Anyone entering the Amazon jungle without the knowledge required to survive there is risking their life. A person can become completely disoriented a very short distance from the rivers edge. Vegetation is everywhere. To the visitor everything looks the same, very quickly. With the sun blocked out because of the the taller trees there is no reference for direction. Sounds are distorted. The direction of sounds is not easily determined. It is the perfect place to become very lost very quickly.
A guide is absolutely essential. What better guide to have than one who grew up in this environment and learned the necessary survival skills from his father as a boy and onward? Better still, if his father had also lived in this environment all his life and had learned the survival skills from his father… in a tradition that extends backwards in time for many generations. This is the heritage of my guide, Jorge. His father and he are of the Jibaro lineage. The Jibaro tribal families made the riverine Amazon jungle their home for generations.
I was dangling a spider (out of focus) from a finger while taking these photos. I was in the middle seat. With these two aboard I had nothing to fear.
I consider it a rare privilege to have had Jorge’s father accompany Jorge and me on a morning and afternoon fishing tour in a small canoe. .Jorge had not seen his father in a few months. Our nightly base for our forays into the local jungle was the modest home of one of Jorge’s brothers. His father lived there with his brother and wife and their children. Jorge’s wife and family live in another river town further up the Ucayali.
My visit to the jungle environment lasted five days. I spent four nights in a typical modest jungle home. I ate what they ate. Rosita cooks rice and boiled things with gas. Everything else is cooked on a wood fire. Rosita told me that last year there was unusually high water. Their house was flooded up to the top of the railing for three months. They did not leave. They slept in hammocks suspended higher up. I do not know how she managed cooking, but she and her neighbors did it somehow.
The river begins to rise in late January and reaches flood stage during April. The Rio Yarapa is no more than 30 feet wide for about 8 months per year. Low water is May-December. Jorge’s father said that all the rooms (5 of them) are full in July and August. That is the height of the tourist season. I purposely wanted to see the Amazon region in flood stage. Relatively few tourists experience the water flooding into the forest. Riding in a canoe through the trees in the Amazon jungle is a unique experience.
People who live here get used to the idea that they will have to canoe up to the front porch 4 months a year. The rest of the year they actually have a yard. The trees, plants, and all other living things have adapted to these conditions.
I watched a pink dolphin from the front porch one afternoon as it was feeding on fish in the main channel of the Yarapa about 40 yards from the front steps of the house. Herons are a daily sight not 10 yards away. There is a slight current that continually flows under the house even though the main channel is 40 yards away. Everyone has at least one canoe tied to their front porch. Most houses have two or three in various conditions. Rosita, Jorge and the kids would hop into a canoe to visit the neighbor next door. They would do the same to visit us. There are no utility lines here. Electricity comes from a small generator and is only on from about 7 to 8:30 PM.
The mosquitos come out in force when the sun goes down. There was a net covering my bed which was a cloth mattress on a simple wooden frame. I brought a few lights and would get inside the net and kill mosquitos for about half an hour before settling my head on my pillow. Everyone else is completely used to them. They do get bitten regularly and they do swat them regularly. They use no repellents nor do they wear long sleeve, long pants or hats. They accept that mosquitos and biting ants and all the other critters here are part of the jungle.
For me, and my civilized ways, the mosquitos and biting ants seemed to be a real nuisance. Night time in the jungle is dark and there are noises made by the creatures who live there. It is an extraordinarily peaceful place once you get used to it.
There is less than a foot clear visibility in the water. I saw nothing any of the times he threw the spear. He tossed it about 10 feet ahead of the canoe. A river reed serves as the shaft. The reed is carefully fitted into the end of a trident tip. I watched this man paddle with one hand and only grasp the reed at the opposite end from the tip when he spotted something. He speared two fish in the space of half an hour. They were served for dinner. There are no supermarkets in the jungle. The typical jungle dish is called ‘pongo’. It is fish, fried plantains, and rice.
Amazing is the only way to describe this place and the people who call this place home