We had a full day away from the lodge today. Starting off at about 9.30am, we drove away from the lagoon and made our way, extremely slowly so that we could look for animals, to a village further upstream.
This turned into quite a disappointing day as we spent a long time in the canoe getting there, probably because there were several groups going to the village and they had to be spaced apart, and, also, because the only activity was to see how the villagers made yucca bread. This seemed to take an inordinate length of time given that it is a daily activity.
Firstly, the local lady, Becky, had to chop the yucca plant to unearth the root. This was peeled in the field and then washed and grated back in the hut. Following this, it was wrapped in something resembling a macrame plant holder and squeezed to force all the juice out so that the residual yucca was completely dry. Becky had assistance from various helpers in our group and, in between, went off to feed her very unhappy 4 month old baby. She then decided the yucca wasn’t dry enough to make the bread so the squeezing process was carried out again.
Whilst we were waiting for the bread, Pedro took out a 6 foot long blow pipe, which he cleaned, then found an arrow and we all took a turn at blowing it at a target comprising a piece of fruit on a stick. I am proud to say, I was the only one of the group, apart from our boat driver, who was able to hit the target and was offered a free beer as a prize!
The yucca was eventually spread in a pan and cooked over a fire. We ate the resulting ‘bread’, which was rather like a tortilla, with an authentic tin of tuna and a ‘boxed’ lunch of chicken and vegetable rice that had been sitting in the heat for the last 3 hours. It seemed to me to be a major health risk and I tried, at least, not to eat too much of the meat.
Afterwards, we were entertained by a Shaman, who volunteered very little information but was open to responding to questions. These were interpreted by 2 Spanish speakers in our party, our guide having disappeared! The Shaman was attired in traditional costume, decorated with feathers from various birds and wild pigs teeth. He has to drink ayahuasca, an hallucinogenic drug, to be able to diagnose the ailments of his patients and, once diagnosed, he either treats them with herbs or refers them to a hospital. It apparently takes 15 years to learn the skills to become a Shaman and anyone can do it, although, according to him, young people are not so interested in learning about it these days.
We eventually left the village at about 4pm, having spent a great deal of time sitting around and waiting for something to happen, and drove to the next village where we alighted to walk into the bush to see a ceba tree. The latter has roots like walls or battlements and grow extremely wide and tall.
On our way back to the lodge, we came across a large troop of spiders monkeys. These were quite delightful to watch as there must have been at least 100 of them swinging from branch to branch in such a way that it appeared as if they could fall at any moment. It was certainly the highlight of the day.
Back at the lodge, we had a short time before dinner after which is was off again for a night walk in the jungle. I have to say that I wasn’t over enthused about going on this. It was extremely hot and sticky and we had to wear long trousers and gumboots, which made it even more uncomfortable. As it happened, we saw very little, apart from a few spiders. I am beginning to wonder if there have been too many tourists visiting this part of the Amazon basin and the animals have retreated further into the depths of the jungle.