I’ve always found it fascinating how, long before all the conveniences we take for granted today, humans and indigenous peoples have been, and are, able to survive off the land.
How do they do it?
How do they know one plant from another, which ones are poisonous, which ones are medicinal, which ones are safe to eat?
How are skills kept alive from one generation to another?
Somewhere in my life a thought, dream, or fantasy of being able to live with indigenous peoples for a year embedded its way into my consciousness. I’d just love to know how to be self-reliant and in harmony with nature and natures resources.
I don’t know if I’ll ever attempt a year, however I will take you along my journey of two weeks into the remote Peruvian rainforest with the Matsés, a native indigenous tribe from the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon Rainforests. As there is so much to tell, I’ll take you along in bite-sized chunks.
So let’s begin…
Part One: Making it Happen
For a number of years now I’ve been searching for non-commercialized, off the beaten path, tours in the Amazon to no avail. So, what’s the next best thing? Fly to Iquitos!
Iquitos is known as the world’s largest city which cannot be reached via road and known as the capital of the Peruvian Amazon. A great place to start, so off I go, and I am not leaving until I find an authentic experience that meets my expectations.
As you step out of the Iquitos airport, you instantly feel the energy and vibe, the city is just buzzing; and there’s certainly a lot a buzz from the noise of the motorcarros, which are like rickshaws on a motorcycle.
I arrived on Tuesday and was greeted at the airport by my most gracious hosts, Victor & Yoli, from Posada Allpahuayo.
I settled in, had a short rest then jumped into a motorcarro, and held on for dear life until we arrived at the Plaza de Armas, the main center [click here for video IMG_2269].
After an afternoon in and out of agencies, being hunted down by guias, added to my more than 35 hours of travel, I’m exhausted and ready to brave a motocarro to my pousada. I can’t take any more information about commercialized ‘lodges’ and ‘ayahuasca’ ceremonies. OK, well maybe one more.
As I walk to a motocarro, I get hit up by one last guia, Rider; this one however was a little special. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but sometimes you just meet people you are supposed to, or maybe I’m just a sucker.
We walked around for a while, chatted, he told me how he could bring me down the Amazon into the remote areas and further on to meet his mother where she lived along the river. Did I finally find my adventure?!
He showed me his handwritten book of recommendations from past clients; who needs technology, this is good ol’ fashioned customer relations and social media.
We took a motocarro to Mercado de Nanay, a great local market where Río Amazonas and Río Nanay intersect.
We had the best local meal and watched the locals disembark along the river for the journey home after a long, hard days’ work.
Oh, and by the way, I continue to see the light on the small progress made with the Spanish lessons!
This experience would never have happened if I didn’t attempt to speak Spanish or learn to speak with my hands [ha, ha]. I had some basic Spanish and he had some better than basic English, which made for great conversation!
The following day [Wed] I hit the city center and the internet once again in my continued search of an authentic adventure. I didn’t come all this way to spend a few nights at a ‘lodge’.
With a lot more digging, I finally found what looked like a promising tour from a company called Amazon Explorer. I went to the physical address listed but there was nobody home, oh no! I sent an email in hopes I might have some success. Now, I patiently wait with trust.
After another day of searching and seeking, I bumped into Rider. We hit the Museum of Indigenous Cultures and strolled through the Belen Market.
Belen Market is one of the largest markets I’ve personally seen, here’s a YouTube video which will give you a great sense of its variety, however it can’t capture the sense of ‘smell’, whoof!
I was very fortunate to experience another part of Iquitos with a ‘local’.
Finally, early evening Thursday I hit the jackpot and I was able to meet Victor & Edwin from Amazon Explorer. Amazon Explorer is an independent agency who specialize on adventure travel, expeditions and jungle survival courses in the Peruvian rainforests. We spent over an hour together walking through a possible itinerary, logistics, etc.
I guess they also needed to gauge my sanity. Since I’ve been back I’ve heard ‘you’re crazy’ by many. If I hear it a few more times, I might just begin to believe it! I really don’t mind, to me it’s a ‘good’ kind of crazy.
The expedition would be a total of 15 days, just me and my guias. What I could expect:
rain or river water for bathing
living in a tribal community with the Matsés
hunting and fishing for meals
traditional ‘Nu-Nu’ [tobacco sniffing ceremony]
traditional ‘Sapo’ [frog] ceremony
no satellite phone
no emergency airlift
no medical facilities
being in the middle of nowhere, completely cut off from, what we call, civilization
no guarantee that the flight will leave on the time or day as tentatively scheduled
Does my guia speak English? No, well just a little.
Mind you this was Thursday evening, so provided I made a decision by Friday morning, the logistics of pulling it all together was substantial, and of course it’s dependent on securing space on the Peruvian Air Force plane the following Tuesday.
What should I do to prepare? Bring lots of mosquito repellent, bring a poncho, pack light, and be prepared for anything ! Oh, and don’t forget a ‘sense of adventure’.
OK…sign me up and voila, Victor and Edwin made it happen!
Click here for more photos
Love & Light,
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