The Amazing Amazon

January 30, 2020

piranha

In some ways I’ve felt trapped in an oppressively warm, unbearably humid, claustrophobic cocoon of green vegetation and brown, sticky mud for the past two days. This is a place very different from the dry, open desert of New Mexico.

Yet, I’ve also found connections in the lives of the indigenous people of the rain forest, and those of the indigenous people of the desert in their connection to the land and their struggles to survive as an alien culture has imposed itself upon them.

For the first time I no have seen how cacao grows, and have seen firsthand the pods depicted, perhaps a thousand years ago, in a petroglyph carved on the walls of Chaco Canyon. The people of the desert and those of the rainforest shared a connection, also evidenced by the presence of macaw feathers in the northern pueblos.

We have walked on sometimes slippery trails, and been shown amazing plants with medicinal properties. We have seen colonies of ants who talk to each other, and squirrel monkeys who leap from tree to tree on thin swinging branches, sometimes with babies clinging to their backs.

Christina at home visit showing us harvesting from the forest

We floated in silent canoes on a small lake in darkness, no light but brilliant stars reflected in the still water, and the fairy-like lights of fireflies glowing in the heavy air and on the vegetation on the water. We were silent, but the night surrounded us with an almost deafening symphony of sounds all playing at once like an avant guard composition.

Winchell showing us a plant similar to curare
Sunset, Yarina Lodge

We’ve had siestas each afternoon during the hottest part of the day, but I have never sweat so much and been so consistently hot for so long. In other tropical places, I’ve had air-conditioned rooms in which to recover. Here, there are none.

Tonight, our last before we take a plane back to Quito, there is thunder, lightning, and rain.

The days have been packed with experiences and information. Alfredo, who spent a year living with a remote indigenous tribe that wore no clothes, has been an excellent guide, assisted by Winchell,a local guide.

We’ve been well-cared for, the food has been simple, but delicious, with some unusual touches — why haven’t I taken pictures?—the beds comfortable—but it has still been physically taxing, getting in and out of boats while wearing uncomfortable life jackets and carrying binoculars, cameras, water, and rain jackets.

I’m looking forward to two nights in Quito, cooler temperatures, and clean clothes, before our flight to the Galapagos on Saturday.

Author: Linnea Hendrickson

I am a retired librarian who walked my first camino to Santiago de Compostela in 2010, all alone from Le Puy-en-Velay to Finisterre. I've since returned to Spain, France, Portugal, or Italy at least every other year and continued to walk the many ways to Santiago.

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