Over the next days the jungle sounds, smells, and inhabitants continued to keep us engaged. I had a general plan that we would be using “world schooling” as a format of education for the kids this year but it was nothing I had actually researched, just a general idea. After these five days it is no longer a vague concept but something that has become self-evident. All four of us are continually learning in our daily travel experiences, but it more pronounced in environments like the Amazon. Immersed in the environment, the kids were soon able to identify birds as they flew overhead and eventually, for a few species, upon hearing their calls. They drew pictures of what they saw and joined other guests looking through the scientific books, identifying animals seen that day. Zuki quickly identified a small poison dart frog and stopped Yoda from catching it just in time. They asked questions of the guide and even conducted their own experiment, never overtly aware that they were learning at ton.
Another I-can’t-believe-we-are-able-to-do-this experience was standing under a great Kapok tree, believed to be over 600 years old. The kids have grown up having the story of The Great Kapok Tree read to them and here we all were actually touching it, crawling around it, and feeling as small as an ant next to its mightiness.
Still, the tribe’s main food source is directly from the jungle. The Chief demonstrated how to use the poison dart blow gun, the traditional hunting weapon about 6’ long made of ironwood, weighing at least 30lbs. We all gave it a try and were surprisingly accurate. Kiko of course got every dart straight through the plantain used for target practice. The tribe eats monkeys, birds, caimans and fish and grow yuca and plantains, mainly supplementing only with rice, salt and cooking oil from town. They obtain money by selling traditional items made out of fibers and natural plant dyes to the tourists and working as guides and cooks at the Ecolodges.
We heard stories during our stay of the untouched tribe that lives only 1 hour further down the river from our lodge. They have chosen to remain isolated; they want nothing to do with the outside world. This really intrigued me. I am aware that I tend to idealize self-sustaining cultures, free from processed foods and the fast pace of the life as we know, but I also realize I can’t possibly grasp what daily life is like for the members of these groups. So After hearing stories from a few Ecuadorians, it was interesting to see that in general locals, both Latinos and members of the different tribes, don’t idealize them but are in fact scared of these untouched tribes.
We were told that about 6 years ago the untouched tribe attacked and killed a number of loggers, who were illegally taking wood from their protected territory. A couple of the loggers survived and floated down in a boat until they came across an ecotourism group. The guides left the tourists in a safe spot on the riverside and drove the men with poison darts sticking through their bodies to town for treatment. Could you imagine being those tourists, left alone in the forest, thinking the untouched tribe was maybe going to come after you? Our lodge had an established trail 30 minutes down the river but one day, after seeing the barefoot prints of the untouched tribe, the lodge permenantly discontinued any hikes to that area, to be safe. As we walked and traveled by boat through the jungle I couldn’t help imagining Indians in the jungle and wondered what life is really like in those un-contacted communities.