Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Colombia day N-1: Leaving Amazonia; the journey home.

Flying back to Bogotá from Amazonia feels like returning home from a foreign land. Partly because we've been in Bogotá several times now so it's starting to feel familiar - especially the hotel apartments we're staying in - but mostly because our Amazon experience has been one of the most unfamiliar experiences of our lives. There's little I've done that I can liken it to.
Being in the jungle is no doubt a memorable and unique experience for all that go there, but what really defined our trip was the decision to stay at Casa Gregorio in the indigenous village of San Martin de Amacayacu. It's hard to get one's head around the life story of this village, and even harder to capture in words. Let me try giving the context though. Just 50 years ago this Tikuna tribe were living deeper in the jungle in a single "Maloka" hut: 6+ families under a single palm leaf roof building with no internal walls. Now they have family houses with electricity (8 hours a day), satellite TV, village WiFi internet (maybe), mobile phone towers and of course smart phones for the older children. Yet no city water system, minimal sewage and many house lack a flushing toilet. Only half of houses have a front door and none at all have glass in the windows. 
If you feel your generation, or that of your parent's, saw huge social and technological changes just try and wrap your mind around how much this tribe has had change thrown on it. 
So, while we were in the Amazon to spend 4 nights discovering and absorbing the jungle, this was in fact more of a backdrop to the experience of learning how people that have lived and loved and breathed the jungle for as far back as their aural tradition goes. 
Our hosts, Heike and José (Dutch and Tikuna respectively) organize more than just board and lodgings but laid on transport and guides and teachers and a couple activities a day, walking in the jungle, traveling the rivers and lakes, spotting animals, learning about the native agriculture, fishing, pot making and other handcrafts, and so on. These were all enjoyable (save for the ever present mosquito bites) but the agriculture tour was a particular highlight. This really brought together the core of how the Takooma people live and work the land day to day. The plants grown in argicultral plots and harvested from the secondary forest provide a large portion of the food source for a family, obviously, but also provide building materials, paints, decorations, tools, transportation (i.e. boats), weapons, medicine and clothes.  The most versatile and crucial plants are palms (or many and various sorts) and yuccas.
Between the exploring and learning we also had a good relaxing time. With no internet at the accomodation (and barely any in the village) and few hours of electricity a day, it's a good unwind from all our usual habits and distractions. We seemed to spend a lot of time eating, none at all drinking, and grew a new appreciation of fresh pineapple. I never liked pineapple in the UK, and I think this will have redoubled that position.
We now fly to Bogotá for one night, dismantle and pack our tandem for the long haul flight back to London, where we'll arrive Friday all being well. Always so sad when such a eventful and fulfilling trip is coming to an end, but we're fully grateful for having had the time and opportunity to spend here in Colombia, and feeling a lot more reset and recharged for the next chapter of tandeming things - whatever thay may bring!