Friday, November 16, 2007

Rats

Meanwhile back at the camp a fabulous meal was prepped for our large appetites. The aroma was more than the giant rats (capybara) could endure. Around the village. a mother capybara and her ½ size offspring had taken up residence taking to begging like a dog for table scraps rather than forage in the jungle like the rest of the species. So here we are eating in the dimly lit hut when all of sudden Angie feels this wiry haired animal nuzzle up her leg looking for handouts. Just scratch them behind the ears and they flop over as if to say “tickle my tummy” and grunt. Though we chased them out several times they came back late in the night and defecated a 5# pile of poop in the corner of the hut. Nice! The toucans were a more welcome addition to the dining room. The kids enjoyed feeding a wild toucan who would take bits of food from their hand.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 3

Day 3: After a delicious breakfast we were off on our five mile hike up the mountain to see the Saito Kuyuwi, waterfalls. Along the way we heard howler monkeys, saw poison dart frogs, and an indigenous hut under construction by hand. This area has over 40 more villages occupied by the indigenous Yeyuana O Uaquiritare. While standing on the cliffs where the river branches off into 5 falls we are awestruck by the water dropping some ten stories into a roaring mist! No caution signs, fences, or personnel to protect us from ourselves. Jumel free climbs down the near vertical wall to a perch some 30’ below. We opt to frolic in the tub like pools of water along side the falls with a fabulous view of the water freefalling over the cliffs. At the village, we were offered and graciously “sampled” some yucca plant “moonshine”. The name alone and the clumpy, cloudy appearance in the bottom of the calabash cup says it all! Yuck!. The smoked fish, however, was delightful.

As we descended back down the trail we met up with several Senemas carrying gasoline up the mountain to fuel the outboards of the over 40 villages above the falls. These people are no more than 5’2” and weigh no more than 130#’s. For about $0.50 they carry 60 liter jugs in hand made whicker back pack frames with head straps barefoot up a mountain for 5 miles. This goes on for 3-4 months as the “richer” tribe exploits the poorer tribe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rio Caura-Day 2

Day 2: Admittedly, I thought we Westerners, with our capitalism, missionaries and diseases had annihilated these people and their culture. For the most part, the indigenous Indians of the VZ rain forest have maintained their traditional lifestyle. Their enormous environment is only accessible by foot or by boat. The dominant tribe of the region is the Yeyuana o Vaquiritare while the lesser tribe is the Sanema O Chirichanaos Ramificaton of Yanomano. The yucca plant is their primary food. A brown skinned tubor that weighs a couple of pounds, has a potato like center, and tastes awful no matter how we had it prepared. The yucca moonshine will turn your insides out.

In the first settlement we stopped, Las palmas “Sanema”, we were greeted by 20 nude children swimming in the river. As they emerged from the water, they ran off to “cover up” as was preached to them from Westerners before us. There are numerous “tribes” of Indians most often along the rivers and their tributaries. They export no goods or resources to the outside world and live a self sufficient life of fishing, hunting, farming, and family time. They are a peaceful people (until we distributed whistles to all the kids of one of the villages) that are very content and happy. Perhaps the “modern civilized world” could learn a bit? The facial features and stature of the people clearly suggest that their ancestors migrated from the Mongolian/Asian continent many years ago. Many of them had eyes that were a mystical crystal blue or crystal green making them even more extraordinary.

Off in the distance ,we could see a white sand beach backed by a forested mountain with exposed rock and mist rising up from the rapids at our final encampment. The village had built a couple of large circular huts and a commons area to accommodate what tourists they get here. We went for a swim in eddies at the base of the rapids and marveled at the roar of fresh water making its way down the mountain. Our guide said a German once tried rafting this 3 mile stretch but neither he nor any part of his raft ever made it out.

Young visitors such as Parker and Sabrina are an extremely rare sight for the children that gathered and stared. It didn’t take long for Sabrina to whip out her collection of caballos (horses) and enjoy hours of play with the local girls. Meanwhile, Parker took to whittling, reading, and game boy. Most of the Indians are quite shy and tend to keep to themselves in part because only a few speak even Spanish.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hammocks.kewl!

Though I’ve lounged in a hammock sippin’ a coldly, I’ve never been relegated to spend the night in one. As I know some of you are wondering…hammocks are not conducive to romance. We each were assigned a hammock and a mosquito net (remarkably not as necessary as we thought). We woke up, refreshed and ache and pains free.

The hammocks became the reading spot and...I daresay Game-boy spot. “Hey kids look around, look at these leaf cutter ants. Wow, can you hear those incredible jungle sounds?”

“I’m almost done with the chapter….”

“I just beat the gym leader and caught a legendary Pok√©mon.” Oh well, their loss.

The deluxe camp site toilet facility consisted of a thatch walled platform with a 6” hole in to aim for while squatting. If you miss, quickly move your feet further from “the zone” to avoid collateral damage.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Somewhere Back in Time on the Rio Caura

The 5 day Rio Caura tour we booked with Adrenaline Tours, thanks to other cruisers and the Lonely Plant, costs us all of $500. For that we had our own tour guide, cook and boat driver. The owner picks us up promptly at the Ciudad Bolivar terminal and takes us to the Don Carlos posada, the nicest posada in Ciudad Bolivar. They have the 3 bed loft available, the nicest room in the place for $25. The 5 hour bus ride from hell is becoming a distant memory.

Day 1: Sadly, a freak accident involving downed power lines killed our driver’s two teen nephews. We strolled through the historic Spanish city along the Orinco River until another driver was found. In the market, we purchased some toothbrushes and whistles to destroy the indigenous children culture and introduce “civilization”. Ciudad Bolivar is a stepping off place for tours throughout the interior of VZ, so it has a backpacker vibe.

Did I say they like to drive fast in VZ? 80+ mph down a 2 lane highway is common. After 5 hours of riding on bench seats of a safari truck my bottom felt great. After fending off a macaw attack and hugging some newborn puppies, we are loaded up and ready to go up the river in a the 35’ long dug out canoe equipped with a 40hp Yamaha 2 stroke, the most popular engine around. The 100 meter wide river is loaded with underwater hazards (ROCKS), areas of rapids, and zero facilities. The fact that we carry no spares or first-aid kit is alarming to this former Boy Scout but laze faire to our hired help.

These canoes, because of their narrow beam and long water line, move very fast through the water. We have 7 people, 80 gallons of fuel, all of our food, clothing, hammocks, and supplies and we are going over 20mph. Pretty impressive. At the second rapids we are maneuvering up hill, the motor stalls…hhmmm. We’re looking down at the rocks and rapids while scrambling for our lifejackets. The driver has the engine cover off and bleeding off water from the float bowl and pulling like crazy to geter’ goin’ again. At the last moment, the engine revs to life and we propel our way out of danger and up to our first nights camp!