This is a typical house in this village. There are roughly 800 inhabitants, but they only have electricity for about 2 hours a day. It didn’t appear there was plumbing and most windows were completely open, with no screens or glass. Water comes directly from the Amazon and we saw people bathing and washing clothes in the river.
One of the first excursions we took outside of the Cumacebe Lodge was a boat trip to the tiny village of Sinchicuy. This place is accessible only by taking a boat along the Amazon, about 22 miles (35 km) from Iquitos.
Can’t tell if this is under construction or not. Notice the concrete pillar with blue metal in the center of the photo. This is part of an old electrical system which is no longer working.
This village was certainly peaceful. It did have both a primary and secondary school, but classes were only from 7a-1p.
Most of the village is Catholic and this was the only church I saw.
This is a medical station, but it isn’t staffed at the moment.
The houses are built around this town square/soccer field, still quite wet from last night’s rain.
This is probably the tallest building in the village. The chickens ran around everywhere and I have no idea how people knew which belonged to whom. The banners were up because the village was celebrating the anniversary of their founding.
This is inside the community center and they are decorated for the anniversary celebration.
This woman offered us a sip of a fermented agave beverage. It was pretty awful.
Inside the community center was a DJ. His program was broadcast by loud speaker all over the village. He interviewed us, though we needed a translator. Here the two French members of our group speak. I would have found the man’s constant talking to be very annoying. He played very eclectic music, but talked over it the entire time.
There was little grass in front of houses, just dirt. The concrete structure in the middle of the photo used to be a public water source, but this is no longer working. The telephone poles and lighting system is under construction, but so far is not yet hooked up to power.
Two baby caimans caught in the river.
Not much privacy.
We then walked out of the village on a narrow dirt path through the jungle.
Outside this small village were a group of native Indians, called Yaguas. They are an indigenous people living in northeastern Peru, though this small tribe had immigrated from Chile. The word “yagua” in Spanish means “royal palm,” which may refer to the clothing they wear which is made of palm fiber. The Yagua have their own language, though they also speak Spanish, and the children attend the Sinchicuy primary and secondary schools. By law, children must attend school until at least age 12.
We arrived at the small settlement of these indigenous people, the Yaguas.
Their dress seems to be mostly palm and red cloth.
We were greeted by the chief in their native language, then we were each painted with a red dye. It was so hot, I had sweated off mine before we got back to the lodge.
They did three dances for us, but the dances were extremely simple. The first was just walking in a circle like this, beating drums and playing a flute.
The women got into the act too for the third dance, but the step looked like a really simple rumba. It was clear that most didn’t really know the words to the song. The chief (not pictured) seemed to be the only one who knew the words and dance steps. I’m not saying it was fake, but I really had my doubts about this being an actual indigenous tribe.
The men use a punaca (a blowgun) to hunt animals for food.
After the dancing, we had a blowgun demonstration. To hunt, the tips of the darts are coated in poison–often from the colorful poison dart frogs.
Some of our group got into the act to practice.
This was our target. I missed with both my darts, but two men got a hit.
Don’t you love that hat? The feathers are from native birds. The tribe took donations and sold handicrafts.
Our first outing started with monkey feeding. Here, one of the kitchen staff brings small bananas out to the monkey feeding station. The very fat chickens seemed to spend a lot of time here as well.
Almost as soon as we arrived at the Cumaceba Lodge (the name is a type of rain forest tree), we started doing excursions. The initial activity was just a walk around the area of the lodge to orient ourselves to the grounds and introduce us to some of the wonders of the Amazon Jungle. Our guide, Sergio, was also called Jungle Boy (
Nino de la Selva) as he’d grown up in one of the small villages nearby, speaking Quechua (the primary native language of Peru and much of the Andes) until he attended primary school, where he learned Spanish. He was in college before learning English.
While there are a half dozen different types of monkeys, these squirrel monkeys were typical around the lodge. They are small, fast and not very aggressive.
Almost immediately a half dozen monkeys appeared from nowhere to grab bananas. They usually didn’t sit and eat them on the platform, but ran up the tree to devour the fruit.
They were fast! Only slightly larger than a squirrel, too.
Squirrel monkeys live in the tropical forests of Central and South America in the canopy layer. The common squirrel monkey is captured for the pet trade and for medical research but it is not threatened. Two squirrel monkey species are threatened: the Central American squirrel monkey and the black squirrel monkey are listed as vulnerable.
Miss Baker, an ‘astronaut’ squirrel monkey, rode into space as part of the United States space program, and returned safely.
I really enjoyed the two hammock platforms, but learned that if I wanted a space, I’d best grab one quickly. Hammocks were popular napping spots.
Here, Sergio shows us a tree that grows large, gourd-like fruit. It’s not good to eat, but it’s easy to carve.
Carving one of the tree fruits.
Bromeliads were everywhere and there were often small frogs and (sometimes large) spiders inside them.
A strangler fig will eventually kill the tree it surrounds.
I quickly was convinced NOT to touch anything. The underside of this leaf had a few hundred tiny wasps clumped together, right at face height. I’d hate to think what would have happen if I’d touched them! Other trees or vines have spikes or biting ants patrolling them. We also saw many long processions of leaf-cutter ants, waving a green umbrella, three times their size, cut from high up in the tree canopy.
Much of the “temporary” forest looks like this, with spiky palm trees that grow tall in a single season. These trees lined the small lake near the lodge. The odd Hoatzin bird lived in them. I was never able to get a good photo of one, but they are an almost pre-historic bird and not far removed from a feathered reptile. Their chicks still have small claws on their wing joint. Like the cormorant, they have no oil on their feathers, so spend much of their time drying themselves. When wet, they can’t fly. Unlike the cormorant, they eat plants.
This is a termite colony and they are EVERYWHERE in the rain forest. Most of the wooden, outdoor supporting posts had long termite tunnels on them, too.
The dock to our small, stagnant lake. On the first evening we took a boat paddle around the lake, starting well after dark. In the pouring rain, I decided not to take my expensive camera. By flashlight, we could see the eyes of caiman, half submerged along the edge of the water. Spooky! We also saw lots of bats, who ate the bugs attracted to our flashlight beams. Though we heard hundreds of frogs, I only saw one tiny green one, tucked into a floating head of water lettuce. I’m glad I went, but we were wet and miserable by the time we got back to our rooms. Even with a rain poncho, you get drenched–if not by rain, then by sweat.
Jungle Boy swings on a liana vine, like Tarzan!
Creepers, vines, and lianas (woody vines) are abundant in the canopy and make up a significant proportion of the vegetation in tropical rain forests. There are over 2,500 species. Some giant lianas are as thick as trees and seem to hang in the middle of the forest, independently. Some of the larger woody vines may exceed 3,000 feet in length. Rattan, a liana, is well known for its use in furniture and ropes. Rattan also produces large, edible fruits—a favorite of primates. Lianas are also a good source for clean water when you’re lost in the forest.