Sunday, July 1, 2007

Clever titles don't do this post justice

Let me just start off by apologizing for taking so long to create this post. I’ve been going through a lot of things since I’ve been back--- one of which was being quite unmotivated to sit in front of a computer and put my thoughts into writing. I’ll try to focus a bit more on the ecological and cultural discoveries and insights that I made on the trip rather than the spiritual “stuff” that I experienced on the trip because I’m still struggling to put all that into words without making me sound crazy. Needless to say, I’m still mulling over a lot of the experiences that made the trip so life-changing for me.

Our first real destination was Iquitos, Peru which is the “jungle gateway/capital city” of Peru. We flew in early Tuesday morning with the intent to get us acclimated to the climate, get a few odds and ends for the jungle (rubber boots, etc), and to just absorb the culture a bit. Because it is surrounded by the jungle in three directions, the only way one can get to Iquitos is by plane or by boat. They just recently finished building a highway that leads out of Iquitos, but I believe it only goes to one other city. Because of that, few people in Iquitos have cars. The main mode of transportation is by using what they call Moto-taxis—little rickshaw/motor scooter taxi things. The streets were always congested with Moto-taxis zooming and weaving between each other, stray dogs, and other pedestrians. Looking down at the river, you could see the hundreds of people that lived in small, stilted shanty houses on the river bank as well as the boats bringing in all of the city’s produce and other goods to sell at the market. We had a lovely dinner and then prepared ourselves for our departure the next day into the jungle.

We were met the next morning by the shaman that we would be working with in the jungle as well as our naturalist/interpreter. We boarded a bus and got on the highway that led us out of Iquitos so that we could visit a nearby village to see the medicinal plant garden that the shaman had helped the villagers grow. In that village we got our first lesson about medicinal plants and their uses. We also were invited to visit the elementary school in the village where we were greeted by thirty or forty beaming eight-year-olds. It was priceless.

We continued on the bus and boarded a boat in Nauta and traveled for about an hour and a half into the depths of the jungle to the lodge.

Our time in the jungle was structured around the stifling heat and humidity (minimum 80% humidity in the jungle). We generally rose with the sun every morning and got ready to have breakfast at about 7:30 (being so close to the equator meant that 365 days a year the sun rises at 6am and sets at 6pm). We would then usually go for a hike or a boat ride right after breakfast so that we could be back to the lodge before it got too hot. We had lunch at the lodge and were generally free to swim/meditate/nap/play with monkeys until our late afternoon/evening hike or boat ride when it had cooled down a bit. On the hikes we would see how the medicinal plants we were learning about grew naturally, look for different animal species, and also just absorb the sights and sounds and smells of the jungle. The jungle shamans believe that the healing powers of the jungle come directly from the sights and the sounds and the smells and we took that seriously.

While in the jungle we also took part in 3 different healing ceremonies and had the option of having a private healing with the shaman. I participated in all four ceremonies and had a powerful, physical experience during each one. Going into this trip I was excited to learn about the healing practices of the shamans, but I guess I was a little naïve and didn’t anticipate actually feeling the effects of the jungle energy.

So now, after spending time in the Amazon jungle, I can say the following:

I saw a boa constrictor, 12 sloths, an anteater, Blue Morpho butterflies, and the smallest species of monkey in the world, a tarantula, the largest earthwork I have ever seen in my entire life, among hundreds of other things

I held a baby caiman

I swam with pink dolphins, piranhas, electric eels, and sting rays

I drank water from a vine in the middle of the jungle

I ate the best fish I have ever had in my life

I went piranha fishing and ate what we caught (though not related to above)

I hugged a shaman

I was totally blown away and have a lot to figure out now.


Bo said...

Very exciting to hear in some detail about your trip. Thanks for sharing.

I'd like to take a trip much like this sometime, but with emphasis on fish observation. Many of my favorite aquarium fish are native to the Amazon system, and I'd love to see them naturally.

Looking forward to hearing more when you are comfortable sharing your spiritual experiences.

lesley said...

Actually my father and a few other people in my family have dreams of taking the same trip as you were thinking of. My dad, apparently, had the opportunity to do so while he was in grad school. It is one of his biggest regrets that he didn't do that. We grew up with aquariums full of Angel Fish and other Amazonian fishes.

I was hoping to see some of the fish species that I saw in my aquariums growing up while I was there but the water was too murky from the tannic acid from the decaying plants for me to see any while I was there. Bummer.