Thursday, August 13, 2015

Saying Goodbye To The Jungle

Our time in the jungle is coming to an end.  

It's been a true adventure, but I won't lie.  I'm ready for running hot water and some air conditioning.  I'm ready to trade in the suffocating mosquito net for a feather pillow.  I'm ready to go home.

But first, there's a couple more excursions on the agenda.  So I suck it up and head to the boat with the rest of this group of hardy adventurers.

Our guides are ever on the lookout 
for something interesting to point out to us. 
(And you might notice he's perspiring a bit, just like the rest of  us.)

I can't get used to seeing these gloriously colored Macaws 
just hangin' out in the wild.

Perhaps they are on the lookout for a fancy meal like this.

When we arrive, it's a "dry landing" -- at least for us, not so much for the guides.

It could be a movie set ~ but it's real life for the people who live here.

We're visiting a section of the jungle where medicinal plants are tended, harvested, and where the people of this region of the jungle can come for treatment.  With my background in health & wellness, I'm familiar with medicinal herbs and essential oils and the like; but I'm interested to see the reaction of the doctor(s) in our group to this concept of "medicine".

We get the information on each plant and it's purpose, first in their native Quechua, then our guide translates into English for us. 

We are introduced to the plants that they use for pain relief (their Tylenol); for disinfectant; even this version of "Viagra" (which sounds the same in Quechua as it does in English).  I turned down the invitation for Mr. C to give it a try.

This one they passed around to the group, demonstrating that we should take off a piece and chew it -- don't swallow it.   My advice to you, should you ever be in this situation, is that smaller is better. 

As I chewed my big ole' chunk, my throat started to freeze up; I started to cough and sputter and I immediately spit it out onto the ground.  But the reaction continued to build, and now I'm gagging, choking, to the point I think I might throw up.  

It's the plant they use as an anesthesia.  Not the knock-you-out kind; the kind you would use to pull a tooth or something.  So, even though I'm no longer sure if my tonsils are still in place, I continue to feel my throat squeezing tighter and tighter.  My goodness, why did I not ask first the golden question, "What is it?".   Downright embarrassing, all this unwanted attention.  They are worried, I think, about what they will do if their medicine man kills me. Would they make a special trip, I wonder, to take my body the long journey back to town, or would they wait till the whole group goes back tomorrow morning, and just throw me in the back of the boat with the luggage???

Finally the feeling starts to abate, and I dry my tearing eyes and seek, with difficulty, to regain my dignity.  Zowie.  That was so much worse than Cobra whiskey! (See "Day Trip to Laos).

The forest is thick and lush wherever we look.    We would do well to remember that "real" medical attention is miles (and several hours) away; and also, that these indigenous folks have no money for doctors or medicine.  So  they are doing something that has worked for them since long before modern medicine was available.

And from these plants they make their tinctures, by soaking the plants in alcohol and then straining them.  At the conclusion of our outing, we are invited to try some.  You can understand my hesitation to accept after my very recent, very unpleasant encounter. Most of our group did, however, and all survived.

We are back on the river, heading back to camp as the sun is setting.  And you are correct if you remember that we saw the sun rise on the water this morning.  It's been a long day, and we still have a ways to go before laying our head our not-feather pillow.

It's chow time, and it's my last opportunity to visit the kitchen before leaving the jungle forever.  Tonight's menu is:
  • Tomato Cream 
  • Stir Fried Spaghetti with Loin
  • Maniocs (it's a sort of potato) in Garlic Sauce

I'm surprised by the attention and care they take with presentation -- way out here in the jungle!

And their presentations are so beautiful.  
Why don't I ever do this at home?

I find their "pantry" so interesting.  I've never been in a kitchen where all the supplies have to be locked up behind screening to keep the foraging night creatures at bay. 

Their entire menu for the week, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, is displayed on this wall chart, which is then broken down into a list of all the supplies needed for every meal.  I'm in awe of this kind of organization!

After this fabulous dinner, they offer a night-time jungle hike.  Why is it I feel I must do everything, all of it, all the time?!?

There's only four of us that brave the black of the night ~ Mr. C & me, and our new British friends Gillian and Zoe, for whom I have the utmost admiration.  They have taken on the jungle after doing the 4 day Inca trail trek, which they did as a charity walk.  These girls have grit, for sure!

It's difficult to get good night-time photos, but I caught this tree frog ~ 

And this really cool spider and web.  When I asked if she was poisonous, the reply was,  "All spiders in the jungle are poisonous."
Silly me.

One last night in the cocoon sauna ~ just one more sleepless night....

And the next morning, I had the most amazing experience.  The kind of experience you cannot fully describe and will never forget. The jungle woke me up early, way before dawn.  The howler monkeys provided the backdrop. You should really google this, it's the most amazing whooshing windy sound, like the howling windstorm in a bad sci-fi movie right before the ax-murderer strikes.  Not quite Mother Nature, not quite animal.  

And it's loud.  Like wake you up out of a dead sleep loud.  Like it's on a loudspeaker kind of loud. 

Accent this with the sharp calls of the Macaws and other parrots; and a whole chorus of other creatures I could not identify for you. They are chattering and clattering and screaming and crying and clashing; all of them raising their creature voices, each in their own language, to greet the new day.  It's almost deafening.

Remember that we only have 3 walls in our room, so the fourth wall is, quite literally, the jungle itself.  Wow.  I'm so enthralled I can't  move.  I think about trying to get my camera so I can capture this incredible racket on video, but I'm afraid the ruckus I will cause by breaking out of my cocoon will frighten them into silence.  
So I lie there and listen in a state of pure amazement; I bask in the noise and the clamor of pure jungle.  I breathe it in.  I soak it up. 

Because I know I will never pass this way again.


  1. Love the photos and the article! Your descriptions are so real I feel like I am there. It amazes me that you throw on those big ole snake boots to explore the jungle with seemingly as much excitement as when slipping into your sexy sandals for a night out in New York attending broadway theater!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Karen, I'm so happy to have you along for the ride! Especially because I know that a vicarious jungle journey is probably your only jungle journey.......
    And I appreciate the comment about the snake boots vs. the sexy sandals ~ a girl's gotta' be properrly attired for the event at hand!


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