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!

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