Welcome to the Amazon: Meeting The Locals
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It was an early start to our last day in the Amazon Rainforest.
After a very broken sleep -- thanks to dreams of insects, due to yesterday's flashlight excursion -- I did not mind an early morning. The plan for this morning was to wake up early, meet up at The Dolphin Lodge, and head out onto the water to watch the sunrise.
We had been in the Amazon for two days, and the skies were almost always clear and blue. It was the dry season, so there wasn't much rain. However, between the dreams of creepy crawlies last night, I am sure I heard the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. That, or it was a plethora of who-knows-what matter of insect bumbling around out there.
However, due to the overcast skies the following morning, I am going to tell myself it was rain.
Our attempt to see the sunrise didn't go as planned. Instead, we sat on the water and watched an aura of light slowly glow behind the clouds. That was the closest to the sun that we saw. However, we also witnessed the river come to life and heard the roosters crowing out in the distance. It might not have been worth getting on the river at 5:30 in the morning for, but it was still a nice way to start the day.
After our sunrise, we returned to the lodge, had breakfast, and went back out on the water a few hours later. It was going to be a short day as we were flying back to Lima today, and going up the river takes significantly more time than going down the river.
Our first stop for the day was the village of the Yagua people. The Yagua are indigenous people who live in the Amazon, who still speak their traditional language, wear their traditional clothes, and cook their traditional food. In fact, according to the Peruvian census, these people don't even exist.
Allen told us that both the Yagua men and women wear skirts and that it was probably due to that, that the Spaniards mistook the men for the legendary, female Amazon warriors. It was from that mistake that the entire jungle was named the Amazon in their honour.
The Yagua people showed us their traditional dress, their food, some of their traditional art, and also how to use a blowgun. I've only ever seen a blowgun on television, but I got to hold the twelve-foot-long pipe, filled with darts, and shoot at a target. My first shot missed, but the second one got the target right in the chest. I was far from a natural, but I was happy that I hit the target.
The Yagua people are not an untouched Amazon civilization, but they have deliberately preserved their traditional ways. They speak limited Spanish, and no English, and keep mostly to themselves. Although these people aren't untouched by the chaos of the modern world, they are still very much removed from it.
After thanking the Yagua people and buying some merchandise from them, we got back on the river and travelled to the Community of San Rafael. This small town was the most modern thing we had seen since leaving Iquitos a few days prior. Although it was still very traditional in its architecture, it had power, water, a school, and students with cellphones. We saw a few of them gathered around a water fountain, which Allen told us was the only spot in the town where they could get internet.
Allen also told us a bit about the local cuisine, and some of us tried a Freezie-like desert called a chup or marciano. They were frozen sticks of either fruit juice or milk, tied on both ends. Once purchased, they would be cut open and eaten like a Freezie.
The stop at San Rafael was brief, and we didn't purchase anything besides snacks. We mostly just visited the community so that Allen and Luis could show us how other locals lived, besides just in Iquitos and in the Yagua village. There are over 80 communities like San Rafael along this stretch of the Amazon, but San Rafael was probably one of the biggest and most modern.
We then headed back to The Dolphin Lodge, packed up our stuff, had one final, delicious meal, and headed out onto the water one last time.
The ride back was very quiet -- and, personally, very sad. I think we all felt the same. Once on the Amazon River, our cellphones could get service again, and all the many, many, many notifications came rolling in. Some were nice to get, like messages from my girlfriend and from my family, but others were things I didn't care about, like work messages, emails, social media notifications, bills, calendar reminders, and spam. It was actually so many notifications, so fast, that I put my phone back on airplane mode for the rest of the ride back. Everything else could wait while I enjoyed my last moments in the Amazon. Being disconnected from the outside world for just a little longer was perfectly fine.
There isn't much more to write about, but our trip to the Amazon was something I could never forget. Every moment was something different, something amazing, something incredible, something ethereal. Although I would see many amazing things during the rest of the month in Peru with Remote Year, it was that weekend with Allen and Luis of Amazon Wonder Expeditions that I could never forget. It was a mixture of the funny conversations with newfound friends, the blazing heat, the ice-cold showers, the amazing meals, the creepy crawlies, the people, the language, the peace, the silence, the calmness, the wholeness -- it's something I can't explain. Other people had their favourite parts of the trip to Peru, but that first weekend in the Amazon was something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I know not many people will read my third part of the series, because other pieces have more flashy titles or more catchy headlines, but this trip was not only a physical experience but a spiritual one too. A month later I am still working through the emotions I felt on the boat ride back, and processing the feeling of leaving something unattainable behind. What that was though, I am not sure. Perhaps that is something I will never know. Regardless, thank you for coming with me on this journey. There is more Peru to come, but for now, we must say adios to the Amazon.
Hasta la proxima vez.
PS: For a price breakdown of my month-long trip to Peru with Remote Year, please visit How (And Why) I Spent A Month in Peru.
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Categories: Peru, Remote Year, Travel Tips