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Brazilian survival in the Amazon - Colombia

Sponsored by Colombia Fácil I went on a two-day excursion with the hostel and tour company Omshanty. The report of this impressive trip is in two parts. Part 1: God created coca and tobacco.

The next morning we head further into the jungle. I pack my hammock plus mosquito net and the men carry a bag of food. But first we take some mambe, for strength, and a good and safe trip. Cornelio explains to me that you should never go into the jungle fearful, but always with positive expectations and curiosity about all the amazing things that you will encounter. When you enter in fear, with aversion to 'nasty beasts and creepy crawlies', then that will come your way, the jungle will show its ugly side. After all, you are visiting the jungle, and the spirits of the jungle do not like it when you enter their house and react with disgust on its inhabitants. However if you go with a positive attitude, confidence and curiosity the jungle will reveal its gifts. I am full of curiosity, but unfortunately I still flinch at the sight of bizarre big spiders and jump 3 feet in the air when feeling a cockroach crawling on me.

"From here on we speak Portuguese", Cornelio said after a while. We seem to pass the border with Brazil, and there, in the middle of the jungle, we see the marker indicating that we have arrived at the border.

The men look anxiously at the sky, it looks like rain. The plastic bottle with mambe pops up again to ask the spirits for good weather, and to gain some strength for the rest of the journey. Soon the sun breaks through the clouds, and we continu our journey.

Supermarket and pharmacy
Along the way Cornelio informs me extensively on the many uses of the local flora. This tree is against fever, this leaf you need after a snake bite, this liana stops diarrhea, this plant helps if a baby does not want to sleep, in this branch you will find water in the dry season, and this is to eat. The amount of information is overwhelming, how can they remember all this, and how do they tell all these plants apart, which seem so identical to me ? What an enormous wealth of knowledge is in those heads ...

Suddenly the men start chopping wood with their machetes. A fallen tree is their victim and  pieces of wood are flying around. After some time, Mario me a thick white larvae. Wow, a delicassy! The larvae disappears into his mouth. Do I want one? Hmm, no thanks, I’ll pass. In this tree the palm weevil lays its eggs and the resulting fatty nutritious larvaes are a popular snack. A whole load of gigantic larvaes appear. They are carefully packed in a bag made of palm leaves, and tied with a vine. For supper.

Arriving at an open spot close to a small creek we set up camp. I sting up my hammock, while Mario pitches a small tent, and Cornelio hangs up a mosquito net and looks for a banana leaf to sleep on. On a fire we warm some rice with lentils. Meanwhile, Cornelio teaches me how to create a roof of palm leaves. In no time Cornelios fits the leaves together. Cornelio is an experienced roofer. Recently, he and his wife have been weaving for days, when building their own house. Every five years they have to restart the work, when the roof needs to be renewed again.

I take a bath in the cold river and get into my hammock, while the men chop their larvaes into pieces and use it as bait for fishing. As I slowly fall asleep, I hear them walking up and down excited with their catch, which is packed in an artfully weaved bag of leaves and vines, to take home to their family.

The jungle shows itself
In daylight we break down the camp and start our journey back, back to Colombia, back home. We have seen a lot.

No big animals, but little creepy beautiful stuff. Beings from another planet. However, that giant tarantula was by no means little…

And frogs of course, the Amazon is full of frogs, the variety of species seems endless. Mario is, like me, very satisfied with the trip, he also saw animals that he had not seen before. Apparently the spirits forgave me my slight fear of creepy crawlies, the jungle has shown itself...

After breakfast in Cornelio's house we start the muddy return into the direction of the paved road.

Unbelievable that children accompanied by a parent, walk this distance every day to go to school. And I think that 15 minutes by bike to Tabatinga for my bar of chocolate is already far. I can understand why Cornelio wants to create a school for the 12 children in the neighborhood. He is currently mambeeding on the subject.

With my boots full of water and mud up to my armpits we arrive at the paved road. A minute after our arrival at the hostel Omshanty, the skies open and rain pours down. During the whole tour it didn’t rain... thanks to mambe? Tired but satisfied, I take the bus back to Leticia. Thanks Omshanty, and thanks to Cornelio and Mario, they opened another world for me.

Would you like to experience this for yourself? Some TIPS:

1) Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, preferably not too thin / tight because the mosquitoes, if they find you tasty, they will bite through it. Do not forget your insect repellent.

2) It is tropical rainforest, so always be prepared for rain. Omshanty will provide you with boots, but bring raincoat (these are available for sale in Leticia), fast-drying clothing, and wrap everything in waterproof bags. Since the humidity is high, consider packing some silica to help keep moisture out of electrical equipment.

3) There is no electricity in Cornelio’s house, nor in the jungle, so take a flashlight, and some extra batteries. Ensure to take your expired batteries back home with you please!

4) In a hammock at night it can be a little cold, at least if you're sensitive to the cold like me, so take a light blanket with you (hammock and mosquito you get from Omshanty) and long comfortable clothes to sleep in. If you’d like some extra comfort, pack a pillow.

5) No español? No problem, a translator (English or French) can be arranged by Omshanty, for 150.000 pesos per group per day.

6) If you (like me) are a vegetarian, then report this in advance. Rice with fish or meat is the staple diet, whit vegetables rarely included.

7) At the site below you can read this travel experience from Susan in the Dutch language. Braziliaans survivallen

Written by Colombia Fácil Researcher Susan