We are in Napo Lodge, relaxing and exploring the jungle. Today, was packed full of activities and some disappointment. In the morning, I was forced to wake up at five. Now you have got to admit that this was pretty cruel. Besides the early wake up, the rest of the day was very fun. In the morning, we went birding for parrots and were invited to watch an indigenous demonstration. In the late afternoon, we had a magical jungle experience to finish off the day with a smile.
After a quick breakfast with many other quiet and expressionless faces, we started the long day in the canoe. Our guide was taking us to a very interesting parrot attraction. After paddling down the Anangu for another hour or so and motoring for about ten minutes down the Napo, we came to a wall swarming with parrots. Our guide, Lena, told us that there are certain toxins in the fruits that the parrots eat that can be bad for the birds. In the clay wall are certain minerals that work as a natural balance for these toxins. This clay wall also works as a meeting place to socialize. Every morning, the parrots gather on the wall and lick the minerals off the clay. We saw the birds flying from perch to perch and squawking loudly. Suddenly, we watched as all of the colourful birds flew from the wall away towards our boat. They veered off and headed for the horizon. Lena pointed out a small boa constrictor lurking on a twisted branch just to the left of the clay lick. It was extremely hard to see, but I spotted it eventually! It was at this time that I realized that my camera battery was dead and so was my spare. After we had all seen the boa, it was time to move on with the day.
After another ten minutes of motoring, we came to a path leading up from the river bank towards a cleared area and huts. We followed this cement path for about thirty meters and came to a large hut, much like the ones we saw in the indigenous communities at Kapawi. In this hut were four women dressed traditionally, but their attire was not real. Their matching dresses were clean and perfect. Unlike the clothes worn in the Kapawi communities that gave the feeling of a poor and exotic culture, these outfits reminded me of Halloween. Lena said that a large group of women saw their Kichwa culture dying and wanted people to remember it. They built a kind of exhibit to show tourists “how they did things in the old days.” We saw the ladies dance and were asked to join them. This was fun, but different than the experience at Kapawi which was cold, hard, and real. This was much more of a canned experience. Lena said that the Kichwa live in cement houses and buy meat at a grocery store. They have agreed not to hunt in the rainforest to maximize animal viewings in the reserve. None the less, they showed us some interesting things about traditional animal traps and cooking in the traditional home. One of the ladies had a small bowl of chica for each of us to try. This drink, however, was made with purified water and no spit.
I have mixed feelings about the “museum experience.” On one hand, tourism is turning a beautiful culture into history only remembered by elders or in tales. On the other hand, we have seen triple the number of animals in Napo than in Kapawi. In Napo, the animals are not hunted and are not afraid of humans. In the ladies’ faces, I could see a deep sadness, as if they had endured much in their lives. Is South America all Westernized or is there any hope for the indigenous cultures? Soon, the indigenous cultures will all be forgotten, a memory only visible in the back of elder’s eyes; a forgotten feeling of loss.
On the paddle canoe ride back home, we had several close encounters with monkeys and saw a legendary bird. As we paddled up the Anangu, monkeys ran across logs and trees right over our heads. Vines, seeds and plants were dropped from the rambunctious monkeys. Yes, I know what you are thinking. No coconuts were dropped! While we were looking through our binoculars, we also spotted a small Toucan! We could barely see it behind a branch. I could just watch its colourful beak turn from side to side. I was amazed to see the bird that I had always dreamed of seeing. Alas, I had no batteries for my camera which was a disappointment. I loved the experience and was sad to end the day back at Napo. Later tonight, we are going on a night walk to see nocturnal animals! I am so excited!
On April 18th we fly to the Galapagos!
Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!