after two weeks the jungle chewed me up then spit me out with all my limbs intact. no malaria (yet), avoided snake bites, being swallowed by jaguars, didn`t fall off any cliffs or sink in mud. no bug maggots under my skin. no poison darts, etc etc… not to make it sound boring though! there was always the threat… i am just a survivor. i wrestled caimen before breakfast. not really. but i often wrestled a young cappybara before bedtime.
a stay in the amazon was a great way to end my trip in South America. what a mess of contradictions! quiet and relaxing but noisy and ruckus. solitary but dense with life. physically demanding work then generous submission. blistering heat then damp cool or thundering storms. bounties of food and water but you had to work for it.
the Picaflor cast: Laurel Hanna built Picaflor (“hummingbird”) about 8 years ago. her passion is protecting this bit of primary forest from loggers. the land is a conservation under attack from neighboring farmers who want the biggest, oldest trees and to hunt the wildlife. it is buffer zone along the protected Tambopata Reserve.
Laurel’s husband is Pico. a peruvian, his grandfather used to harvest brazil nuts on the land. Pico often prepared the meals (lots of pasta or rice with onion, tomato, pepper and soy meat. fried plantain chips. lemonade. the occasional panqueka, egg salad, or custard.)
Piquito (little Pico) is their 3 yr. old son. i don`t know what a normal child of that age is like but sometimes we had to remind ourselves, he’s only 3. he was incredibly knowledgeable about the jungle. i was amazed how his ears could pick out the slightest chirp and he’d identify the critter. he’d predict the weather, etc. play for him was to help with whatever work you were doing. it was actually very interesting for me, if sometimes trying, to have him around. at first i thought his presence would be the biggest challenge for me. he had some volume issues… but he was a very cool kid. and sweet. and ONLY 3, after all. around here, by age 7 children are expected to carry their own weight and help around the farms.
then there is Ron. more a family member than a pet. Ron is a 15 week old cappybarra that the family adopted when they found it abandoned as a newborn. they grow at an amazing speed and are very social animals. he is SO. FUN. and cute. playful. he comes and goes at this age… wanders back muddy from the riverbank to find a finger to suck on.
and Chick Chick. (shudder) el diablo. i was tormented daily by this psychotic, chicken-sized beast. it is a wonder they haven`t eaten him yet. they adopted him as a cheeping chick with deformities. i will have to get the name for his type of bird but they are territorial and bad natured. chick chick has a scary twitch. all agree he’s not normal, but laurel takes pity on him. i go for his neck…
Campeona, the cat, kept the rats at bay. she was practically a jungle cat… you could see it in her eyes as she flew by your head to cling to the mesh window, then dart into the darkness. during the day she was a lap cat.
other animals that visit the house or live there: bathroom bat (which i think Campeona ate last week), guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, quails, giant toads, gecko that pooed in my room each night, Priscilla the long-hair mouse opossum, porcupines, agouti, butterflies on the handrails, and the tarantulas at the water pump. oh, giant cockroaches and other bugs and spiders.
there were no researchers while i was there, but a crew of volunteers: Steve (retired -AU), Kelly (NZ), Katie (ENG) & Thomas (AU), and me. the men were carnivores and the women vegetarian. weird. there was one building where we lived. Laurel (whose father was an architect) designed it in the local vernacular. (see my pics.)
my first three days began at 4:30am with “i think its nearly morning, mom.” then i moved to the guest bungalow. days began at 5:30 or 6 depending on if i got up for a hike before breakfast. bread and jam or porridge or cake. help feed the animals. work till 11 or so. sometimes i made lunch, bread or cake. after lunch i was free to do what i like till 4pm when we took turns pumping water to a tank up the hill. that was fun, haha. looking back it was a struggle that united us all… rewarding? good exercise anyway. shower then free till dinner around 7. it gets dark after water pumping so we’d usually gather in the library with candle light.
my free time consisted of hiking, reading, writing, drawing, banjo, card games, or napping. playing or reading with Piquito. sometimes making dinner. checking the garden and chickens (lots of good bugs there). hammock time. and doing laundry. work was in the garden, finishing the solar cooker, trail clearing, stapling wire mesh for walls, and cooking. it rained a couple days… it’d be cold and everything damp. it was only really hot two or three days.
the jungle was HUGE. DENSE. NOISY. you could hear animals all around but it was difficult to see them. still, i saw a lot of cool stuff. monkeys, rodents, reptiles, birds, and bugs. maybe its the architect in me, or having grown up amidst a forest, but it was the jungle itself that was my main interest. the odd trees, ferns, vines and flowers. fun stuff.
very excited for my next adventure in Washington, DC. begins on Saturday. looking forward to seeing you all. xo