Mahatu, Leticia, Colombia (4May2015)

P1170841Cloud formations above the Amazon rainforest

My experience in the jungle environment of the Pacaya Samiria reserve near Lagunas  brought me to an awareness regarding the fragility of my own Life. We are mortals. We have a shelf life. There is an expiration date.  (at least in our present form).

During my stay in Iquitos, I noticed how being in a city environment, where humans live in close proximity to one another… lends an odd sense of security.  Perhaps  that is because human activity seems to dominate the environment; and one can be lulled into a state of non-awareness regarding the imperatives that Nature imposes on all Living creatures.

Modern humans learn ‘science’ and the state of medical science gives the illusion that humans are capable of somehow controlling the world of Nature. What is really so, is that humans have only scratched the surface of understanding the grander context of Nature.

No one knows how Nature came to BE. That is the realm of philosophy, religion, and metaphysics.  So called ‘science’… is based on actual observation(s) of phenomena and the behavior(s) of specific, individuated, identifiable parts in the pantheon of  phenomenon.

We tend to think of Natural phenomena as being comprised of physical attributes.  And we continue to probe into the characteristics of those physical attributes and how the ‘matter’ behaves in varying situations involving movement. How all real science proceeds; is that elements which constitute phenomena are measured in as accurate detail as possible.  Measurements come in the form of physical dimensions; weight/mass/density, and how such phenomena move through space or local geography.

P1170714Living creatures at home on Mahatu grounds

The word Mahatu is from the RapaNui language of Easter Island, in the Pacific. Mahatu means Love.

This was my second stay at Mahatu hostel. The name of the owner/manager of Mahatu is Rene Gustavo Alvarado Reyes.  He is a very interesting man. Born in Boyaca, Colombia, Rene attended traditional church schooling offered by the Salesian brotherhood initiated by a priest known as Don Bosco.

Later, Rene joined the Colombian Army and not long after was in the Colombian navy for a while. He sailed on one of the tall ships (two or three masted sailing vessels)  that was a training ship of the Colombian navy.  He sailed around the world. Later he determined that he did not fit in the military mode at all.

He came to the Amazon with the idea of becoming a guide.  He was unable to continue that as a profession and the found an opportunity in creating a hostel for (mostly young travelers) people from many parts of the world. He created the Mahatu hostel.

Rene has a very unique understanding of Colombia and of this area in particular.  Free wi-fi internet service is provided to all guests. There are kitchen facilities for those so inclined. There are no television screens and the preferred ‘music’ is that of the Natural environment itself.

I had a troubling cold, cough and fever most of my stay. I only left my room to walk to a restaurant.  I stayed in my room, or in a hammock not far from my room most of my recent stay.

I can highly recommend the Mahatu hostel to anyone who values the experience of being in Nature and is not expecting a ‘party’ atmosphere.

P1170724P1170720Above 2 photos show that the road near the banks of the Amazon is at extreme ‘flood’ stage.  Many homes and businesses were flooded. Makeshift planks were hastily erected so people could get around better.

To put it simply,  all physical phenomena can be described in nouns… and all movement of the matter (physical phenomena… stuff) is described in verb form.  Parts of speech; language; describes all known physical phenomena.

What is important?

It would seem that the purpose of Life is to survive and to create more Life.  And yet the obverse is always present. So called Death is an integral part of Life.

Living things derive their Life Force from other Living creatures… (*until even those Living creatures derive their existence from atoms which aggregate into molecules… which interact with one another in a field of ‘energy’).  Living creatures derive the energy required  to fuel their Life from ingesting the constituents of other Life forms… usually involving the death of the creature(s) being masticated/ingested/digested.

We can only understand the relationships that exist in the world of  phenomena that we notice. No one can say how any of the basic building blocks of  phenomena itself came to exist. That is a mystery.  Leave it to clever humans to speculate on potential answers .

Religion (as the word is most frequently used) provides plausible, yet completely unverifiable,  explanations for the original creation of phenomena.

And to this day… no one can ever know anything for certain. One can only stop asking and begin accepting… one story or another.

That is how religion came to be, and how it solves the problem that some have ;  that they are debilitated by uncertainty. Faith or Belief is an effective means to silence the questions to which there are no conclusive answers.

P1170709A map of the Leticia area  (A map is not the territory)

The experience of Life is just that: an experience.  Language based humans forget that language itself is but a symbolic representation of the world of phenomena…  language attempts to ‘define’ phenomena… and it cannot. It can only allude to or point towards (see Lao Tzu)  the actual essence of phenomena itself.

Above: Early morning sounds on the grounds of Mahatu hostel

Life is an amusement park ride and can only be known as a series of  experiences… hopefully interspersed with awakenings or insights or realizations,  that are most difficult to describe in language.

Zen practitioners know that it is futile to attempt to describe the essence of Life’s phenomena using the ‘rational’ faculty.  This is the purpose of deep meditation.  Go inward. Be silent. Observe your ‘self’ observing your Self’.

The Amazon rainforest is inhabited by  a profusion of Life. To experience it is to know your Self a bit better.

The Ayapua and Iquitos museum (24April2015)

The AyapuaThe Ayapua was one of the boats that plied the waters of the Amazon region for the purpose of carrying the men who were known as the ‘rubber barons’. These men enslaved and abused native populations for the purpose of getting the natural rubber from the forests of the Amazon region.

The rubber tree; Hevea brasiliensis, is native to the Amazon rainforest and at the time of the rubber barons was the only place it grew. Later, many saplings and seeds were exported to other tropical regions around the planet to create plantations of this useful plant.

If you ever saw the film: Fitzcarraldo, then you have seen a vessel like the Ayapua. (Fitzcarraldo was produced and directed by Werner Herzog;  featuring the actor, Klaus Kinsky , who many people that interacted with him thought to be  stark raving mad/insane, but who Herzog was able to control somewhat for some incredibly powerful emotional footage)

Henry Ford visited this area during the years of the Iquitos rubber boom and saw the treatment of the native populations. His cars would run on rubber tires… at the expense of cruel and inhuman treatment of innocent forest dwelling peoples.

Roger Casement, an Irish born (once knighted, but stripped of his title… perhaps for bringing uncomfortable issues to light) was one man who did what he could to ring the alarm to the world of the abuses going on near Iquitos.  He championed for the rights of oppressed people in many other places who had not the means to defend themselves nor the experience nor knowledge to even vaguely comprehend their oppressors.  Roger Casement, though not widely known or recognized has been known to some as:  the “Father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”.

Video tour of the Ayapua:


Later, I hired a mototaxi  to take me to the Iquitos museum.

The entrance to the Iquitos MuseumAbove: The entrance to the Iquitos museum

P1170205 P1170206 P1170207The three photos above are an exterior wall on the inside of the courtyard at the entrance to the museum. The walls were draped with a heavy duty geotextile fabric and and pockets were  formed in the fabric. As you can see, the results are a living wall surface composed of many varieties of local plants.  Because it rains frequently in these parts and the sun is seen shining brightly at least part of every day… there is little maintenance needed.

Manguare, early telephone of the jungleAbove: Manguare… handcarved wooden jungle drums

See paragraph three of the story in the following link:

For you scholarly types, here is a link that describes the meanings (to some) of the drumming patterns:

Suffice to say that the manguare drum was a device created for the purpose of communicating in the forested Amazon rainforest. The sound created resonates for a few miles, even in densely forested areas.

A YouTube video of a large Manguare:

Comparison of Earth's riversAbove: A comparison chart of Earth’s rivers

The expansion of IquitosAbove: A graphic chart showing the expansion of Iquitos

…and so Life forms continue their ongoing cycles, in the Amazon rainforest. Iquitos is an excellent example of how modern technology impacts Life of all kinds aboard our tiny (once deemed vast) planet. The balance of existence, the give and take, the tension and compression, of symbiosis is expressed in this city.  It is a microcosm,  petri dish.  As humans expand their dominance over the environment, other creatures lose their habitat.  Barely 100 years ago,  vast virgin forests were home to unknown thousands of species of plant and animal.  The humans that were there then, saw themselves as part of the rainforest itself. They did not see themselves as the ‘ruling class’ of forest dwellers.

Now, a ‘poor’ man (it’s all in the definition) can buy a chainsaw and gasoline and cut five hundred year old trees… so he can buy more things that he and his family now know exist, which were once unknown and therefore not desired.

Now, people whose parents remember wearing only bark or grass clothing go to ‘nationalized’ schools and have cell phones and play video games and surf the internet and learn all about what seems to them, a ‘glamorous’, ‘better’ existence.  And they learn to ‘want’ all the new things for themselves, and they devalue the life of their mother’ and father’s.  And they set up lives in the more ‘civilized’ environs and they buy and sell the things that constitute the symbiotic, interconnectedness of Life and without intentionally doing so, they participate in what may be the destabilization of the ability of Life itself to be sustained aboard our tiny, once balanced, spaceship… hurtling around a minor star… in a galaxy… far, far, away from any other like it.

But, there is hope that people will recognize these things and there are signs of that. Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm and the manatee refuge and animal rescue center, and the Fundo Pedrito paiche farm, and the handful of jungle retreats where foreigners come and sample this fragile cradle of Life.

Iquitos Manatee Refuge Center and Fundo Pedrito Paiche Farm (26 April 2015)

(Kindly forgive me. I have not been faithfully keeping up with my self appointed blog duties. I do not have the skills to determine who is actually interested or following along. I apologize to those few of you who may be disappointed due to my lack of diligence. I have some catching up to do.

Thank you for your continued interest as I report my impressions of my wanderings.

Know, this above all… it is the people that I meet,  some of whom become good friends, and who I am privileged to  know, that are the most wonderful and meaningful part of my entire Life’s journey.)

P1170604Above: (mostly) Peruvian tourists interacting with Amazon manatees

A twenty-five minute mototaxi ride from Iquitos’ Plaza de Armas, on the road to Nauta is  the manatee refuge. This place is supported mostly by tourist entree fees and other donations.  It is a local effort. Management decisions are made by board members of the foundation.

It was a bit of a surprise to me to learn that there are manatees in the Amazon. It makes sense that there would be, but being a non-local and visitor one does not give it much thought. The reality is that this region of the Amazon basin truly is home to amongst the largest variety of living creatures, both plant and animal on our planet.  Iquitos lies merely 3.75 degrees S. of the equator directly adjacent to the world’s largest drainage basin.  All the water that falls on the Eastern slopes of the Andes, that is not evaporated along the way become rivulets, streams, and eventually rivers… which eventually converge into the mighty Amazon.

One fifth of the planet’s fresh water is continually being recycled, molecules transforming themselves into:  vapor (evaporation), cloud formations, highland jungle plant evening/morning condensation, and rain… then the force of gravity causes the then liquid water to be drawn continually ever toward lower elevations where it collects to become rivulets, streams, waterfalls, and rivers.

And all this in a latitude where water never freezes and snow does not fall, and where the sunlight, which shines, either on the terrain below or on the upper surface of clouds,  has done so seven days a week, 365 days a year, for thousands of years.

Most plant life on our planet requires only a few conditions to flourish… water, minerals and sunlight. Some plants are terrestrial other plants are aquatic.  The Amazon provides the perfect environment for all kinds of plants to grow, and thrive.

Plants are amazing. Photosynthesis is nothing short of a miracle. Seeds ‘know’ exactly what to ‘do’… given the proper conditions.  Even before photosynthesis takes over, seeds send their tiny tendrils into the soil, and some towards the sun.  The first roots form using the energy contained in the seed itself, then they begin to absorb the minerals contained in the soil from which the plant continues to build it’s body. The first miniscule leave parts are also formed using the seed’s own energy… then the miracle of photosynthesis takes over. Sunlight powers the process by which carbon dioxide from the air is processed into usable molecules beneficial for the plants growth… and oxygen is released into the air as part of the plant’s ‘respiration’ process.

Plants preceded animal Life. Most all animals derive their energy, second hand… from the energy contained in the plants. No one can say for certain exactly how all this happened, but we know that it did. No one can say with any certainty how all these intricately interwoven Life Processes came to be. We only know that they did and that we are somehow connected to this chain of Life. We are part of it all.

Manatees are vegetarians and eat only aquatic plants.

I do not care to engage in an argument or debate about whether there is/was an ‘Author’ or an ‘Original Inventor’… or whether these processes are part of an Infinitely Eternal, ever changing, simultaneously occurring, ever interrelated, series of events.

It seems to me, enough, to simply Be amazed at the incomprehensible complexity of it and to Be  grateful that I have the capacity to recognize (Be Conscious Of) a tiny glimmer of it.  I think of ‘worship’ as a state of Being in which I reflect back to this Allness, my ‘applause’…  Oh, the beauty of it All ! How mysterious and how truly ‘wonder’ full.

It further seems to me that Life is in the diversity business, not in the ‘one size fits all’ business.  Earth is a large Natural laboratory that never ceases to spin out experiment (Living art forms) after experiment. They rise up,  they exist for a time, they alter and adapt to changes in the environment,  they are superseded by other Living art forms and on and on it goes.  Life seems to extend itself to the limits of it’s ability to adapt.  There is an interplay between the ‘environment’…  (I call it the Ground of Being)  and each Living art form.  Symbiotic relationships extend into ever more diverse environments. Life desires to… Live… and to reproduce itself into as many nooks and crannies and ‘niches’ as possible.

Manatees have a place in all this and Humans do well to notice that all Life is interconnected and that the desire to protect the Life of any Living creature is to stand for the protection of Life itself.  That is what (to me) is the take away message of the manatee refuge and the Fundo Pedrito paiche farm.

Late April of 2015 the water of the Ucayali, Huallaga,  Maranon, and Amazon rivers were in extreme flood stage.  There were emergency tents set up along the roadway for about a mile on the road from Iquitos center to Bellavista/Nanay docks.  The market of Bellavista/Nanay and hundreds of homes and storefronts were flooded.  Makeshift wooden walkways were hastily set up for people to get to the dock, tie-up, area for public transport boats. The waterways are the equivalent of streets in this area.

Many people live in areas close to Iquitos, but need to board a small transport  boat, the riverine equivalent of a taxi/van/ bus to get to their village or home.

Negotiating the narrow one plank wide walkway before boarding a small (peke peke powered) wooden boat is what it took to visit Fundo Pedrito Paiche farm and tourist attraction.

Paiche are a species of very large, very good eating fish that live wild in the rivers of the Amazon basin and are now farmed (aquaculture) as well.

Video of feeding paiche at Fundo Pedrito: