After we had plunged through the undergrowth for about two miles in what to almost anybody would be an impassable jungle trail, and hacked through to this clearing away from the river, we arrived, and immediately Tariri took myself and the other two guys down to this little jungle stream that they live on that comes right through under the trees and we undressed and went into this water and took a bath. He gave us a little pot to just pour the water over ourselves. It was a great feeling. They’re very clean and meticulous people and they’re also exceedingly modest.
They live off the land itself. They live off hunting and they’re beginning small adventures into agriculture. They grow a very little field of bananas. They don’t live in a village, at least in this tribe—they live in small family units. Tariri has two little thatched houses built on a few poles. A palm-thatched roof and a platform that they sleep on that they kind of enclose with palm branches.
This sort of thatched house.
There may be one or two males with wives. They’re polygamous. Wives with their children, and they’re unbelievably friendly and kind to their children. I never heard a Shapra child cry. Beautiful children. By the way, the people are beautiful.
Let me tell you about the native beer—they don’t drink water. I guess they learned over the centuries that water is deadly. They drink a native drink. It’s a lightly fermented, yellowish liquid which they drink after every meal. It’s not much alcoholic, so don’t think in terms of the natives getting drunk and yelling and hollering. It’s a food, and the alcohol, of course, is a part of the native disinfectant.
Manioc, (cassava) a tuber similar to yam,
made into food and drink, very
common in the Amazon.
You eat their food—if you don’t eat their food, it’s not really an insult, it’s a slight. Can you imagine somebody arriving at your house and they bring their own lunch? And they say, “You know, we don’t trust your food, so we’re bringing a lunch.” So we ate their food. They have a kind of yam they boil that tastes very much like roasted chestnuts. They also have a kind of banana that’s not quite like ours. They throw them in the fire to roast. You split the skin after it’s been burning and it’s fantastically hot and succulent and absolutely delicious.
So we had eaten and they were burning a monkey for us. Here’s the recipe for cooking monkey. You get a spider monkey or a rough monkey or a howler. You just throw the monkey, fur, insides and all, onto the fire. That’s the recipe. An hour later you drag it out and call the gang.
[I wanted to include here a photo of a cooked monkey, but all the googled images were too horrific and disgusting. If ya wanna see one, google it yourself and don’t blame me–I don’t even wanna think about it. Instead I’ll show the travel accommodations I had while in Peru’s jungle, down the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru, 600 river-miles NE of Pucallpa. We chose a tour company that seemed to offer the least touristy experience. Except for the low, neat wooden walls, this tourist hut is not too different from one common type of native thatched house. We slept on thin, pallet-like mattresses on the floor, covered by mosquito netting.]
After we had eaten, it was dark now. Darkness comes immediately in the jungle. One minute light, the next minute dark. Pitch black. You cannot believe the blackness of the jungle and we could see overhead that the moon began to come out. And the jungle moon is so bright in spots where it comes through the trees that you can literally read by it. It is a brilliant white light. There was nothing for miles—just us and Tariri’s family of seventeen and another young man who had arrived because he heard we were coming. He was just a great, beautiful young man who had come, and Tariri’s son, Arushpa, who took a fantastic liking to us. I discovered he was a musician. A sixteen year old boy who took a great liking to us, particularly to me because of what happened.
Yes, more to come.