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!   

1 comment:

  1. Your description of the chief was very much like a photo...
    wondering if I would recognized the taste of yeast, yogurt and spit??
    Do the ants bite??
    Also hope they let the Anaconda go...