Piranha's, Fireflies and a Dugout Canoe

Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Where I stayed
Huaorani Ecolodge

Flag of Ecuador  , Pastaza,
Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our journey into the Amazon began the way Jim describes in the last post, with a small airplane and a dugout canoe.  There are five villages that comprise this specific area of the Huaorani and form an association.  There are other villages that do exist though and also a few tribes that choose to live in the Amazon without "outside" contact.  The government has set aside an area called the intangiable zone for these people, but no one knows whether or not they still exist. They themselves do not know that they have a specific zone that no one else in allowed to enter, so there is speculation that they have left the zone because they live in the historic nomadic hunting lifestyle.   The area that we visited of the five villages surrounds the Shiripuno River which is the Amazon head waters that we canoed on.  

After unpacking our bags, we had a late lunch with the chief of the five villages.  His name is Moi and is a hero for fighting the oil companies that wanted to drill on this land in the mid-90's.  There has been a book written about his journey entitled "Savages" by Joe Kane that is on my current reading list.  We were told that he arrived at the president's house with his spears in hand.  Anyway, Moi gave us Huaorani names that Jim outlined in his previous post.  He also promised us a story later on.  The oil issues that continue to plaque the Huaorani are very interesting and our guide Xavier, was able to expand our knowledge considerably.  I could not help but compare Alberta's own oil sands projects and the northern pipeline controversary with that of the Amazon.  

Following lunch we hopped on the canoe and were poled down river to an embankment where we went fishing.  the boys were extremely excited to catch a piranah as they were told they get to keep the jaw if they do!  Emay, our Huaorani guide was quickly able to use his machette to carve a few simple fishing rods and Xavier strung them with fishing line and baited them with raw chicken.  We fished until it became dark and the fireflies came out in abundance.  The skies were clear and the whole universe opened in starlight and a near full moon.  Motoring in the boat up the lodge was an experience in itself.  The Amazon forest at night was magical and our motor kept petering out and needed restarting.  We finally made it back safe and sound for a late dinner and bed.

The next day after breakfast we headed out for a forest walk.  It was truly amazing.  From the sounds of all the birds, you could tell the forest was full of them, but you couldn't see a thing since it was so dense and the canopy covered the sky.  One of my favourite birds we did see, the oro pendular was really neat.  They build their nests over the river, hanging like pendants from the trees.  They build several in one tree to discourage predators and the birds are black with bright yellow tails.  We also saw a few parrots - but the amazing thing is the way our guides could identify any bird just from a far away call.  Once our guide used a piece of palm leave curled up to make the sound of a baby toucan and in just a few minutes, there were several adults perched in the trees above us.

Also on this walk Emay taught us how to use blow darts and spears.  They hunt monkeys and birds with the darts and peccaries and tapirs with spears.  It was really fun to try it out!  One of the boys have a blog entry that describes the blow darts more precisely.  The Huaorani use a vine to make a poison paste to put on the end of the dart.  They carve a niche at the end of the poison, so if the monkey tries to pull out the dart, it will break off and the poison remains within.  They make baskets out of palm leaves to carry their hunted animals back home.  Everything these people need is in the forest.  We were shown things like how to build shelters out of palms, what plants to use for various illnesses, told stories about the creation of the forest and people.  
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