The morning boat trip took us to a local village. We waited on the shore while Fausto cleared our arrival and then walked through the plantations and gardens to reach some of the village buildings. We walked past a house and school to a field where locals were working clearing weeds from the crops of yucca, a root vegetable that looked like large sweet potato. Angie was employed to help pull some of the yucca out of the ground and then it was cleaned off and the skin removed to reveal the white flesh beneath. One a few yucca had been prepared we walked back to the school we had seen earlier.
Keryn all decorated
The girls in their party paint; from the left we have Michelle, Janet, Sophie, Kerrie, Angie, Anna, Melissa and Keryn
Wild man Sean
Two local children watch
The yucca was whisked away and we all sat down in the school building. The children of the nearest families were there as well and one of the senior village members was there to receive gifts we had bought for the children and then he gave us a short speech welcoming us thanking us for our gifts. The kids were very happy with our presents, especially all the things that Melissa had bought which included bubble blowing rings, little rubber balls and small cars. We moved on to the house as the clouds on the horizon got darker and closer.
Starting to clean up the yucca
In the school house
We were sitting inside watching the process that takes the yucca and makes a stable local drink when the rain started pouring down. The timing was quite good really, the rain stopping as we left. While the rain fell we watched as the yucca was mashed up and then heated over the fire. It takes a while to make the drink so we got to sample some that had been earlier prepared. The drink was not tasty but palatable and for me tasted like yeast smells. We then sat around and most of us ended up playing with the children, simple games involving passing the balls and cars backwards and forth.
Watching the rain
Children at play
We left and headed back to the river. On the shore there was now a pile of balsa wood logs and in short order Fausto and the boat driver were lashing these together with rope to make a raft. Once it was ready we all got onboard and started our leisurely floating downriver.
Sean and Anna help with raft building
The trip took a couple of hours and for the most part we simply relaxed and talked amongst ourselves. At some points we were able to get into the water and swim or float near the raft, all very peaceful. We had a chance to get a drink as we passed the same little village where the truck was parked which was nice. The guys onboard discovered that if we all stood on the end corner of the raft then that corner would sink a good few feet underwater but that was almost as exciting as it got. Some of the logs moved a little bit and I was standing on a log when this happened. My foot slipped in between the log and the next and I fell backwards into the water. Keryn reckons the most impressive part of the fall was me keeping my beer out of the water and not spilling anything. Putting the beer down it took a moment to manoeuvre my foot out from between the logs and get back onboard. Thankfully I only ended up with bruises and was otherwise fine.
Albert enjoying floating downriver on the raft
We arrived back at the lodge and had time to relax and have some lunch. There was a small enclosure at the back of the restaurant hut which contained a boa constrictor and he was taken out so we could have a closer look. In the late afternoon we headed over the river to the village of Misahualli. Just out of the village is a butterfly house and we spent an hour or so wandering around looking at the colourful butterflies and chrysalis. Next stop was back in town at the small workshop of a balsa wood carver and his wife. He gave a quick demonstration, carving a parrot out of a block of balsa in just over five minutes. After looking through the adjacent shop we were down the road a wee bit to a pottery shop where we had a similar demonstration and shopping opportunity. I entertained a few kids by cycling through the photos on my camera. One of the children was a young boy who we had seen earlier on the street, he came along, grabbed my hand and I lifted him in the air and gave him a ride while running down the road.
Melissa and the boa
Keryn and the butterfly
The main street of Misahualli
Our last stop, as dusk fell, was at the house of the village shaman. We sat in an upstairs room and Anna volunteered to be subject to a cleansing ritual. She sat on a low chair and the shaman stood behind her and chanted/sang while shaking a bunch of leaves tied together to make a kind of dried bouquet. It took about twenty minutes, the shaman moving the leaves all around Anna, occasionally blowing smoke into the leaves. He would move the leaves and then pull the leaves away, removing the bad elements from Anna’s body. Once done Anna had to stay seated, she said she felt like she was floating and wasn’t sure we’d be able to stand up straight. The shaman was almost upstaged at one point during the cleansing when a tiny puppy tottered out from underneath a bench. He was very cute, only a few days old at most.
Anna being cleansed by the shaman
We headed back to the river, passing near a church which was lit up neon green now night had fallen. We could see fireflies and hear frogs, stars shining above. At the lodge we had dinner and afterwards a local family came along and entertained us with songs and dance and it wasn’t long before the two young girls and single boy were pulling us all up to dance as well. It was all good fun and at the end we were all dancing, a good way to end the day.
Dancing the night away
Kerrie relives the previous night