind a big rock at the start.  I had a great time, but it was very scary!  I hit some huge waves and boated over a drop that snuck up on me.  For the most part, I followed my line well, but cussed all the way down.  The following rapids were not as violent or as long, but still harder than most water I have paddled before. 

Once the hard section of the day was finished, we stopped for a lunch break.  The rest of the day was mellow  and I had some opportunities to practice my roll.  I did some small rapids but none as hard as in the morning.  It was raining pretty hard, and we were all tired when we arrived at the take out.  

Back at the hostel, I took a shower, put on fleece pants and a sweater, and curled up in bed.  I read my book as the rain fell on my window.  “What a day,” I thought,  “what an adventure!”


Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!    

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pizza For Dinner

This morning, I woke up felling strong and healthy.  Sure enough, when my parents took my temperature, I was as good as normal.  I wanted to go boating, but due to the fact that I had a high fever last night, I did not want to overdo it today.  I thought that boating today might make me sick for a couple more days, and in the end, I decided to take one last day off.

During the morning, I read my book, completed some math and watched a movie with my dad.  After being inside for so long, Dad and I decided to go to a near by park.  Two guests at our hostel recommended taking a boat across the river to the nearby island.  After walking for about five minutes, we came to the river that flows through Tena.  On the opposite bank of the river, was a boat and a tent under which several people sat.  We waved to a lady on the opposite shore and she crossed over to us in the narrow, wooden canoe.  We got in the canoe and the lady ferried us to the island using a long wooden pole to push and steer the boat.

On the island, we came upon a small meadow at the end of which was a building. There we walked to pay our admission fee.  Leaving the meadow and entering a small area of jungle vegetation, lead several small, looping paths.  Along these paths, were big and majestic trees.  In several caged areas of jungle we found monkeys, peccaries, agouties ( a rodent of unusual size,) several swamp dwelling turtles, and an anaconda.  Only two animals ran free: monkeys and a tapir.  A tapir is a big, black and hoofed mammal a little bit bigger than a pig.  They have long snouts and no tail.  This tapir seemed to like my dad and tried to nibble his cloths and nudged Dad with his wet snout.  It was cute, but a little bit annoying. 

Further along the trail, there was a long tower that peered out above the jungle canopy.  Leading up to the top was a long spiral stair case of rusty metal and rotting wooden boards.  We climbed up just for fun.  Up top were some benches and a platform looking over the trees.  We sat on the benches and talked, but did not see any cool birds.  When we arrived back at the hostel, Mom had returned from her day of boating and we were all ready for dinner!

In the evening, Dad and Mom thought that I could try to eat some pizza and I was very excited!  It tasted so good, and even hours afterwards has done nothing to hurt my stomach.  Now, I think I am fully healed! 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!   

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, Give me a Cure!

This morning, I awoke with a high fever, and was forced to skip breakfast.  My dad decided to take me to the doctor and this confused me for he is one.  Dad said that in order for me to be properly diagnosed, he preferred that I see another doctor who would treat me like I was not his son.  This is a psychological doctor thing that even I do not understand.  Also we needed to use some minor medical equipment that we have not brought along with us on this world trip.  Dan Dixon kindly went along with us to translate to the taxi driver and take us to a doctor that he knew. 

We drove around Tena for about an hour, looking for a doctor, either recommended by the taxi driver or Dan.  Finally we came to a small doctor’s office much different than what we see in the U.S..  This office was much smaller, consisting of only three rooms and one doctor and his assistant.  We were invited into the first room on the right and the doctor examined my state.  He referred us to a nearby lab that draws blood and completes lab work.  Soon, we got back in the taxi and drove to the lab.  I walked into a medium sized room, scattered with medicines and mess.  A technician sat me down on the chair, and with no words or eye contact aimed the needle at my arm.  OK... I guess she means business, I thought as I averted my eyes from the needle, a quick pinch and it was over.

We drove back to the hostel, and after a movie and some chicken soup, I felt much better!  I just got back from a mild dinner, with some other kayak friends of my parents.  Jaime, and his wife, Giezel.  They also have a ten year old daughter.  I ate some pasta and it went down well with no pain to my belly.  I was so excited and think I might have finally gotten this stupid illness off my back!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Today was spent with a crazy fever and a killer belly ache.  I laid in bed writhing, knowing that my dad was out boating having a blast.   My mom turned down the day of boating to comfort me and be by my bedside, and my dad was really nice to me and helped me feel better once he got home.  My parents gave me some tylenol and I'm feeling much better.  My dad says I still have a fever, but I feel perfect.

I will tell you more about the situation later.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Leaving Kapawi

Today we left the Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve after a week in the jungle.  We packed up our bags with mixed feelings.  I was sad to leave the beautiful amazon, but am excited to boat with Dan Dixon in Tena.  The kapawi Lodge has a tradition that whenever guests leave, they get their faces painted like an Achuar hunter and they get to practice shooting the traditional Achuar blow gun.   A blow gun is a long tube that projects a dart when an Achuar hunter blows through it.   The Achuar make this by taking two long pieces of palm wood, carving a semi-curricular grove in each one, and gluing them together with black tree sap.   The dart is created from a very small palm twig, and has a tuft of Kapok cotton on the back end to keep the dart flying straight.   They get poison from a very large and poisonous ant and a poisonous frog, then smear the poison on the tips of the darts.  After we all had defined “war paint” on our faces, we set up a target and shot the blow gun.  We did not use poison!  I hit the target about one out of four times and got better as the morning progressed.   

We have now arrived back in Tena, and I am feeling really sick.  My belly is killing me, and I am going to skip dinner.  I’m sorry I cannot write more about the travel. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chillin' in the Amazon

Today was mainly focused on work and some relaxation.  In the morning, after a quick breakfast, my parents went with Monica and Diego to another Achuar village with a hospital.  I am not interested in medicine or waiting for languages to be translated, so I stayed behind and took the opportunity to get some school work completed.  It felt good to have an hour or so to just kick back and get some math done.  Lately, I have been a little stressed, so this was also a key opportunity to relax.

When my parents came back from their trip, the three of us had a delicious lunch.  After digesting, my parents wondered if I wanted to come to meet a real Achuar shaman.  I was happy and excited to go along with them.  After about half an hour motoring down the Pastaza, we came to the shaman’s village.  Sadly, he was out hunting and was not available.  This was a little disappointing, but I was happy to get an early start on my blog.

A normal day in the Amazon is spent exploring and having adventures.  Today, I took a break and relaxed.  If I had gone with my parents in the morning, my work would have pilled up and I would have had to do a lot of math in a couple days.  With all the time I have had off lately, I probably still will.  For now, I am enjoying my last night in the Amazon jungle!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!     

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Interesting Achuar Culture

We are still in the Amazon jungle and are having a great time.  Today we had a lot of activities and packed the day full.  In the morning, we left in the canoe to go to a small Achuar community of twelve families and seventy people. 

The day started in the canoe, motoring down the Pastaza river.  After about forty minutes in the boat, we came to a small Achuar community.  We docked the boat on a muddy and sandy beach and proceeded up a short, steep hill, on top of which was the community.  Once we were there, we had some first impressions of the village.  A huge piece of land was cleared, and on that land were only two small huts.  The rest were behind, in another piece of cleared land.  We all wondered why the houses were so far apart.  After cleaning the sticky mud from our feet in a small stream, we walked towards the first house.  This was where the chief of the village lived.  Soon we entered the hut and experienced a burst of culture.  Only one photos allowed! 

A traditional Achuar house has a roof made of the Turujii plant and this is supported by several wooden pillars.  Normally, these huts have no walls.  When we walked inside, the chief of the village, and the man of the house, was sitting on a stool.  Behind him was his wife, sitting with a sad face.  Diego, knew the chief, for he was born in a nearby village.  The chief and Diego performed a traditional greeting, where, with loud voices and minimal eye contact, as was the polite way of speaking, they explained to each other how their lives were going and what was happening in their communities.  After this rather intimidating conversation, the three of us each introduced ourselves to the chief.  This was a little difficult because we had to use two translators.  We would speak to Monica in English, Monica would speak in Spanish to Diego, and Diego would translate into Achuar.  Soon, his family entered the hut; a second wife, a baby, and about seven kids! 

While we were talking to the chief, one of his wives served us chicha, a traditional drink.  I could not believe what this was made of!  To make this drink, one must first boil the manioc root, then the woman of the house chews the root and spits it into a bowl.  It is then left to ferment for several days.  When it is served, the wife mixes it with water from the river and serves it to guests in traditional, hand made, drinking bowls.  It tasted like a combination of yeast, yogurt, and spit.  It tasted a lot better than I had expected! 

After asking the chief some questions about his life style and drinking the traditional liquid, the chief left his hut and indicated that we should follow.  He wanted to show us something he had found in the rain forest.  After walking to the other side of the village, the chief and some of his family showed us a boa constrictor.  He was in a big crate and looked tired, and upset.  He was huge!  The chief estimated his length to be three meters from head to tail!  In places, his body was two times bigger than my neck in diameter!  They have had him for over a month now and plan to let him go soon.  It made me sad to see such an beautiful animal in a cage.  After we had our look, we walked back to the chief’s hut.  There, several families were selling some of their handmade, traditional drinking bowls, necklaces, head bands, and many more hand made trinkets.  As you know, we are a sucker for the trinket sellers, and we left with several handicrafts. 

After we had left the village, we stopped for another hike on the way back to the lodge.  We ate a quick lunch in the forest and we were on our way.  We soon realized that the trail was not going to be as easy as we had expected.  We walked around a small lagoon, trudging through deep puddles, and thick mud.  Once, we had to walk on a submerged log, because the water was too deep to walk through.  On a dry section of the trail, we came upon a giant kapok tree.  I was amazed at its massive roots and height.  I wondered what it would be like at the top of one of those huge trees.  I could see the entire rainforest.  Along the trail, Diego taught me how to set a snare, and throw a spear.  I was not very good with the spear, but loved throwing it and was soon better than both of my parents.  Diego also showed us the lemon tree.  It was so-named for the flavor of the ants that have a symbiotic relationship with the tree.  You may have thought that I previously made a typo, but the ants are actually edible.  We all picked several off the tree and loved the delicious lemon taste of the squirming and alive ants.   We came to the end of the trail and it was time to motor back to the lodge. 


Today was super interesting.  We learned the ways of the Achuar people and went on a long hike through the forest.  When we came back to the lodge, we heard great news!  Breakfast will be at nine, and the activities will start at nine thirty!  We will be sleeping in!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!   

Friday, March 23, 2012

Another Day with Diego

In the morning, we awoke again at 6:30 and wandered to the motor canoe.  The river that runs past the lodge, that we explored yesterday, is called the Capahuari.  The Capahuari flows into the Pastaza, not far away from our lodge.  The Pastaza river flows into the Marañon river, which ultimately flows into the Amazon.  This morning, we were taking the motorized canoe to the Pastaza, to a section of jungle that is full of parrots. 

After a harsh wake up, I stepped onto the familiar green canoe that we have used so often.  The ride started on the Capahuari, but soon we came to the confluence of the Pastaza.  We were all surprised at how much bigger the Pastaza River is than the Capahuari.  We guessed that the Pastaza River is about 200 meters from bank to bank, while the Capahuari is only about twenty meters across.   The Pastaza River, with its great width, is much more menacing and exposed than the Capahuari.  Today, in the far distance was mist, and large logs bobbed in the flat water. The three of us shivered under the cloudy sky, and in the gusty wind, a faint rain had just begun and the sky was grey.  The boat suddenly motored towards the opposite bank a couple hundred meters away, and soon we came to a great tree.  Flying, playing, pooping, squeaking; obviously the colourful parrots did not mind the dismal weather.  All of the parrots were green, and most of them were small.  I did not see any typical red and large parrot, but loved the green birds none the less.  I  saw some larger Macaws, but those were rare.  After our eyes were tired of looking through binoculars, we turned our backs on the parrots and headed back towards the Capahuari.  By this time, I had worked up an appetite, and planned to satisfy it by a good breakfast.

Hoatzin Birds
After we had eaten a plentiful breakfast, we headed out for the second time.  This was, as yesterday, a hike through the woods and was a lot like before, but a little shorter.  This time, we walked up stream across a peninsula of land from the Capahuari to the the Pastaza.  The trail started just down stream of the lodge.   Again, we pulled up on what appeared to be a random bank on the river to start our journey.  On the hike we saw two baby frogs.  One of them was grey and colourless, but later on we found the beautiful one.  He was gently perched on a small plant.  On his small delicate body were shades of purple, white and even some gold.  Later in the walk, the trail shifted into wide pools.  We walked through long puddles with water going up to just the tip of our boots.  We also trudged through thick and heavy mud.  I loved trudging through the mud and had a great time.

Kapok Tree
During the hike, Diego taught us some interesting things about the Achuar culture.  In the normal Achuar couple, the woman cooks and the man hunts.  Cooking is done, not with pots and pans, but with the elements of the forest.  What had been hunted, is placed on top of three big leaves. Then the wife folds the leaves up into a small bundle of food wrapped in a leaf.  She ties this with a narrow vine.  After she has a bundle of food wrapped in leaves, she bakes it over the fire.  When she unwraps the bundle, the food is cooked!  I found this style of cooking quite clever, but wondered how the leaf did not burn.

After talking about cooking, Diego sat us down on a large tree root and talked about the Achuar religion.  When a Achuar child is about twelve, he or she goes out into the jungle and builds a shelter.  Then child makes a juice out of a combination of three plants which causes hallucinations.  In the hallucinations, the god Arutam, tells the child how to live a good life, and how to be happy.  If an adult in the tribe is confused and upset, he or she goes on the spirit quest again and becomes enlightened.  The first time a kid undertakes the journey, a supervisor is present to make sure he or she doesn’t get lost or hurt.  Later in life, the spirit quest may be repeated, alone, for further guidance.  Diego also taught us that every morning in a Achuar family, at 4:00, the people of the house wake up, and share their dreams, interpreted by the chief of the family.  They drink a special kind of tea and then they make themselves throw up.  Every single morning, no questions asked... wow! 

At the end of the day, my dad, Diego, Monica and I went fishing for Pirañas.  We took the motor canoe to a small lagoon, but we had no luck.  I had several nibbles on my piece of meat bait, and Diego caught two cat fish, but no Pirañas.  On the way to the lagoon we saw two pink dolphins!  Their heads popped up occasionally to take a breath and we saw their small nostrils.  We came home to dinner, and tonight we are going on a nocturnal animal hunt!  


Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Jungle's Sunshine and Rain

This morning started at 6:30, but I did not mind.  I was in the jungle, and we were going birding.  In the morning, Dad, Monica, Diego (our Achuar guide), a canoe driver, and I  took the motorized canoe upstream to look for birds.  Mom decided to sleep in and relax until breakfast took place, after we were back.  In the morning, it was slightly raining, and a gentle zephyr was in the air.  The five of us loaded into the narrow, motorized canoe, excited for what we might see.  Along the way, we saw some cool birds, but the best was, by far, the sloth.  As we were passing a tree over looking the water, we saw a ball of curled up fur in one of the branches.  The sloth was sleeping, and I don’t blame him.  Yeash, it was 7:00 AM!  I loved seeing the sloth in the wild, but was a little disappointed that I did not get to see him moving.  Soon, we returned back to the lodge, with an itch in our bellies; we were all starving!

When mom awoke, she was happy to see us and also very hungry.  After a quick breakfast, we all wanted to head out yet a second time.  This short expedition was simple and adventurous.  Like the previous venture, this one started in the motor canoe.  For about half an hour we rode until, suddenly, the boat started to slow down.  I was startled for a moment as there was no dock!  Nothing had gone wrong, we had just reached a trail going through the jungle and eventually back to the lodge.  This, we intended to take.  The captain pulled off to the side of the river, and I noticed that it looked no different than any other bank.  Diego stepped out.  He had brought his machete along on the boat and he used it to cut his way through the jungle.  Soon, with us close behind, he reached the path.  We said goodbye to the captain, and started the walk. 

Along the hike, rain hit the trees, but we did not feel a thing under the shelter of the canopy.   I saw spiders, and heard sounds of strange monkeys, but I would have to say my favorite aspect of the walk was what I learned.  Diego taught us about his people and how the jungle plays such a big part in the lives of the Achuar Tribe.  On his face was painted an Anaconda snake surrounded by symbols.  Diego said that the painting was a prayer to the God, Arutam.  Arutam apparently takes to form of four sacred jungle animals: the jaguar, the Pink Dolphin, the Harpy Eagle, and the most sacred, the Anaconda.  He also taught us about many medical traditional medical remedies that the forest has to offer the Achuar people.  My favorite was the fungal ear drops.  Diego, showed us that if a member of the Achuar tribe has an ear infection, they let a single drop of fungus juice fall in the patient’s ear.  Apparently, this also works for eye diseases.  There was a spiky leaf which is used for distraction therapy if one has a pain or a rash.  The leaf is also used for spanking kids if they are rude or naughty.  My dad’s favorite medicine was the Uruch Muni, or Blood of the Dragon.  This red tree sap is smeared over bites and wounds.  My dad used it for an ant bite on his leg, and sure enough, it was gone in a instance!  I loved learning all the different remedies of the jungle and hope to use them...soon...wait...I mean I hope to not use them for awhile!

The day was ended by a sweet kayak ride down the calm, flat river. The sun was out now, and it was a perfect day to get wet.  The kayaks were “sit on tops” , but I did not mind.  It allowed me to jump in the water and have even more extreme splash fights than in the white water boat.  We  passed the sloth again, but this time we had a better view and he was awake and moving.  Once back at the lodge, we ate a delicious dinner and are settling down for the night. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!