I managed to interview an elderly Kogi, with rough face, mouth full of coca leaves, green lips, cataract on one of his eyes, his white, traditional cloths and poporo. And wellington boots. First I asked him if he doesn’t mind to have a picture taken, and if he is ok if I film our conversation. Then I went deeper, asking if he doesn’t mind me showing this material to people in my part of the world. He was happy about all of this. So I scarified my scrambled eggs with arepa, and all the breakfast time, in order to conduct the interview. He would speak in hardly understandable mumble about many aspects of his life, and he would’t stop. I was quite surprised by his willingness to collaborate.
We head off from the camp, to climb along the river. Without going into details – let me summarize one thing here: all possible European health and safety rules are brutally broken here. And jungle is really not a fairytale, although it does look like a paradise and it sounds like. But most of the time there is no path, you walk on the stones, mud, river, tree, you have to watch out for a danger all the time (bloody snakes!!!), you have to climb steep, slippery rocks or fell down going down a dirty muddy and wet path. There is no source of safe-to-drink water and you sweat like you never imagined you could, so you have to carry a decent supply of water with you. Your skin is swollen from mosquito bites, your shoes and all your clothes and CONSTANTLY wet, your backpack seem to weight a tone and you really are tired. After hours of this you finally get to the camp, just to realize you are in the middle of nowhere and all you are left with is a hope that nothing happens to you and that you will be fine. Needless to mention there is no electricity in the camps and no mobil phone ever works there. Especially if you live in a big city with all the services within the reach of a phone call – it might be quite a shock for you. I do regularly spend a lot of time in wold nature, but this time I really felt it was quite extreme. Your body and mind and your stamina are your best friends. And you must rely on them. And in spite of eating double of your normal portions, your clothes soon become too loose for you. And your bum hurts. Oh yes it does, from constant up and down, down and up, and the backpack making this exercise even more ‘efficieint’. But it is all soooo worth it. The beauty of the jungle is breathless. My peruvian jungle experience was nothing in comparison in what I was getting trough now.
The evening before the guide told us the story of jaguars, snakes and other dangerous animals inhabiting the jungle. Snake was a common refrain in almost every conversation I had during these days. You went to have a chat about anything with anyone there, and you might be sure they will mention snakes and warn you about them. The guide made an explicit request to use a torch every time you need to go anywhere at all in the darkness, i.e. toilet. This, plus his jungle ghost stories he would serve every evening, would make me a bit paranoiac, and before going to sleep I throughly checked every corner underneath my mosquitiera. I would fall asleep full of fear of the jungle animals, isolation of the camp and – what follows – lack of any rescue in case of it’s needed. Few hours later I woke up to the sound of painful scream. I found my way out of the mosquitiera (now noticing all the holes it had…), to find out our cook on a hammock, twisted in pain. I asked what happened, and they showed me a corpse of the scorpio which bitten the boy. Twenty minutes later there was another victim. To my surprise it was an old, experienced indigenous guy, whose bitten finger has swollen so much, that he literally couldn’t move it! Funny enough, it didn’t prevent him to get himself hired to carry somebodies bags, together with his seven years old son! (well, I must admit here that I am guessing his age, because if you ask the boy about his age, all you get is a mute head shake. None of the kids know their own age, and the parent’s don’t seem to know it either). Couple minutes later the ‘scorpion boy’, as we started calling your young cook, also stood up, loaded what was needed on his back and went running to the next camp, to be there on time to prepare our rice, meat and platanos. I was amazed. I could’t imagine I would be even able to think clearly if it was me, and these guys treat it like a mosquito bites.
Speaking about mosquitos – here I was a real feast for them. Herds and herds of them during all the week fed themselves on my blood, not living a centimeter of my body untouched. All the ‘jungle mosquito sprays’ proved utterly useless. Initially I have ignored the bites and itching for all the reasons I have listed in the previous part of the jungle blog – heat, tiredness, hunger etc would’t let you lament over a mosquito bite. But last night I couldn’t stand it any more – all my body, completely covered with mosquito bites, was begging me for a little scratch. In the evening I tried some cream, antihistaminic tablets and strong will, but at night I finally succumbed. It was a cold night, the camp was just next to the river, the only thing protecting me from the cold was my mosquitiera, so I decided to sleep in my trousers – the only dry thing I have left. Half an hour into sleepless fight with my itching, I decided to take action. In desperation I pulled my trousers down, and passionately started to scratch my legs, from the buttocks down to the feet. Suddenly I felt a strong light on my bum. I frozen. whoever was pointing the torch on me, he/she found me in the most embarrassing position: with my pants down and my hand on my swollen bum… Shamefully I put my trousers back and tried to forget about all the things my body was asking me for.
The next morning I realized that the elderly Kogi I interviewed was insistingly staring at me. I approached him and asked how he was, but then came back to do my backpack, before a looong day of walk. He wouldn’t stop staring at me. Few minutes later he found an appropriate moment and approached me. There is a point here, he said, pointing at his poporo, which is our yesterday’s meeting and conversation. Bring it to where you go. But there is another point , which is our next meeting. I want you to bring me a hammock.
I opened my eyes in amazement. But I promised that if I come back, I will bring him a hammock.
There are many untaken photos, like for example the Kogi family running through the jungle, with their traditional white clothes and transistor radio playing some bachatas.
Or the one with the militaries in the jungle, withe a pig, which will be their dinner hours later. Unforgettable. Or later on, in Taganga, a big lovely dog, who entered to the sea and sat down in the water, leaving just his nose outside, and stayed like this, cooling himself down. And many many others.
To be continued!!!