This is the second of two posts about my visit to Peru’s Amazon region. As I mentioned in my previous post, when my husband and I traveled there with our friends Ruth and Alan, we flew into the large city of Iquitos, which is unreachable by road. If you go to that region, you see why: the waters of the Amazon River and its myriad tributaries flood through hopelessly dense vegetation. Overland travel doesn’t work there. The river is the road. Though the river divides the land, it is what connects the people.
We stayed at Sinchicuy Lodge. This video shows the lodge at its spiffed-up best. What you have to picture, though, is that the lodge truly is in a jungle. Galoshes are kept on hand for guests to foray into the mud. There is no hot water, so you take cold showers. (But the weather is so hot you hardly care.) Everywhere, you watch out for spiders and bugs. But this is a small price to pay for seeing this vast stunning river and the ecosystem that depends on it.
One morning our guide took us fishing for piranhas. I’m not sure what we would have done if we’d caught a big one. We caught a number of little ones we didn’t keep, and our guide helped us unhook them. Take a look at the teeth, and you’ll see why it has to be done carefully. (As an interesting side story, our son Brendan once went fishing in the Brazilian Amazon with a local fisherman. They caught some good-sized piranhas. Just to show Brendan what those nasty teeth can do, the fisherman picked up a piranha by the tail and dangled it just above the rim of the wooden boat. The fish’s clacking teeth bit a hole in it!)
Indigenous peoples live in the Peruvian Amazon region. Most have pretty much assimilated and speak Spanish rather than their traditional language. However, some effort has been made for Amazonian children to learn at least a little of their region’s indigenous language in school. Our guide took us to visit a few members of the Yagua tribe, who had put on native costumes made of grass. They led us through one of their traditional dances and showed us how to use their blow gun. Although the Yagua keep these traditions alive, the people certainly don’t isolate themselves from the outside world. Ruth saw one of the young people with a cell phone.
For the Future
Our guide, a young local man with indigenous roots, had a real love for the ecology of the area. He took us on a muddy hike into the forest and showed us this old tree, astonishing in its size. The perimeter of the trunk at its base is probably larger than my living room. Later our guide gathered us together on the grounds of the lodge. Together we planted a tree that he said was good for the environment because of the way it uses water. There was already so much water and so many trees I had to wonder how much difference we were making! But I appreciated his love for the Amazonian forest.
Our guide then told us a saying: To give to the future, do three things: Plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. Ruth and I looked at each other and smiled. We’d already done all three.