Monday, November 21, 2011

My friend the witch doctor--the jungle part II

Upon seeing the breathtaking display of nature and life that is the Amazon Jungle, one is overcome with the desire to completely destroy it and everything in it.

Seriously, what kind of sick, twisted people come to this place and accept that the stuff they are pulling out of the ground that is used to create fake plastic versions of the real things for T.G.I. Fridays restaurants is an OK thing to do? Of course free marketeers say we're all to blame by buying petroleum products. What the market will bear, and all. But it all becomes very circular when people then try to make consumers informed by requiring information on products and those efforts are quashed by the very industries that say consumers should make the final decisions and should, apparently, be doing all the research themselves, knowing that your average consumer could name all the characters on South Beach before they could even begin to spell petroleum. OCCUPY AMAZON!

You shall not pass, oil man!
Oh, good lord, it's hopeless, isn't it? So, last chance to see. And here's what we saw on our last day in the jungle...

After breakfast we again boarded the river taxi, but this time in our gumboots and several layers of insect repellent. Interesting, we thought, that with all the things the jungle provides, on-skin insect repellent is not one of them. You can cut a hunk of termite nest off a tree and throw it on a fire for excellent ambient repellent, but it's highly inconvenient to carry a smoky fire with oneself through the jungle.

Upon landing at the jungle trail, Juan found some wild monkey-brush seed pods and performed the paint-the-tourists-like-idiots-while-telling-them-they-are-now-warrior-clan ritual.



Well, some are more idiot than others.

But...I'm just a monkey.

Again, the medicinal properties of the jungle are just legion. This particular one--sangre de drago, or dragon's blood--is used as a topical disinfectant and cleanser, for menstrual cramps, general well-being, and halloween vampire costumes.

I think we all would have felt a little disillusioned with Hollywood had there not been swinging on vines.

What's amazing about this little froggy is not just how beautiful it is (the picture doesn't do it justice, of course), but that Juan spotted it hiding amongst these leaves between some exposed roots while he was in full stride. I mean, he's got remarkable colors, granted, but so does his surroundings that he pretty well blended in with.

We were all ready to follow Juan into battle with a rival tribe, should he call for it. Piper was so impressed by him that she chose him to help her with The Crisis of the Tooth.

Yeah, so after this excursion we headed back to the "lodge" for siesta, lunch, and a swim. But immediately upon arrival Piper pulled and Teddy performed a little slapstick that Piper caught the punch line on. She was following Teddy across a mostly-dried mud puddle with boards laid across it. He was on the leading end, she on the trailing end. He stepped off what turned out to be a board with a fulcrum in the middle. In the middle of a step Piper's end drops from beneath her gumboots, her face descends toward the ground, and the board ascends toward the sky. They meet somewhere in between. Thank God I didn't see that happen, because it was bad enough to hear the scream. You know how it is when tough kids, who don't usually scream, scream? Blood curdling. At least to a parent.

The happy result of this brief encounter was an accelerated loss of a loose tooth. Mostly. It was hanging by a tenacious piece of her gum. As I was trying to move her fat lips out of the way to grab the tooth to yank it, she made tiny shakes of her head and pointed at Juan: "Uh uh...hin!" What? "Hin, hin!"

Oh right, the shaman. So Juan looks at me, I give the go-ahead shrug, he nods and walks into the bushes and comes back with a particular leaf. He strips some fibers off the edges and stem of the leaf, spins them together between his palms, and now has a perfectly good string. He makes a slip knot in the middle, loops it around Piper's tooth and yanks it right out. No yelping. Piper asks if the Tooth Fairy comes to the jungle, and Juan explains that here you toss your tooth on the roof; it makes the coming tooth stronger. We also had to explain that the TF is familiar with local customs but still leaves bling under the pillows of little gringas.

Next up for the medicine man--Duncan is our go-to bug attractant who takes the majority of hits for the family team. With that thin white skin he must look like a drink pouch to bugs. No problem for the witch doctor, who gathers a handful of plant pieces, chops them up in the kitchen, wraps them in a particular leaf and lays the package on the coals. Duncan is curious but not scared. And I know that he wouldn't have let me put steaming hot jungle goo all over him, so Juan had clearly made an impression on him as well. After ten minutes or so, the inflammation around the bites had disappeared and the itching had subsided.

It's OK, you only go up to your thighs
After that we crossed the sucking sands and went for another dip in the cool river. Di tried her hand at trying to extend our sabbatical by panning for gold. A couple of back-breaking tries later and we had enough for a couple of $2 almuerzos back home. Pick up the pace, there, Honey.

The felon flash. Damn paparazzi.

Having just kicked a German tourist off his bed
That was our last bit of time in the jungle before we headed out to stay a night in the small town of MisahuallĂ­ (like Miss Hawaii). We wanted to check out the monkeys in the central plaza; the cars were just a bonus.

Two days in the jungle was amazing, but if you go, stay longer than that. There is much more we'd like to see...before it's gone.


  1. Wilder and Luca love the jungle attire of Duncan and Piper, Lisa loves Dianas green earrings- and I just love the monkey man! Howdy from the Isoms