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Tue 29th May 2018 16:20 UTC
My next in line - already the third expedition to the Amazon rainforest I planned more than half a year, but I couldn't prepare myself for all coming surprises anyway. The first one appeared on the very beginning when I had to hang around Tarapoto (San Martin province center with the airport) for one week, because the road to Yurimaguas was closed. At least I was getting acclimatized through walking in the jungle of San Antonio and Chazuta districts, but also remembered thinking how to most places in Peru, when they see Gringo – He has certainly a lot of money. How will we get it from him?
First day in Chazuta went through in fine, locals convinced me that this is the village of friendship - 'el pueblo de Amistad ', they showed me the most beautiful waterfalls in the whole province of San Martin – Tununtunumba, I paid a fair price for guide services. But the second day they couldn't tame an eagerness to smackers of 'extranjero' classically.
We have globally unique attraction, kept offering perhaps ten times a local swashbuckler when I came back with my guide Emarson from Aguas Sulfurosos (natural thermal baths) in the afternoon and breathed 'dry' in an estaminet as the only one of all buddies collected along the way I had no yen for beer. His concern was a quick boat trip upriver Huallaga to a place called Chumia. I just couldn't get the point when he held his hand waving up and down and making a sound like 'dzh...dzh...'. In my opinion it didn't work together with the movement of the ship, which still can go on the water just straight!
Finally despite quite high price, I decided to try such an oddity. So we set out in the early evening from the port where a calm and broad stream changed soon to a narrow riverbed barreling toward us an incredible amount of water, and where the boat rather jumped on massive chutes and rapids than sailed. In Chumia itself I then eyeballed an ecohotel set in a picturesque gorge, but also what my new fellow started to invent. By reaching this place, the price is of 50 sols higher now. When I downfaced shaking my head, he suggested that for another rapids I will pay off only 50 sols. When I refused again he brooded and brooded and then on the way back he pronounced that those 100 sols I actually paid just for the boat rental and gasoline, and now he must get paid 50 sols for his work.
To leave no chance missed because I was leaving the following day, they whirled the same night with Emarson into my 'hotel room' telling me that I have to pay that beer in estaminet. So I asked why when I drank no beer and invited nobody in the same time - the answer was literally: Porque hombre peruano es boracho y no tiene plata.
How fortunate was when hotel staff showed me an article in the newspaper just following morning that the road to Yurimaguas is going to be opened between 9 and 11 o'clock. I figured quickly how much another week in Tarapoto would cost me and easily worked out that I should use this special opportunity even for the price that I'm going to be only passenger in a rented car. But what this two hours releasing of 130 km long path winding through the hills and dales brings about? - An incredible rally. Before the town we met a face-painted Indians with spears who teased us for fact it's already 11:05, but the transfer has succeeded.
The only job to do that left now was supplies purchase and upriver Paranapura boat trip where 'curandero' Don Roque lives to start a full two months learning of everything about Amazonian medicinal plants.
I already knew the traveling on the hard benches in uncomfortable crouched position can be shortened by several hours in case of embarkation in Muniches port, but I wanted to be sure withal to catch the boat coming early this morning from Yurimaguas, so I ended with cooling my heels for several hours in Muniches. An answer to the question when does the boat from Yurimaguas arrive you wouldn't get from anyone, even if you ask in Spanish.
But at least everyone knew that the crazy gringo is heading to Varadero and they pointed me out to missionary 'rapido' arriving to Muniches for quick supplies pick up. Willingness to give me a lift has been found and I lounged in a padded seat for the rest of my trip as a missionary butts are spoiled the same way as mine.
I had been forced by my experience to agree a price for transport in advance, but several times I encountered only a silent gesture which couldn't be explained another way than - That's good, there is an unoccupied seat anyway. But who already knows local mentality slightly, can not be surprised at all that after arrival from the place behind me came without any hesitation - Treinta soles.
Actually 'arrival' is not entirely accurate - still lacked a mile upstream Paranapura that I didn't manage that night due to rapid dark and rain. Therefore I enjoyed local 'five soles' accommodation and the most demanding mile of my traveling from Europe finished off the next day.
I visited Don Roque already twice in the rainy season and ironically had never seen flooding as now in an official drought. In order to attain my plans I scheduled and prepared everything, but I couldn't until the last moment stop thinking of all the risks still remained - Don Roque may not be at home as there was no way to give him to know that I come, also he may not want to attend his mind to my intention for two months and, moreover, to give me any kind of information at all.
However, all my fears evaporated soon. Don Roque welcomed me as if I had been expected - reportedly intuitively sensed me approaching. We went together for a nice quiet walk to the confluence of the rivers Cachiyacu and Paranapura where a lot of energy is concentrated and where let me describe what I expect from him, and all agreed.
Just tonight I got reminded of Ayahuasca taste, which I had not got for a year and half and all the feelings associated with ingestion already forgot. How can such a thing be forgotten? - I don't know. I guess it's the same like with a birth pains. Special flavor of today's snifter I still felt well even after several vomiting, but nevertheless my new studying of shamanic tradition has started herewith.
The second day a rugged trip to the jungle was carried out in order not to keep 'herbalist' introduction waiting too long. The volume of information that I received from Don Roque would be probably enough for a book and the quantity of bites from 'zancudo' (a bigger mosquito with yellow legs) would perhaps suffice to someone for a life.
As I expected droughts I have not supplied any rubber boots and when a deadly snake Cascawel just crawled right before my feet wearing thin sneakers, there was no doubt where further 'shamanic journey' will lead – into the village for the purchase of stout high boots.
We were on the way home going through the same path as before, forasmuch as the river overflowed the banks, so it wasn't quite the same way - some sections we were wading in waist-deep totally opaque water. But it didn't take humor from us, we joked that it's like in the movie Anaconda.
We left Roque's hut dry-shod and only four hours later the foundations were already under water - cattle stood in water and chickens on small eyots. So that was how my arrival to the jungle looked in the dry season.
Further familiarization with the techniques of 'curandero' continued by ingestion of the root of Nanhuagsha plant. According to don Roque's tutoring Ayahuaska is only for a initiatory cleaning and temporary 'conexión', but his tradition then represents using of many other herbs. Later even pointed that for maximum health effects Ayahuasca shouldn't be taken more than twice a month and ten times a year. Overuse can cause disruption of the intestinal mucosa and microflora.
Nanhuagsha is used to create a permanent 'conexión' when plants as teaching beings present themself in visions of 'curandero'. Just a pity that I was so fed up of papaya that I couldn't get me entirely new effects properly enjoy. After about half an hour came a feeling of total freeze of my mouth and lips and freezing of entire body continued then until morning. If you do not know exactly what to expect from it, the first experience is always a bit declined, but I believe anyway that I could be quite familiar with this plant's alkaloids in the future.
The river stepped back next morning, but everywhere around the house left a thick layer of mud, so I did not even occur to the bathroom without my feet coated with a kilogram of sticky mud. Although you don't automatically think that drying mud would attract a huge number of flies, but then you say - that's obvious. Swimming in the swollen river is also tremendously fun, but would you expect any bathroom in rainforest abode? Ummm ...
The yon known severe mile into the village came up for another 'sneakers trek', still half frozen and with diarrhea, but no one else can check out the rubber boots for me, right? And what does that from afar sounding rumble mean? - Domingo? - Not only that, but also a Catholic fiesta which means in Varadero that men are totally drunk and women complain about each other what topers their males are.
I was asked in the shop that way I had expected - what number? - 42. We have got 41 and 43 – also quite expectable response worded. I started fitting number 43 to discover that 41 is too big either. Then when I waited for don Roque shopping for himself, one stone-blind fellow with a totally rotten teeth stinking like a sewer has decided to amuse my leisure. I was truly amazed how something producing such a stench can keep all the biological functions going.
When don Roque noticed my discomfort, he routed the way back to avoid the drunks. It meant to sneak secretly behind of wooden houses where locals do their needs. Thank God I had already my new 'botas' number 41 on.
There was no potation of strong infusions planned tonight, so I settled for bedtime with tea Yerba Luisa which is extremely tasty and healthful – also said to improve the quality of dreams which, as I found out more and more, have a great relevance in the shamanic tradition. It also used to be added to the famous Peruvian drink Inca Cola which 'gringos' often call yellow ickie toxic beverage and buy less sweet Coca Cola which probably doesn't contain any medicinal herb.
Before I fell asleep I had been watching from my hammock a strong flashes above the jungle looming on the opposite side of river. What an emanation it could be, while there was no storm, even the sky was free of clouds?
The next day don Roque by himself decided to take me to that jungle behind the river and seemed to be very happy at one point. He wanted to stay there sitting and taking pictures within - said this place is called 'Chacra de supai' and if someone sleeps here through the night, a forest elves can contact him and convey to him information about medicinal plants and procedures of infusion preparing.
I closely watched don Roque's doing in the jungle. But why do I always cop each cobweb straight to my face when I walk behind don Roque? - Yeah, he is actually by head lower.
How thus a shaman in the jungle full of rampant vegetation recognizes med ones? - Mostly that way of cutting a piece of tree bark off pursues what is under, tastes sap or even bark. Another method of identification is difficult to achieve, because there are no branches or leaves on tree trunks up to 20 meters and then higher intertwine with the branches of other trees and vines - and medicine man doesn't do a Tarzan's job, does he? ...
At the stream, I made a great joy at Morfeo close capture. Morfeus is more than 20 centimeters big butterfly that shines so bright blue that looks like a flying neon. I had tried to take picture of him many times before, but never succeeded. This time unexpectedly someone left near the road a leaf with a little drop of fermented masato which attracts butterflies. Such a thing used to be done only for 'gringo', because no one else is interested in butterflies. Who and why arranged this here today when there was no other 'gringo' around - persists as a mystery.
Then don Roque showed me the way allegedly leading to the village Jeberos on the Aipena River and linking it by three days walk away – measurement of the distance by number of days of walking seemed great to me. It's apparently the closest place with a white ground (tierra blanca) that some important medicinal plants need to live and grow.
On the way back Don Roque explained me the differences between qualities of plants which are important to maximize their effect. For example, Nanhuagsha rises along as 'embra y macho' (male and female) - a medicinal is 'macho'. Then he drew my attention to false Uña de gato - false breaks when bent, the right one is strong and flexible.
Don Roque I also introduced weeds, which is collected for 'gringos' who never find the difference. Plants producing medicinal alkaloids need for some reason a quiet place in the pristine jungle. As burning of the jungle progresses to found a fields with bananas, Yucca, Sacha inchi, papaya... virginity recedes and the original medicinal plant acquiring goes increasingly difficult. But why to complicate it if 'gringo' just buys everything anyway? Gringo understands shucks about Amazonian plants and doesn't know whom to ask them about. Asks random and therefore never gets the answer we don't know. Local points to the nearest tree and says: This is the medicinal one - and gringo believes and thinks like what a luck - and also forks out, what is the most important, isn't it?
Don Roque said he examined all the places in the Peruvian Amazon up to Iquitos to deliberately find the knowledge of other 'curanderos' and 99% of them just play on tourists unawareness and know nothing about the plants. The highlight of all is said to be markets in Iquitos where they sell herbal extracts completely for everything. The label 'bamba' is not enough for them, because they contain only sugar, aguardiente (alcohol) and colouring agents.
Brilliant 'bamba' Has been invented regarding the famous Sangre de Drago (Dragon's blood) - tree with red sap like blood, which has extremely healing effects. But the original Sangre de Drago doesn't produce too much sap what I have verified myself cutting the bark when just a few tears spilled. To get the full container is therefore very difficult. But there is another tree called Cumala having exactly the same red sap and just trickling the lifeblood when ripped apart. It used to be mixed with the lifeblood of banana palms to get the resulting consistency totally unrecognizable and then exported as Sangre de drago (free of any health effects).
An explanation also got ascended why the treatment of false 'curandero' becomes often unsuccessful though actually uses the right medicinal plant – good natural therapy is usually associated with diet. Its failure leads to inefficiency of the drug or unpleasant side effects - the original disease disappears, but instead some parts of the patient's body may open sores.
We walked through the reed bentgrass then. Don Roque gave me one blade to chew - I wouldn't have ever believed what a delicious and therefore don Roque has delivered me to a farm where they squeeze the reed and tun 'jugo de caña' - fresh juice from cane. To taste the liquid straight from the blue barrel on the picture is an experience which is worth traveling for not just to another continent, but also to another planet. All the information available about the health effects of cane molasses and medicinal plants from Amazonia is true, but 'gringo' never gets a pure form through the commercial chain.
Before we trudged up to the settlement in afternoon heat, there could be bottled good amount of 'fresh juice' from us. Don Roque said that he is still too dehydrated and introduced me to don George to have a Masato. Masato is a fermented drink from Yucca (in Europe known as Tapioca which contains almost no nutrients to ferment, and therefore some sweet potatoes Camote must be added during the preparation and traditionally a bit of spit as well) and to drink a bowl is no joy for Europeans, but expression of decency and courtesy towards the indigenous inviter.
Each family prepares a buckets and I have never understood how the local can enjoy it so much. Everyone would be keen to persuade you that it contains many minerals and vitamins, but according to the analysis of substances contained in Tapioca it's true just when compared with pure water and bulging bellies of children who drink it every day, just confirm that.
A huge tuber roots of Yucca (up to 50 cm long plump potatoes) create an impression what a highly productive farm crop it is, moreover not invaded by pests (they probably know why), but any sensible farmer would have immediately repudiated it as something completely useless. - This is not truly happening in the Amazon jungle and to explain it there is a need to learn the local life and mentality in depth.
A 'lifestyle' of traders selling overpriced goods to natives, of ransomers buying Cacao, Sacha inchi Coca... of fire-brands making an illegal brandy, of farmers coming from the city to invest money and to farm with the relevant technologies ...is different - those don't suffer from hunger or even under modesty when arrange their houses - diesel units and solar panels to produce electricity, satellites, televisions, refrigerators, hi-fi systems... All the other inhabitants of the jungle have just a little field of Yucca, two to three chicken or piggy which once get sold, but never eaten... and a lot of hungry children. They do understand that the shrinking jungle provides fewer game hunted by more people, they also see that extending fields and other crops without adequate technology (chainsaw, chemical pest control ...) means the work- drudge -slog, but the hunter's mentality absolutely cannot stand this situation producing a drunk (man who compensates the pressure of unpleasant circumstances and increasing lack of freedom).
Just when I thought that perhaps the drought had finally begun, overnight thunder put it to the right view. When I opened my eyes in the morning, don Roque welcomed me with a cup of liquor of Conipachi straight away - for strengthening of the organism to stow information also into my stomach beside of my laptop.
After breakfast, I watched with interest as the ants cleaned up the crumbs from the table like domestic robots - nothing what anyone would welcome in Europe, but who would have thought out this in the jungle?
A flock of butterflies during the bath in the river with brown opaque water represents always pleasant company, but not the only one. Standing a few feet from the shore, I felt that something was eating scabs from chafed bites on my legs. Hopefully it was just small fishes Cunchi we were hunting last night with shaman's son.
I was invited for lunch so I didn't have to cook for myself at all today and I got another pleasant experience with 'comida de chacra '- chicken soup and ingiri (one of the forest banana varieties that are used shelled from the skins before maturity for cooking like potatoes; another sweet variety left ripen is called platanas manzanas). When I was writing information into my laptop, an young pretty patient was crooning behind who was treated for erysipelas by don Roque.
I had brought solar panel from Europe to recharge my batteries, but it turned out gradually, it wasn't enough, so today's special shamanic journey leaded back to the 'pueblo' Varadero to recharge battery in my laptop and it didn't pose less dramatic and more challenging circumstances than venture into virgin jungle. The village is electrified only two hours from half past six to half past eight in the evening, unless someone rob fuel from the public diesel unit what was precisely explained by a brief statement of random passerby - 'maquina seco'.
So unusual adventure continued searching for an ally with the private and functional diesel unit and dealing a price for two-hour recharge of my laptop – didn't come to something soon - shell out 20 sols just for laptop recharging seemed a lot to me, but at least I got Masato in the house of don Antonio that I surprisingly enjoyed. It was prepared by his daughter Ládí (probably the prettiest girl in the village) who also peeled fruit Taperiva for me - could tasted anyhow, it was fruit of paradise from her hands anyway.
Local young doctor named a two-hour recharge price 2 sols what has been substantially more reasonable. My laptop got his power and I got back two-hour conversation on prices and salaries in Europe and Peru. So just out of curiosity, qualified doctor earns 500 sols a month in Varadero (about 125).
On the way back, I expressed myself like that the girl from the house of don Antonio was very pretty and don Roque turned himself instantly in offering possibility to have a lady companion in his house. Don Roque never wasted courtesy and generosity, but then began to explain what rules work in every small village - if someone has more than others, they envy. If I go to speak just with one girl, the others will envy her, so I should establish contact with several girls simultaneously. In Peru, bigamy is NOT illegal, so I can easily have five or more women - there's one nice Spanish 'palabra' fitting to this which is hard to be found in dictionaries - 'mozandero'.
I devoured the information with 'bulging eyes', but quickly recalled that I came to know the effects of Amazonian plants and not the local beauty and that I should stay at that. I have already known don Roque well, so I wouldn't be surprised if I joke with him one day and I have 'una chica bonita en mi hammock' following day. So I began to prevaricate that plants are more important to me, but I'd quite like a few beauties photographed. He solved my wish the very next day with his purely original humor - he arranged picture shooting of students with a local school teacher for school 'promociones'.
Whenever I have been talking about don Roque in Europe, liked him nicknamed 'final solution' due to his ability to heal any disease, but apparently it can be more generalized in his case.
After a few days breathing an expedition was carried out to get a sizable load of medicinal materials from the jungle for refining and further processing in 'laboratorio de supai'. Don Roque ordered a boat that pulled his canoe for about two hours upriver Paranapura towards the village Panan and then about twenty minutes to one calm branch where truely untouched virgin jungle was located.
Our intention to get as deep as possible early foiled a massive trunk lying just below the surface across the width of this creek. Light canoe could pass over this place contrary of the heavier motorboat, so we sailed quietly along using an 'eco power' - this remote nook of the planet apparently has never seen 'gringo'. We stemmed through some kind of arches as the vegetation overgrew an entire space above the water, and many times there was no other choice than to work off through the bushes growing from the water.
Soon we reached the place where our canoe got stopped as well. It could be there called 'original Uña de gato plantation'. Genuine Uña de gato (Cat's Claw) never grows closely and for that reason, the market and export is being fed by the false one - easily accessible. Anyhow the laboratories experiment with molecules POA and TOA (pentacyclic and tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids) then, this doesn't go anywhere, because the false Uña de gato doesn't contain any active ingredient.
Don Roque though considered Tamuyaki tree to be found as the most important thing. We were searching and spying through the surrounding jungle thoroughly finding a similar tree Cumuyaki, hulling its bark, loading it onto the canoe, pulling out a lot of roots Huairasacha, but no Tamuyaki that day.
Final harvest of Cat's Claw was one of extraordinary experiences again, not only because of the number of ants falling directly on me as don Roque was cutting the snags from the canoe straight away and I had nowhere to run. When the newly cut-down Cat's Claw stick gets tilted, snick firstly starts to froth for a few seconds and then a sap flows from it which is not only extremely tasty and refreshing, but also ultra-sanative. So don Roque cut the sticks away one by one and I stoked outpouring juice to myself that I drank one liter at least together.
Don Roque decided that we get to the nearest settlement today where we pass the night and we ask about Tamuyaki. But we encountered the problematic tree in water which brought canoe with three hundred kilograms of cargo to stop now. We both stood on the trunk pulling the canoe with all the forces, but no luck. Cutting of paths for canoe inevitably got its turn then.
Don Roque questioned in the sense that if somebody would come from Europe to look about me if I get devoured by Anaconda here, until I stopped taking it as a joke and asked: Are there Anacondas? - Plenty, he said with utmost seriousness and began to tell stories about Anacondas.
What is legendary Anaconda for 'gringo', they call 'Boa amarillo'. However, for them the legendary is 'Boa negra' which grows up to 50 meters in length and no one dares to some branches of Paranpura where this 'horned' snake was sighted - he has such a strong mental energy that he can immobilize a person for distance - wants to run, but cannot - and if runs away reputedly lightnings lash around that person. If some wide furrow appears in the forest leading to the water as a tractor would take a riding there, nobody doubts about what it caused - Boa negra. A few hunters have also described how the earth trembles when Boa negra peers from the water.
They knew don Roque in the abode, but the presence of 'gringo' read as constrained, held at a distance, and when they had to walk around me, it resembled rather cramped racing. The bravest girl handed me a Masato dish like a life dangerous zone would occur within three meters around me. Through the night they seemed to be fine – they probably didn't find sleeping gringo so dangerous.
In the morning I wanted to make a few pictures using a favorable light, but I managed to capture only one woman and a good coincidence had to help to it that way that she turned towards me just at the time of snap- others 'miedo, miedo...' Don Roque said it still fared well - if gringo came twenty miles away to the west, all the residents there would disperse into the jungle for fear.
Two young men then led us for about thirty minutes to tree Tamuyaki. I had almost a clear feeling about how it comes out, but I let events happen. A similar scenario is always taking place in the Amazon - Yes, we know we know, they said and brought us back to Cumuyaki.
The same evening we were looking for information about Tamuyaki in Varadero and a young man Valdemar (first time I met such a name in the Amazon) offered to us he would lead us to find it. The next day, another expedition put across to narrow creek (Quebrada) of Paranapura and third day of hunting for Tamuyaki finally crowned with success. Valdemar has been using this medicine himself and used to hull a bark from this tree – it was already peeled around the circumference of the trunk where it could be achieved from the ground – no problem for Valdemar.
The machete flew hither and yonder for a while somewhere in the bushes and then Valdemar built a simple scaffolding beside the tree in a flash and deftly clummed up. And the pieces of bark started to fall down in minute – compared to Cumuyaki, thickness of the Tamuyaki's bark is doubled and its sap is reddish brown - from Cumuyaki pure white.
We already collected enough of stuff and it was just as well to start refining what took us a few days of wood cutting, feeding the fire, decoction, pouring from one pot into another, sun-drying, soaking in alcohol - all in the most primitive conditions which are possible.
Every day don Roque asked me what I have dreamed at night and always had a positive interpretations to it - when I dreamed of traveling to the snowy mountains, he said it's very good because it's an ascending direction - when I dreamed of painting the walls of some room to white, this is apparently excellent, because other color could warn of something. Dreaming with crystal clear water is supposedly a symbol of health, dreams of muddy water, contrary a symbol of existing or coming disease.
He also initiated me through the long stories into the dreaming of 'curandero' - reputedly meets 'espiritos de plantas' in his dreams who deliver very precise information about what plant is to be used for a given disease, what part of the herb and tree is used for treatment (other may contain poison) and how to prepare the medicine or how to combine multiple ingredients. Also told in details what he experienced during our Ayahuasca session and it was always far from my experiences.
I said then: You already have much experience with the gringo and you know that they just sit pending Ayahuasca, feel something, but never have the vision of beings from another world. - Yes, gringos miss a concentration, don Roque responds to it immediately. And is there any better plant for gringo by chance? a little spying question crossed my mind. - Actually Yahuari would be better for gringo, but nobody is looking for it and it's used just by 'indígenos' in the forest.
Whew great, I have been straining through my intestines liters of Ayahuasca all the years to finally discover that there is more appropriate plant for me to take, and if I just incidentally don't ask, so I wouldn't even know it - yipe.
Don Roque constantly interested in my needs and comfort and always was ready to help me. As he says: I can not complain of the lack of energy. 'Plantas naturales' keeps me in absolutely perfect condition. Indeed, even after hard work never looked tired. When I complained about fatigue and back pain, he was willingly going to find the best solution – herbs, a mixture called 'contrabrujeria' or massage. For one massage of trapeze and cervical spine, he used fat from an animal Yangunturo - said it's extremely powerful creature, roots and bark of trees can dismember as if made of paper – I was going to get his strength from his lard. I just wondered what it could be both about the creature when don Roque said that it belongs to the family of dinosaurs, and that's a great rarity to meet it, but sometimes it happens.
I've surely heard of the theories which admit that there could be some descendants of dinosaurs in the remote areas of the Amazon jungle, but that someone would terminate my boy dreaming about extinct species using the dinosaur's fat for massage? - Uhaa, I just dry-swallowed and in a few minutes admired the 15 cm long dinosaur claws which don Roque also keeps.
The heat was in such a way that even the mosquitoes were perishing of it, but that the river level would finally has fallen revealing the beach which I remember from previous expeditions?Conversely, another massive 'lluvia' flooded Paranapura and also its tributary Cachiyacu that brings water from the mountains between Balsa Puerto and Moyobamba. Foundations of the house were under water in the evening again what didn't represent any problem for most domestic animals, except Roque's sow which was going to throw her pigs this night and instinctively wanted to flee into the jungle to save them. So for the first time I convinced myself about what it means when something is hard as hell. We pulled up the pregnant sow to dry floor of the house and it was real backbreaker.
Roque's enthusiasm and sincere desire to pass me as much information about plants as possible wouldn't probably have broken even flood the world, so he used every available opportunity to talk about the treatment. It was concerned in the methods of preparation, application, dosage, I learned how to recognize diseases caused by 'brujeria' from other types, how to clarify the cause if isn't obvious, and how to maintain personal energy which 'curandero' needs. Don Roque also hasn't left me idle in the verification of local remedies personally and I haven't missed a single day in his intense school.
Consciousness accumulating information about plants through the 'curandero' way activates its still unused part, ceases to perceive the body in the original human way, and outperforms the old personal attitudes. For this reason, 'sickness of old mental structures' often occurs during the shamanic training . So don Roque thereby actually alternated throughout the administration of herbal mixtures which shoot me completely and other plants which turned me to my feet after. No more jaunt into the jungle was tough for me. On the contrary, it always helped me rebuilt my strength and regenerate the energy.
During the numerous 'caminandos' perhaps at every step admirably trained eye of don Roque descried a 'mate' plant and immediately engaged an information on its properties like gossiping a 'female friend' - if she's jealous, what status her spirit has in relation to other plants, which type of power she manifests, how the type of soil reflects in her effects (don Roque distinguishes four basic types of soil – tierra colorada, blanca, negra, arinosa), whether she has any secret (it may be a combination of bark from two sides of the trunk - sunny and shady, or the need to collect on a particular day – the full moon, the new moon) - knowledge of a 'legitimate curandero' is huge and his 'opening hours' virtually never stop.
One flush of information launched a radio hype just in the morning offering an unique remedy – oil of Cat's Claw. We sputtered a laugh because we both know that there is no oil in Cat's Claw - Peru is simply a world treasury of dupers who keep trying what they can venture, and once something gets through, there is no way back to honesty. I remember how turned out one spot-check of eleven European importers of Lapacho – the rare alkaloid 'lapachol' has not been found in one single package. Who for God's sake would struggle with seeking the right Lapacho in Peru or Brazil when there are other more readily available shrubs and trees whose bark tastes the same?
Then we discussed the trendy remedies like a Camu-Camu, Sacha-Inchi and others that don't reflect a fraction of per mille of the full potential of Amazon healing plants. But why to offer the full capacity which is still available when people don't know the extraordinary power of rare alkaloids and prefer inconsiderate pharmaceutical drugs and in the case of herbs they are easily satisfied with forgeries and that's actually for the good feeling that they tried other options at least and to confirm that the chemistry is just above all things? Again we came to the expression that I have heard from don Roque several times: Pharmaceutical chemicals kill, but the plants never.
When a big pile of branches and bark turned in bubbling pots to a few pounds of extracts, we were ready for another journey for further prey. This time don Roque chose to find the tree Chuchuhuashi as the target. Because of that we trailed to the village called Celendín where local were supposed to help to trace the longed 'arbol', but those missed willing to contribute to success of the 'shamanic' expedition.
We quested after Chuchuhuashi around ourself thus - unsuccessfully, but we discovered other remarkable plants - for example 'Puma Piri-Piri' which was reputedly used by an extraordinary shamans to get skill of transformation to the jaguar – strictly in seclusion as the proof of mass-conquest, or 'Lacre' tree whose bark and sap is extremely aromatic and is used to clean energy in homes, whose residents suffer from restlessness and insomnia for unexplained reasons.
Around noon Don Roque pointed to a palm tree Huacrapona and asked me if I wanted lunch. I admired that 'palo' before because of the serial sprouts on its roots creating wonderful pattern as there were encoded some information - such a natural punch card machine, but I had not known all its secrets yet and due to don Roque's frequent relish for joking I didn't know what to answer, so I just shrugged my shoulder.
Don Roque didn't dawdle and cut this about 13 meters tall tree down with a machete in one minute. Then he detrunkated the top, removed the huge leaves, stripped the hard layers on the surface off and crunchy soft inside handed me to eat - excellent flavor (a cross between turnips and cabbage) and fills the belly actually as a heavy lunch. Hard surface of the tree is used in construction of floors in the forest homes and roots serve for preparation of drink massively strengthening the male potency.
During relaxation don Roque was wistfully talking about two platonic loves – the powerful Queen Arianta and charming but dangerous Princess Belianta. Only a very experienced 'curandero' is able to find them and to use them correctly for the treatment, because both sublime beauties dwell in their jungle Kingdom and stand aloof from people. If their home is contaminated by the presence of human (albeit accidentally passing) Belianta dies overnight and Arianta disappears into thin air. Belianta is a poisonous plant, but when precise dosing is done just right at the boundary which still doesn't kill, it can disembarrass the body from HIV. Don Roque describes Arianta as the mother of all plants who represents the ultimate solution for all diseases that could not be cured by other means.
Don Roque's mama used to treat her varicose ulcers in all available ways. When it seemed that there's no possibility to cure it, she had a night dream in which a woman in dress of leaves and branches of all plants from the jungle approached, How are you doing? - Are you sick? - You tried everything and no luck? - I'm Arianta, the mother of all plants, I'll heal you. - You will find me there ...
Immediately in the morning she described that place from her dream to don Roque and sent him there. And he really found Arianta there and cured his mom. Also, he planted this herb in the near forest to have it in easy reach, every day he went to look at it and was glad that Queen Arianta is growing so close. Until one day he came back to have a look at the plant finding no sign - just rummaged through the soil, if some roots left at least, but nothing left at all.
Whenever we went out of the way to peep at what deep green sea conceals, I deliberately tried if I could go myself and every time after just twenty steps didn't know which direction to take next.
But what this guy don Roque suddenly discovered in the wilderness? - Princess Belianta. With glee he immediately lit a cigarette and began to blow the smoke at noble plant as at the patient's body. Then gently dug out the roots with a piece of clay and with a gesture of satisfaction that desired Chuchuhuashi tree wouldn't cause at his face, put into the bag.
Without ungrateful expectation of better result on the way home we added to the today's prey Horisa leaves used for bathing to clean personal energy and to attract positive events to life, and the herb 'lengua de perro' to treat liver disease.
There were parents with a young child waiting in the house of don Roque – children with pain in the right upper quadrant of belly are the most frequent patients. Don Roque always easily cure this problem and then admonishes the parents to avoid giving fermented Masato to young children, but how to treat malnutrition of children and the fact that parents often don't have anything else for their children?
Before dark he hastily troted away to plant the princess, but he didn't invite me to this uncommon act. Even without any explanation I was clear that for bargain with the aristocracy of the plant kingdom needs maximum privacy. Hopefully Her Majesty will listen to reason and won't die out.
There had been just three important tasks before we settled to sleep - bath using Horisa leaves, 'blowing the smoke' and 'energizing' through the singing of 'icaro'. The Horisa leaves are used soaked in water for scrubbing of the whole body including hair which is by the way significantly increasing its volume (I knew it the next day so that to bind them with the rubber band turned triply was much harder than normally). Curandero blows the smoke inhaled from a pipe or 'mapacho' (primitive cigarette filter free) which exhales out to hands and top of the head. During the singing of 'icaro' he uses 'chacapa' (rattle made of dry leaves) rhythmically rustling over the top of the head. The Icaro means song given to curandero by etherial teachers from his dreams or Ayahuasca visions.
And then just lie down and dream well – it means the way that I can learn from 'espiritos de la selva' in my dreams, and I was surely more and more successful in that.
Intention to acquire the bark of the tree Chuchuhuashi remained still open and who would we involve in this time? Perchance Valdemar again? Of course that Valdemar knew where to look for it and he collected it even himself. So there were only two tasks left requiring a 'paid assistance' - sap of Sangre de Drago and fruits of Wito tree.
We offered 10 sols for 680 ml of the sap to man who owns the land where Sangre de Drago grows. After three days he delivered only 2 dl gained by chopping a two trees down. Surprise has not been caused just by desperate yield, but also by his unusual honesty as he didn't dilute up the missing volume and truly agreed with only three sols adequate with supplied quantity.
Getting fruit Wito ranked among the important tasks as well, because I had already a customer in Europe having bronchitis and waiting for them as this fruit is used like medication. And how could something like this get complicated? It's sufficient to find just the right tree and to collect fallen ripe fruit from the ground. - Yes, that simple it is in season. Now, however, I just went from one tree to another looking at the immature fruit in their tops and saying: Will they ripen? And don Roque reassured me: They will, they will ... But monsters stayed immature for weeks, so we noised abroad in several villages the information that once somewhere Wito ripens, let us immediately know bringing them to don Roque.
How to make fruit ripened to a certain date? Does don Roque have a recipe for this as he had always got a solution for everything? So I was also curious about this since don Roque himself considered essential to carry the 'jam' of Wito away to Europe. So we stood a couple of days before my departure under a tree with immature fruits Wito looking at its highest branch which sustained about eight mature longingly expected products, but far from let them down. The village had never seen before that someone wanted to cut down the whole tree for eight fruits, but even so, don Roque didn't hesitate to propose such a solutions to local young men.
Embarrassed eyewinks showed up indeed indicating that this is pretty crazy even to the crazy circumstances here and there was a twelve-year old boy coming with a suggestion that he would climb up to bring the fruits. To go up for fruit at a relatively low palm trees is nothing unusual here, but 'pumcha madre' this was about the height of 30 meters! He used the classic technique of 'bound feet', our asses got curled just to be looking at it, but the fruit was down in twenty minutes. Remuneration 10 sols has not seemed fully reflecting the significance of this act, but aspect of the happy son sprang from the fact that his father would have to work almost all the day to achieve such a salary.
In addition to the chronological narrative of the Amazon experience is advisable to describe the observations which are interspersed in parts of the story and don't fit to sequence. Peruvians statistically belong to the least satisfied nations of the world and my knowledge doesn't only confirm that, but also clarifies the cause. By far it is not only publicized problems leading to several weeks persisting strikes when really nothing is taken into account. Ubiquitous foolproof 'system of corruption' absolutely superior to the legal systems generates just a tiny part of the problem either. Mental environment determinate by distinctive congregation (Incas, conquistadors, tribal communities) doesn't lead into selfishness and recklessness which wouldn't be known to any other society, but these are too provocative by their imperfections and naivety.
Almost everyone wants to be king here that would get pandering and courtesy from others and any official appointed to the position of deciding about the allocation of municipal funds or endowment collections has never handled his entrusted role incorrupt. So private residences of 'alcadors' and presidents are thriving, but those who need it most don't receive the money. I'm deliberately attaching photo of a local child wearing UNICEF shirt (a charity boat also fishing in European waters) who might say Thank you for a good wit and sarcastic example for my life when I will be an adult someday.
Beside of that these distant parts are affected by an ever-present myths and unflagging interest in practical magic immune from all irrefutable scientific opinions. Don Roque knows this domain very well, but not because he would used it - as a curandero, he needs to be able to cure the problems caused by this - when magic spins out of control, leads to unexpected negative consequences, or simply conforms just to one side.
Local legends weigh entirely different way than our European legend. Namely nobody here doubts about their veracity and I've heard a lot of them - about white people called 'mantequero' who drain the Indian's fat; about ugly women with a festering face who disperse fatal diseases in the villages and nobody can kill them; about the mothers of salt who moved the source of salt into the deep jungle fro defamation; about sly beings trying to lure young children through the springes into the jungle; about the creature from the underworld called 'Maligno' who bypasses human habitations in the night and can inflict a nice mischiefs...
Another ghostly alive legend hardly overcome by a creature of darkness became Alan García (President of the Republic of Peru) just now in June 2009 who ordered military action near the city of Bagua, in which more than 100 people got killed. As a reason was enough that they were protesting unarmed against a government decision to sell and devastate their tribal territory. According to a few upstarts from Lima wanting to get more rich, they were just anti-democratic elements restraining development of the country.
To the story of life in the jungle unfortunately and inherently belong breathtaking stories about the behavior of self-invited faith-prophets coming from a miscellaneous training centers across the country. These adepts go hunt 'sheep' performing miracles - somehow they are able to heal lame and blind for a few days, and even don Roque doesn't understand this strange 'brujeria'. By the way all these fellows always collect information from locals regarding 'brujos' - sorcerers frequently and successfully practicing magic. After such a questioning each person designated as 'brujo' disappears from the face of the earth - only around Varadero 20 brujos were wiped out. Of course, there is no such a place where killing of anyone would be legal, even if it was a brujo, but Amazon territory is specific in that there are large areas having no representative of the police or the judiciary.
Don Roque also got affected by this human stupidity notwithstanding that he treats only with the use of plants and thus does not fit directly into the category 'brujo'. Despite of this fact there were some people in the past having intention to shoot him and then decry it was just as dirty brujo. Don Roque's intuition has always let him know about this plan, so he went directly to that man and openly told him: Look, I'm different, I do not fear death. When you shoot me, so shoot me, but when you just wound me and I heal, I'll go back and take you down without hesitation. - This always worked so far.
In a peculiar way modified the faith one leader of a sect of the Seventh-day Adventist. He founded a settlement called 'Nueva Esperanza' near Muniches serving strictly only to 'Adventists' and to nobody else. If a 'Nonadventist' accidentally went astray into their village, they tied him to a stake and let him die slowly on the sun heat without water. When there were too many people missing including investigating detectives, a hundred policemen arrived from Yurimaguas to do a unprecedented action in the living memory of this area – they captured all the inhabitants of the settlement. All this is a guaranteed true, because all reports of police action ran through the radio at the time of my stay with don Roque and also don Roque's relative belonged to this sect (currently in custody facing imprisonment up to 30 years for arson - sect leader sent him to set fire to a building in Yurimaguas; probably couldn't wait when Jehovah finally burns the whole world as it is in their prophecies).
Strong downpours, windstorms and flooding ceased the very day when radio said that the danger impending to the Amazon is over and Alan García finally withdrew from all the infernal plans that he got corrupted buy foreign companies for. River level decreased, wild stream calmed and river mermaids gave people permission to fish. My uneventful diet got variegated by fresh Cahuara, Chiripira, Carachama, Lisa, Cunchi, Pyraña... since.
The jungle has started to yield up its real treasures which value can not compensate neither oil nor wood - it's just incredibly insane to produce any idea about the extraction that kills the jungle while there are undiscovered drugs for arthritis, diabetes, asthma, tuberculosis, cists, tumors, cancer, gastric and duodenal ulcers, Alzheimer ...
My connection with 'espiritos de la selva' grew and joy knew no boundaries. My physical and mental strength got regenerated by herbs, of course, but there was also contribution from a divine peace and energy of the forest. The local nature's kingdom is truly powerful and hospitable, and it can not be improved or enriched by any convenience of the civilization.
The most important thing don Roque lingered out until the very end – making of my own 'chacapa' and giving me 'icaro' over - two most important tools of any 'curandero'. Icaro accompanied by chacapa's rhythmical rustling I had heard many times not only from don Roque, but I wouldn't have ever believed how difficult may be to learn it.
Don Roque undertook the chacapa preparation almost the ritual way and free of compromises as if he had made it for himself (even his own has not been equipped with so perfect grip), so the result is a complete original. The procedure involved soaking in Ayahuasca, adjusting with blown smoke, fine sound tuning and the first prove brought a big surprise - as I would picked up the computer joining me to the 'energy Internet' – extremely extraordinary. Don Roque warned me that nobody else can reach my chacapa, especially a child. For the unprepared it's like trying to grab a live fire, to stop the stream or to uplift rock with the bare hands.
Several nights then he taught me his version of 'icaro' to use it for treatment in Europe.
And how return from purity, chastity and virginity back to civilization looked like? Surprisingly, there was nothing making me sick as always before. The cities surely are full of stench, dust, noise, smog..., but the world can simply go without my ranking.
I reminded in Frankfurt that when somebody wanted to cheat me in Peru, it has always been the equivalent of a maximum of 10 EUR. I was supposed to be airlifted to Prague by airline company Ryanair which asked me to pay 225 EUR for the second fifteen kilograms weighing luggage (yes, seriously 15 EUR per each kilogram of excess weight), even though I have booked and paid for the carriage of two bags in advance. They were referring to their terms and conditions to make me believe that this obvious bamboozlement is correct. If we legalize the scams, hypes and tricks in Europe, what than we expect in the countries considering the Europe as their prefiguration?
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