Continuing on a theme of looking back, (mainly due the fact that nothing too exciting is happening at the moment).. The year was 2001 and a long planned holiday/adventure in January. We all have that one holiday we look back on, for whatever reason, maybe we met someone, saw, felt or learned something individual to us. The holiday that we will repeat one day although we subconsciously hope we won’t, just in case the lights aren’t as bright second time around, the excitements perhaps a little less. Some things are best left as great memories.
I went to the jungle, the rain forests of Venezuela with a friend. I will post up the obligatory holiday snaps but you can simply ignore them and move on if you wish. The reason for Venezuela was my friend, and personal to him, but while we were there for 15 days we decided to make the most of it all. Neither of us at the time were particularly well off and this was going to be expensive. From the first night in Caracas to our return it was a blast. We took 8 internal flights during the break, went to the Tundra areas, Angel Falls, Marguerita Island and much more, landing sideways in a field in a plane full of fruit on one occasion.
The best part though, we arranged to enter the Amazon villages and paid for the privilege and were hosted by some very welcoming locals, who would take us into the Rain Forest and show us around. My friend and I decided being either inquisitive or stupid felt that this was skimming the surface and we asked the organiser if we could pay for a more realistic experience. Unbeknown to us there had been kidnappings locally of Westerners, we were young and immortal anyways…. He made a phone call and agreed. We paid and next morning packed our things into a motor boat and set off. Five hours of winding areas of water , small enclaves and vast openings followed, our new guide spoke no English, it was probably scary but we were just excited. We arrived at a place, desolate and amazingly beautiful, to be in the middle of the Amazon after seeing it on TV was fantastic. Two happy smiling Warou Indian men met the boat and welcomed us ashore shaking our hands vigorously. Wahibaha (Wacky Backy as we Christenened him) and Jimahin couldn’t speak English either so the next 3 days were handled with smiles pointing and sign language. We had a generator on land, and a chest freezer of soft and alcoholic drinks and a cool area of fruit. We slept, Next day we were taught how to catch Piranha with a piece of meat and string, to catch and dredge fish, where to look for Anaconda in the river…..We crashed out exhausted by 7pm, and were woken at around 11pm and ushered to our boat. Wacky Backy up front with a spot lamp, and two helpers rowing furiously with my friend and I in the middle. Now its black as can be at night in the Amazon, there is zero light pollution, when the spot lamp went off we couldn’t see the hands in front of our face, but these guys must have rowed at 30mph round bends twists and curves. We were crocodile hunting ! Caimans, the light was to see their red eyes light up in the dark, fantastic, we caught around five, put them back , returned, being bombarded by bats the size of ducks as we did so, giggling like children, all of us.
To sleep in the Hammocks… To be woken at 5am by Howler Monkeys, then in my case to be bitten by some weird creature ant/bee/ that made me throw up, and led to a visit by boat with Wacky Backy to a sort of Shamen in a small Tepee who gave me some potion to cure me, it worked , whether through placebo, design or luck. We ate and hunted with Wacky Backys family, like a scene reminiscent of I’m a Celebrity, there’s a book in this holiday one day, that’s the short version, we also slept with a Cougar (not as in an older woman Cougar, a real Cougar), we swam with freshwater Dolphin, had problems with people with Sub Machine Guns in our hotels, swam in the dark where the Anaconda were, accidentally. We also cancelled one of our connecting flights at the last minute, only to see on the news a day later that it had crashed killing all 30 on board. We failed in my friends mission but we learned a lot, I suppose the greatest and simplest lesson was that these people have nothing, no money, property, but they have family, they smile, they are at peace with nature. They only hunt to eat that day, no stockpiling, just hand to mouth. We were their guests and the area was theirs not ours to make profit from, theirs from their forefathers, we left Wacky Backy all our tobacco, some clothes and our gratitude but we took away a respect and probably a knowing that we could never be as good a person as they were because we were tainted by consumerism, greed, jealousy.
We did send a donation to a local educational project when we returned and planned to keep doing so, of course, life happened and we failed in the commitment. I hope Wacky Backy and his family are thriving in happiness and have escaped materialism still…They deserve it.