This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution click to the left or right of an image in blog mode. The images were generated from video to give the best possible view of the journey.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Drumming Down to Sepahua

The Amazon is a rain forest, so one has to expect rain, thunder and lightning as an everyday occurrence. Although it's tropical, its easy to catch cold on the river, particularly if you end up wet out in the elements on a coudy rainy day.

We then stopped in the rain at another Machiguenga village which is known for its traditional craft work.

One of the older men then proceeded to sell off his sets of bows and arrows, which seemed a litle depressing as if it was a loss of traditional cultural values in the face of missionary zeal and the march of development in the jungle.

A guy we were traveling with picked up a really fine set of bows and specialized arrows for hunting big and small game and tridents for spearing fish. I struggled with a second lesser set, which I am still trying to get back to my home country after a 12 year international saga.

Machiguenga woman in traditional woven garments.

I also picked up one of the woven bags that you can see in the above picture.

But the real treasure I did bring back with me was the shamans flying hood you can see on my female colleague complete with green parrot feathers. These are used with hallucinogenic DMT-containing epena snuff blown up the nose by a comrade using a special blow pipe. You can see an identical one in the young shamans coming of visionary age sequence in the somewhat ersatz movie "The Emerald Forest".

Logging is another very destructive human impact which river transport facilitates. At regular intervals, we came upon logging operations, often complete with tractor log skidders transported 'miraculously' to sites far from any road contact, presumably on barges.

We next stopped in at a sprawling village that ran for quite a distance along the river bank.

The whole village came down to the water en-masse to connect with the trading boat.

Everyone was there to watch us depart again ....

Another large cattle ranch.

Another large logging operation.

... and a second one on the other bank complete with a log skidder.

The river is now getting deep enough for small barges to come up with heavier gear.

We are now well past the rapids and shallows and the Urubamba has become a large deep river with a high flow containing floating logs from flooded tributaries and wide and sweeping enough for the waters to become quite rough when the winds whip them up.

We motored on into the evening singing, playing the harp and drumming on the 40 gallon drums together as we approached the small wild-East mining and garrison town of Sepahua.

Video of us all drumming to Sepahua

A needed bottle of rum along with sharing the odd joint on the way.

The Sepahua River

Finally we reach the three-way junction of the Urubamba, Sepahua and Ucayali rivers.

Looking back up the Urubamba River

And on down the Ucayali River

Sepahua is a Peruvian wild-west town, or wild-east to be precise. There are few amenities. The roads were simple tracks and the shops mere shanties. The river front place we stayed at was built like a thatched roofed long house and was running with rats, so we had to set up our tent inside and zip ourselves in to avoid being infested.

It is a frontier garrison town attempting to maintain the rule of law in the wild Amazonas. Michael Palin in "The Full Circle" described lone soldiers protecting the river bank against traffickers. It is also associated with oil exploration.

When we went to eat at a Restaurant in town I inadvertently cracked the corner off a plate glass table top with my pack. The chef immediately came out threatening me by flashing two carving knives together and said I was going to have to pay for a whole new table top. I told them to wait a few moments and nipped back to the 'hotel' where I had a small tube of super-glue to fix my teeth among other things. I then returned and voila snapped the corner back on and counted to forty. The chef came back out and peered at it with disbelief but didn't know how to take matters further, so I came away unscathed.

Panorama of Sepahua waterfront with the 'hotel' in the foreground.

Sepahua was a parting of the ways. Next morning Jose Luis' friend, with whom we were staying, was making a trip down to Atalaya, the next bigger regional centre down the Ucayali, so Adam, Heath, Jane and I, along with one other member of our crew set off with him while the other returned with Jose Luis up the Urubamba.

Breakfast at the 'hotel'.

Farewells all around ...

Parting as true Machiguenga

Adam saying goodbye to a couple of his 'comfort women'.

Goodbye to the 'hotel'.

Jane with mosquito bites, the doctor said she had a case of malaria on her return to the US!

1 comment:

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