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Published: September 5th 2010
Welcome to the Jungle!!!
Arriving from Bogota: just jungle and a zig-zag river.
So after Isla Malpelo I guess that Leticia can be considered as our second Colombian island: There are no roads to Leticia, ony flights and slow boats.... The "banana boat" to Leticia takes 3 weeks from Baranquilla and that depends on the river conditions. So somehow: Yes it's an island in the Amazon. Totally in the Southeast of Colombia, hugging the borders with Brazil and Peru. Here we're leaving Colombia, and actually earlier than we somehow thought...
Welcome to the Jungle!
We took a flight from Bogota to here and got ourselves 2 beds in a 'hostel', the most expensive one we've had in Colombia. We nagged a bit and indeed the price went down: we happy, but the owner not. Guess he was a bit manic depressive: I saw him smile only when we handed our money in his hands... But not more about him. Leticia in itself hasn't got much, but it's the Colombian base for jungle trip into the Amazones. So we arranged a 3 days trip into the jungle and 2 Italians and an Israeli guy joined us.
We got on a small boat and headed off to .... Brazil, where our guide Gilberto
Heading down into the jungle
Entertainment was a bit limited on the boat...
was waiting for us and invited us for some beers: a nice start. From Brazil we headed west on the river to ... Peru. We actually didn't know it, but our 3 days in the jungle would not happen in Colombia, but in Peru. Ok, no border controls, so we didn't care. We got our lunch on the boat, had a swim with the river dolfins, which are pretty hard to get on a photo. So after a while we just gave up making pictures as the maximum result were 6 pixels of a dolfin on a photo... Not much. But ok, we got to the camp with a small detour, as the river was that low we had to walk the last part. So in our gumboots through the soaking mud and praying that we wouldn't end up to our knees in the mud. Some made it, some not...
Fishing, the lazy way
Over the next three days we were 'entertained' in a comfi laid back manner with all kinds of jungle stuff. Some things more exiting than others, but all in all it was pretty neat. We spent a night in the jungle in hammocks. Night
The 4 year old son of the guide secured our boat... How cute!
sounds all around and hoping that it wouldn't rain. The bonfire was huge and we blessed ourselves with the presence of the Italian lady: She really had a nose for fishing. We headed off in a small, small boat into the jungle with just our hammocks, some canned tuna and rice. The river was loaded with fish, you could see them jumping and they looked small, just like sardines. But this Italian lady, again bless her nose, caught a fish: A 50 cm fish jumped up, slapped her on the nose and dropped into the boat. Everybody was confused, she was stunned and the guide was yelling: "GRAB IT, GRAB IT, WE'LL GRILL IT!!!" So after the confusion the guide killed the fish and we had our fresh fish. No more canned tuna for dinner and all were happy.
The next day just behind our base we actually fished for pirañas: pretty easy, some meat on a hook and they would bite. Ok, I didn't catch any, but Agi did and the Italian lady who had a nose for fishing cought again quite a few... The strange thing was simply the fact that earlier we were just swimming there
And the river didn't really get smaller and smaller...
where the piraña fishing took place.... By the way, pirañas taste good!
During a jungle walk we were accompanied by the dog of our guide. The dog ran off all the time, barked here and there and did his own stuff. We ignored him. Just a stupid, barking, white fluffy dog. But he had some merits with his nosing around. Just about when Agi asked the guide: "Are there any snakes here? I want to see snakes, never really saw them in the wild", we got what she wanted and probably a bit more. The dog was nosing around and suddenly the guide jumped up and took 3 steps back. Our cute little dog was annoying a nice yellow snake of approx 2 meters. The snake was already standing up, had its 'neck/throat' inflated and was rattling/shaking its tail. And the dog just remained there and was looking, sniffing happily and took another step forward: Not smart. Whining followed surprisingly fast as the snake lunged forward and bite the dog. Guess that the fluffy fur saved his ass pretty much (and with hindsight it was not a poisonous snake), but the dog did back off and
Look and thy shall find!!!
Agi and our guide digging for Agi's boot in the mud. Don't you just love her socks?
the snake kinda relaxed and went its own way... We got the whole action actually on video: from the attack to the whining and the snake returning into a striking position: 6 seconds.... nice.
We enjoyed the jungle trip quite a bit, we saw grey and pink river dolphins (recorded on video!), a sloth, tarantulas, caimans, fished for pirañas and saw a stupid dog being attacked by a snake. Good trip.
Ayahuasca, the master plant
After the jungle wildlife we wanted a bit more of the jungle, but then a different element: its rich fauna contains so mush we're not used to in the Western world, so when we heard about Ayahuasca we were curious. It's a brew made from the vines of a jungle plant. Primarily used as a religious sacrament by the native people of the jungle, nicknamed: "The way to knowing the Jungle". It gives deep spiritual insights and it cleans. Locals also use it therefore as medication. Through the hostel owner we got in touch with William, a well respected local shaman. We met him and we agreed that he would take us to his home in the jungle. We went to his
Our welcome committee
Jungle kids, running around bare feet and enjoying freedom in nature.
little village where he was waiting for us and he lead us 40 minutes deeper into the jungle to the Maloca, the community house. As a welcome he offered us liquid tabacco, which was followed by grinded, dried coca leaves. Both we didn't expect, but we accepted. A Colombian lady joined us later on and the four us went into a second hut: the ritual hut.
The shaman cleaned the area, put smellling lotions on our heads, blessed the brew and offered to each of us a small cup. We accepted (fyi: pretty gross taste...), the shaman sat down and started.... small chit-chat. We didn't expect that one. But after 30 minutes he dimmed the candle, started drumming and shanting. Together with all the insect, animal sounds in the background it became pretty impressive. Agi and I both had different experiences. I purified: vomited 4 times and felt weak. I couldn´t stand, couldn´t sit, had to lay down. Intense, very intense. Agi got visions, got close to nature and got deeper insights about herself. Pretty impressive, apparently this is the real experience. She vomited too though, this is a natural side effect and way of cleansing... After 3 hours
Me and my buddy the parrot...
...and I went swimming in the lake behind me. It´s home for caimans, pirañas and anacondas. But they don´t bother. Yes, Hollywood made up the stories...
when the most intense part was over we went back to the hammocks and tried to sleep... It was hard though as our minds were full of thoughts still... Next morning we had a small walk with the shaman in the surrounding jungle (primary forest) and Agi discussed her experience with him. I was pretty wasted and just wanted to sleep. It was a really special experience, we did it in the right place with the right person. We heard ayahuasca is really commercialised in Peru and became too touristy. As a result there you can end up with fake shamans and scams, so if you decide to do it, check it out well first.
A strange thing about Leticia and it's 'neighbouring' towns Tabatinga (read: Brazil) and Santa Rosa (read: Peru) it that these 3 'towns' are so close to each other that border crossings do not reallly exist, only when you leave this 'Fronteras' area border controls are enforced. So we had our dinner in Brazil, our second good beefsteak in ages (the first one being in Cali) and enjoyed a beer or two in Santa Rosa, Peru, where there are no cars as
it's a small island in the river... So we left Colombia actually earlier than we thought. But in the end we did leave officially. Next stop: Peru, and this time it's all official, including passport stamps!!!
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