I am feeling more and more in tune and at one with the Amazon. Sounds and smells vibrate in my mind and soul. I feel as if I am being welcomed by forces greater than myself to this magnificent landscape.


Bappa ooh Mau Mau.

Something about this Christmas thing puts people in good moods and brings out a sense of generosity. Instead of crowding into malls, however, those around these parts go out and celebrate fiesta style. Our day off involved getting up at 5:15 to catch a series of buses that eventually broiught us to Pujo, a smallish city, more of less the size of Ste. Agathe (of blessed memory).Our full day agenda was somewhat impacted as the Ecuadorian concept of “Dry Season” continues to elude me. The morning was spent dodging raindrops heading from mercado


to mercado to take in the various produce available to the locals. Chickens, fish, chunks of meat of unidentifiable origins were located in one corner. The rest of the surface, covered by a tin roof and measuring the size of a city block was replete with fruits, vegetables, herbs, plastic trinkets and toys along with myriad chachkas of all makes and models. And by the way, the song Yes, we got no Bananas would never be a hit down here. If they got anything, it’s bananas.

Butterfly on work glove


We visited an astro turf kiddie park between markets and noted that slides, teeter-totters, swings, etc. form part of any playground anywhere in the world. An oversized Transformer (the toy type, not the electrical converting device) was the focal point of the area. Yellow, and black, it was carefully thought out and meticulously constructed. Metal parts, tubes, wires and gears gave this three meter high behemouth an aura of authority. Eager to witness a trasformation, we asked the local staff to plug it in. Unfortunately, either the guy was too lazy to move or it was, in fact, broken. There was a plug at the bottom of the giant toy but given the all consuming humidity that abounded combined with a desire to not do the San Quentin Sparky thing, I eschewed the oportunity to be a South American electrician or worse, a fried empanada.

Bappa ooh maud mau

Which brings us to lunch. Upstairs in the market was a dining area. There were about ten stalls set up, each serving chicken, meat, fish, in all combinations and permutations. Ecuadorian cuisine dictates that lunch is the main meal. Invariably it arrives in the form of a large bowl of soup, contaiinig a broth, yucca, peas and/or lentils, and if lucky a piece of meat or chicken. Quite delicious, actually. Soup is accompanied by a plate of meat/chicken/fish, with a side of rice, yucca, and a small salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. While filling and tasty, I would imagine that by the twentieth year of eating the same meal every day, the experience would lose some of its lustre. But for two weeks, we’re good to go.

As the sun came out in the afternoon, we were treated to a visit to a walk along the bank of the Puyo River. Our group consisted of the 4 remaining volunteers, Jonas, our project manager, one of the cleaning ladies, her son and daughter, and the two rangers who base themselves out of Jantus Sacha. Their job is to patrol the jungle with the intent of discouraging poachers.
Frias con esta?

I explained to them that our experinece with the Rangers in Africa taught us that the African method of discouragement is highly effective. In the game parks of Tanzania, Kenya, etc., the poachers are shot on sight. Very effective. The more adventurous African Rangers mount the heads of their prey on their dens, sitting on their studded leather chairs in their Victorian wood panelled dens, antique globe in the corner, billiard table illuminated by an overhanging Tiffany lamp, smoking cigars and drinking sherry. Or maybe not. But more on victim’s heads coming up, so don’t go away.

The walk led to an ecological center that was the brainchild of a Californian who married a local girl and moved to Ecuador 23 years ago.

His choice of study in the US was a Masters degree in Bio- Diversity, specializing in Latin American sub-systems. He certainly found his niche. He went on in great detail as to how the on site toilets produced fertilizer from both human dung and urine. There was also a demonstration of how procedures rendered feces odorless and broken down into an extremely fine form of utilizable soil. More importantly, did you know that urine actually has 90% more biological nutrients than dung? Neither did I! Nitrogen and lots of other good stuff. So next time you are outside and have to pee, no worries, you are doing Pachimama (Mother Earth) a big favour, so whizz away unfettered.

Aside from the toilet training, there were many other elements that reflected a basic level of creativity and intelligent recycling. For example, they have constructed a wall made of reused three liter soft drink bottles.

These have been strung together with more waste plastic, holes pierced into them using heated rebar as a punch, filled with soil and then used as planters for decorative and useable foods. Still in experimental stage, the mad scientist is hoping to be able to use these systems as both exterior living walls in residential application and also as a protection against erosion on mountain sides that have been denuded of their forests. Go Loggers!

Two interesting homes were situated on the reserve. The first was a sample of a Warani home. These fierce warriers live in the jungle and do not enjoy hanging out with white folks too much. A few missionaries found out the hard way. The Warani, when angry deliver very pointed messages. Didn’t care much for the decor, but who am I to criticize? The second tribal home we visited belonged to the Shua. You may have seen their handy work in various museums. They are masters of the shrunken head, an art that is still practised today. Always insatiable for knowledge, I asked to an explanation that did not have to involve a demonstration. So, after they decaptiate their victims, an incision is made front to back over the scalp. The areas from each side of the neck are sliced vertically up behind each ear and, if done properly, the skin covering the head should pull right off, like a glove from a hand. The skull is then treated with a mixture of 27 herbs and spices, slowly smoked over a fire so that the chemicals from the mix can penetrate the skin from inside out and preserve the appearance and looks of the recently beheaded individual. The now shrunken head is filled with some type of stuffing, (maybe cranberry walnut, but not sure), sewn up with nary a visible stitch et voila, shrunken head. How much? Glad you asked, a decent quality shrink job with run you about $25,000. Prices can go higher and I don’t think I’d recommend too strenuous a negotiation on price.

Norwegian Blue. Note the Beautiful Plumage.

Last stop on the tour was to what Lori and I were led to believe would be some type of mini resort featuring pool, spa, volleyball, sauna, etc. Apparantly, our Spanish comprehension still needs a bit of work. The ‘pool’ turned out to be a portion of the Puyo river diverted from upstream, flowing through what looked like a set of concrete locks on a river, before rejoining the original flow. The water was greenish, not the tone associated with chlorine, either. What the hell, it was warm, we were in Ecuador, we jumped. Water was cool, not cold, with no trace of piranhas.

No sign of spa, volleyball courts or anything other than a snack bar, but it was enough.

The bus stop to get back to Tena was across the street from a series of shops that sold all things Sugar Cane (except Harris).

SAQ, eat your heart out

There were juices to drink, candies to be eaten, chunks to be sucked on, and liquor to get smashed on. What I mistook for a well stocked bar of Jameson, Chivas, etc. was a lineup of recycled soldiers, filled with regular and fruit flavoured sugar cane hootch that packs an unusual tasting and powerful punch. Made for a fun bus ride home, where we stopped at a tent city of freshly barbecuing meat/chicken/fish, pulled up a table and finished off the day in style. Well, nearly finished. A taxi pick up truck took us back to JS but since the cab was crowded, Jakob abd I opted to sit out back. Dressed in the most incredibly water repellant jacket I’ve ever owned, and thank The Lord for having it, we sped through the rain only once being soaked by a huge spash that came from a car going in the other direction. Never saw the tsunami until it was too late. Got home, dried off, sobered up and good night to all.



  • Cookieman
    Posted at 16:07h, 22 December Reply

    $25k for head that makes it shrink? How much for the reverse?

  • Bruce Burnett
    Posted at 00:56h, 28 December Reply

    And what's wrong with a little head?

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