We awake and decide to split ways. Anna and Jorrit to the spiritual jungle. The rest of us to the harbour the next morning to find a boat. We get a motor-taxi to the harbour with an extremely friendly man, he understands our plan and introduces us to a boat guy who agrees to take us out for two hours downriver. We then get in the boat and head out, back onto the open river in our noisy boat. We head up a small side river and find a little town and ask the people if we can stay there and the chief (or important person) in the community says that we can stay with pleasure.
We get our bags from the boat, wave goodbye and then follow a little path into the jungle. This opens up into an open field surrounded by houses on stilts. A small community clinging to the side of the river and the edge of the Jungle. Its hot humid and there are no roads, telephone, electricity or running water. The chief shows us to his house and we are able to sleep downstairs. We eagerly hang up our hammocks on the wooden beams of the house (everything is made of wood and on stilts).
We then go explore a bit and walk along little paths into the jungle. The jungle is hot, the bugs are everywhere. There are mosquitoes flying around our heads, ants on the ground, spiders in between the leaves. A rich exhausting terrain, we struggle as weak city folk in this harsh world. Back to our little house. We had packed the stove and food for a few days. We thus started to cook as the sun went down and the jungle came alive. We ate and chatted to our hosts who were so excited to have us there. I walked outside to pee in the bush, and saw fireflies between the thick leaves of the jungle. Went back, lay down in my comfy hammock and thought, damn, what a place. What people, another story to add to the richness of this beautiful world.
The next day we woke up and Geronimo asked us to go to the Jukka field to get some food for the evening. We then walked some of the same paths as the day before. This time with more insect spray, and I did not have a thick enough shirt. Mosquito bites all over my back was a result. Itchy as can be, Dengue fever a worry in the back of my mind, glad that I had taken my malaria pills.
This time the walk was so much more rich. Geronimo showed us Iguana's sitting in the high branches of the trees. Cute little monkeys hiding behind tree trunks. Wild fragrant plants, coriandar bushes and a sour fruit that they make salad dressing from. Around every bend there is something else, the last of the mangos from the tree were given to us. We can see the details between different types of computer screens, or the kerning used in a logo, but the real value of observing and seeing the world around us is lost. Here in the Jungle, this man sees it all. He lives and works with his hands to feed his family. Incredible. We arrive at the Jukka field and pull some out of the ground. Two pulls on two bushes and we have enough of the tuber type root for an evenings meal. Packed back in a bag, the sun baking the ground and the humidity rising we head back to the house. We then chat a bit, 600 Jukka's is sold for 10 sol, about 3 euro. Thats about 100 plants. We look at his field, there are about 500 plants. A beer costs 5 sol. These people do not live by money. They live by what they grow and what they can hunt.
Subsistence farming on borderline farmland in the middle of the Amazon. A hard life, that looks pretty idyllic, but what happens when Geronimo gets sick, Dengue fever in bed. His two young kids and wife reliant on his hands to bring the Jukka from the field, to plant the field to catch the fish. He is young, strong and full of smiles, but there is no insurance. Simple life, beautiful, but with many problems that we cannot comprehend when we return to our world where we even have a separate glass insurance for our house in case we forget to close a window and the wind slams it into pieces.
On the walk back to the village another guy calls us to say that the Indians are ready. OK, what's happening now. We are tired, hungry and overheating, but they insist. So we head little into the jungle and there is a thatch open walled hall with some real Indians from the jungle waiting there. About 10-15 people, women and children in reed dresses and bare breasted. They then want to do a performance for us. So we are roped into a semi-dance kind of thing going round and round the thatch area. Its very weird and we feel like such tourists, it just feels wrong. They then bring out there blow-dart things and we get to practice shooting targets. Quite a lot of fun and impressive how accurate and powerful the guns are.
Trinkets appear from nowwhere and everyone starts haggling and walking around us. Please buy, a bit desperate, completely different to other experiences in Peru. We buy some bracelets and then walk back. Talking to Geronimo it turns out that this tribe arrived in the area about 10 years ago. They live from the jungle. They do not farm. They actually walk around naked when tourists aren't around and one of the community men organised that they do the show that we saw for tourists who come in by boat to see it. Really uncomfortable tourist abuse feeling. Nevertheless, that is how it works and at least we were independent and discovering a little bit more about what goes on.
We are overwhelmed by the warmth of the people here in the Jungle. The afternoon we are invited to fishing in the little wooden boat. We paddle off onto the river, and the sun is shining. There are no bugs, no people and the immense river. We settle near the bank in the shade and are each given a stick with a line and a hook dangling from the end. First time fishing for me, seen as I am a vegetarian. I thought, while its a good idea to take part, and the fish I catch the others can eat. And as luck will have it, I get the first bite, and pull a 15cm fish out the river after about one minute. Then they keep coming and we get enough to feed the family. A good afternoon, although a bit weird for me.
Another quiet evening and we cook our meal again. Geronimo brings fish down for Hanna and Dennis. The hospitality beyond our humble needs. The next day we get a tour of the jungle. We had only been in the relative security of the settlement and surrounding fields and the little paths between them. Geronimo volunteers to take us a little deeper. We walk past the cemetery and to the edge of the forest. He then starts hacking a route directly into the wall of bush. We follow, limp weak tourists, moaning and groaning about the bugs and heat. We walk over these little ants and they crawl up our legs and bite us to pieces. The mosquitoes bite through the shirts, no spray will stop them. The heat is overpowering, the bush prickly. Geronmio hacks onwards and we eventually find ourselves in real jungle with huge trees and water everywhere. He points out an owl sitting high in the branches. We spot monkeys jumping across the canopy. Mushrooms and fungus on all sides. What I expected, but the bugs and heat worse than I imagined. I have seen large parts of Africa, deserts, jungles and mountains. This was probably the most unpleasant of them all, but at the same time fascinating.
We are relieved to get to the end of his tour and we retrace our steps back to the house. Dennis and me head to the banks of the river and swim with the kids. Beautiful, brown water with a fast flowing current. Everything that we should not be doing, but an escape from the humid air to the coolness of the water is too good to let go. The kids swim like pro's and we jump and fool around for ages. Great fun and refreshing, with mud fights and all.
Another night in the jungle, we then invite the family to dinner and prepare a fantastic pasta with fried garlic bread and tea. We all share a beer around the oil lamp, the stories start to flow. Geronimo wants to know about our lives, and he knows about South Africa from the Animal Channel. He lived in Iquitos once and tried to work as a guide for one of the big tour agencies.
He worked for two months and lived in a small place, away from the family and then did not get paid while the owners pocketed the Euros and smiled while they bought fancy flat screens for their houses. The world always works like this. He then asks about the elephants, the lions and the ostriches. A great conversation, 'How many people can eat from one egg?'. 'Ah, not sure something like twenty normal eggs to one'. Do you keep ostriches in your garden like we keep the chickens here. Oh how I wished, but no we in overpriced houses in the city. Exceedingly wealthy in material things, but cannot even rear our own food. A hipster thinking, how our lives are pointless, visiting the Mac store with a skateboard under my arm. Yes we have it all, and so little, but so much. How to explain this to this beautiful man, who is actually now 3 years younger than me and supports his family with so much love. Better not, I'll rather talk about Giraffes, the rain and mountains. He ends by bringing out a crocodile head, he caught it in his canoe, which almost toppled the boat. We finish our beer, and he looks into our eyes and tells us, 'You are all taking a beautiful history home with you!'. Such true words from a true man.
The next morning we eat and pack, swim with the kids. Play some football and mess around. Then we get in the boat that he organised for half the price that we paid to get there and motored off up the river. This was an incredible boat ride. The sun was baking down and the sky was full of tropical clouds. Electricity in the air as the storm builds. Colours that you do not see beyond the tropics. Green jungle, all the colours of blue in the clouds. Rolling whites. Beautiful. We see birds and villages and a container ship unloading, thousands of kilometres from the sea.
Back into Iquitos for our second last day. I had to head to the airport to catch a flight home. Hanna was off to Pacalpa to visit a school. Dennis, the lucky bastard, was back on the boat to continue his amazing adventure through South America. The tattooed manager of the backpacker was off to Columbia with all the money from the last few weeks at the backpacker, he skipped the country and took the money.
We had a great last day together, visiting markets and walking around. Then we departed, I did not want to go. If I had time, or guts , I would have continued down the river to the Atlantic ocean. My travel spirit was reawakened, but alas I had to head back to cold Europe, with the cold people and planned out calendars. The real challenge to deal with these kind of changes.