Day 59: Hike to the Huaorani Community of Quehueri’ono


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South America » Ecuador » East » Shiripuno River
June 4th 2013
Published: June 7th 2013
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We had talked our guide, Hamir, into the slightly later start of 8am for breakfast. Rach and I had pretty good sleeps with the rainforest sounds to keep us company for the night. Unfortunately, there must've been a rogue mosquito buzzing through Rach's bed because when she woke, her legs were covered in mozzy bites. Me on the other hand got away itchy-bite free.

We woke up however at 730am and it was bucketing down - let's hope it's a morning shower. We got up and freshened up with a nice cold shower as our lil huts don't have hot water! (well, I had a cold shower, and Rach sort of patted her limbs not wanting to get anywhere near the freezing cold water). We then headed off to the other hut for breaky. Carmen, one of the girls from the local village, served us fried eggs with mushed up plantain and fried onions. She is so shy when she serves us and our guide informed us that she's the husband of our canoe driver from yesterday, has 1 child and is only 17 years old!

<br style="color:񮾑 font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;" />After breaky, the rain subsided and we got our gumboots on ready for our 3 hour hike to the village. We drenched ourselves in 50% Deet (insect repellent) and Rach somehow managed to splash some in her eyes. And well, OMG...didn't the whole rain forest hear about it. She screamed and stamped her feet, yelling at me to do something! I was in the bathroom and didn't know what the hell was going on. Hamir, our guide, who was in his hut 25m away, had grabbed the first aid kit ready thinking that something horrible had happened. As Rach was sobbing away, I dragged her into the bathroom and attempted to splash some water on her face. After a couple of minutes of mad panic, she calmed down enough to set off on the hike. At least no misquito's would bite her on the eye.

Our native Huaorani guide, Gabrielle, took the lead on the hike, carrying 2 massively long spear things, his huge machete and some other hunting gear hanging around his neck.<br style="color:񮾑 font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;" />We started out, and the track through the rainforest was very wet and sludgy underfoot and it was quite difficult to keep upright on occasions, especially when my boot sunk down in the mud! Both Hamir and Gabrielle would stop every now and then to talk to us about a particular plant or tree and its use. I can't remember their names but Gabrielle showed us one that was used to treat aches and pains, another one that you use for sting ray injuries, for making crafts, for harvesting cotton etc etc. The native Huaoranis basically have a tree or plant for everything!!We stopped by this massively old tree, aged over 200 years old and rising up for over 60m. It's trunk was massive, spread out like 4 pillars to try and keep the tree upright. Gabrielle told us the Huaorani story of creation which involved this type of tree. Even though it was translated by our guide, we got the general gist of the story by how animated and passionate Gabrielle was at telling it!! He is so funny!We kept wondering on, every so often seeing a bird or butterfly but no wild animals unfortunately. We stopped at one point and learnt how to use the dart gun. This is a long hollow spear that can fire off poisonous darts in order for the Huaorani to hunt monkeys and birds. Thankfully our target was just a palm tree and not a cute little monkey! I was the first to try my luck, surprised by the weight and length of the weapon. I breathed in and exhaled as hard as I could and pathetically the dart fired out and missed the target by a good 3m!! Might need some practise before becoming a native! Rach had a turn next and with the assistance of Gabrielle to aim fared a little better than me.We wandered a little further where Gabrielle showed us how
Dart gun huntingDart gun huntingDart gun hunting

I didn't hit the palm tree :-(
to climb a tree. The Huaorani do a lot of their hunting from tree tops, using the better vantage point to dart monkeys and birds. He coiled a length of vine (that he'd ripped down on the way) around his bare feet and proceed to hoist himself up the tree, he got about 6 or 7m up, smiled for our camera and then clambered back down...now our turn now. I went first however despite bear hugging the tree and jumping up, I could coordinate my feet to wrap around the coil of vine to assist in sticking to the tree. Both Rach and I failed to get off the ground (Rach got about 1/2m) and we were left with bark burns on our forearms to show for our poor efforts!! So far we are not making great Amazon warriors. Our final challenge was the traditional spear. Gabrielle set up a makeshift deer using sticks and palm leaves and we had our little unsuspecting dinner ready for hunting. He went first and put the spear directly through the middle of the leafy game from about 8m. I went next. The spear was massive, about 2.5m, made of wood and sharpened like a razors edge on both sides. I took aim trying to get the balance of the spear's weight and threw. My first shot would've stubbed the deer's foot however would have probably got away. On my next shot, I pierced the leaf - bullseye!! Rach went next...everybody back!! I've seen what she's like with a tennis ball therefore watched on feeling grave danger for anybody within 180 degree radius. To her credit, she sort of managed to get the spear going straight, without hitting herself in the back of the head. And had the deer jumped 3m to the right in mad panic at this Amazon woman throwing her spear, she may have gotten her catch.The heavens then decided to open and we had to scurry through the dense rain forest to get to the village. They had given us ponchos to put on in case it started raining, so we donned these fashionable capes and proceeded in the pouring rain. Rach looked like little green ridinghood and I was the hunchback of Amazon as I was carrying my backpack nice and snug under my poncho. Rach's was so big that it touched the ground like some sort of Amazon wizard, tripping up on the slippery and muddy ground. We had to clamber over fallen logs and little streams, however finally the forest opened out and we had arrived at the Quehueri’ono air strip we landed at yesterday!

Our first stop at the Quehueri’ono village was the school. Well, it was a series of huts that surrounded a soccer pitch. A few of the locals were out installing wooden log seats for the upcoming village meeting. The tribe leader was recently in the US at a global warning conference and whenever he is back from such trips he calls for a village meeting.

We visited a classroom where a group of primary school age kids had their heads in government provided exercise books. They looked at Rach and I inquisitively however were pretty shy whenever we tried to say Hola. Our lunch was provided by the lodge staff (who had followed us up to the village using the motorised canoe) and we sat on little school chairs under the school huts and ate.We chatted to the local lodge staff over lunch, and learnt that Gabrielle (who's 52), has 2 wives in separate villages and has 20 kids!! He was pointing out these kids at the school and from the charades Rach and I gathered they were his grandchildren. Some of the local women then came out and 'displayed' some homemade crafts and jewellery. By displayed, one of the girls ran into the forest and brought back sticks that they then stuck in the mud and hung the stuff from. We felt compelled to buy some stuff and spent $7 on a bracelet each. Rach's is made of seeds so we'll have fun getting hers back through Australian customs!After lunch, we visited a local house to see how the Huaorani live. The wooden huts were quite basic, however with the assistance of a generator can run some modern appliances like an old TV and stereo that we saw. Rach and I sat in the 'lounge room' hammocks and learnt about the home. We were followed by half the village, included one girl who had a baby monkey clung to her side. I didn't want to go anywhere near it but the next thing I know, she's plonked it on my shoulder and Rach is taking photos! We visited the house next door (the owners daughter) who had a little veggie patch growing plantains, pineapples and god-knows what else. We were followed around by a cute little pet baby deer and we learnt it was getting fattened up to be used as venison later in the year!!<br style="color:񮾑 font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;" />We left the families and strode back across the air strip and soccer field to the nearby river. We jumped in the motorised canoe and set off down the river to head back to our lodge. After 30mins of maneuvering the unnecessarily long vessel down the shallow river, we arrived back at the lodges. We were given free time (or Siesta time as Rach called it) until dinner which will be served at 7pm. Rach has fallen asleep beside me now and I'm 100% caught up on my blogs...time for Rach to start using this time productively and catch up on her 2 outstanding blogs!!


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9th June 2013

Love the detail, love the pics, love the humour! x

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