At 630 we made it to our meeting point where we would ride with some indigenous leaders and community members to Infierno, one of the Ese Eja communities that is about 40 minutes by car from Puerto Maldonado. we piled into the back of 4×4 and began rattling along the dusty clay road. until we arrived at the building below where we were offered breakfast of soup and rice and banana. today was also the national day of the flag so the school kids were out front of the school waving flags and singing songs.
The meeting got underway with Caesar, the president of FRENAMAD, leading in his traditional read outfit and head dress. the meeting was like most others; everyone eager to hear themselves speak and for nearly 4 hours people agreed that they need to fight for their rights to preserve the Tambopata national reserve and have a right to their say in the development plan which was up for renewal this year. I agree too but did it need to take so long to say what was said.
Really we were only there as sort of an obligatory part of the deal to go by boat with the Palma Real Community which lived 5 hours down river by peka peka powered “lancha”. we also had to agree to pay for the 13 gallons of gas to get the boat there which i thought was a ton of gas. Later we learned that we were lied to by Caesar and that the trip only takes 5 gallons but what could we do in that situation it was a third of the price of a touristy trip so we were still winning.
After lunch we headed back to Puerto Maldonado and grabbed our things mainly me carrying an 80 liter bag with 5 liters of water our camping gear, food, clothes totaling around 25kilos it was next to impossible to walk when combined with my front pack with my solar panel, which stopped working at the most inopportune moment a day later, laptop and camera.
We met Lucio at Puerta Acosta to load the boat. to get to the boat which was tied up and wedged between several other boats I had to walk down a slippery clay path, cross a narrow, flexy, wood plank bridge, step up onto the bow of one boat, which rocked up and down a little then step to the rail of another boat, all the time conscious of how much weight and valuable electronics I had on my back. a few wobbles and slippery patches later I was in our boat and was asked by Lucio for money to pay the port parking fee. It was only a few bucks but i said no we had contributed enough, which was my first indication that Caesar had cheated them and not passed them the money for gas.
We finally left the port at sunset. i was curious how they were going to not crash the boat without any lights but even with no moon it was easy to see the bank of the river. about 2 hours into the trip laying down amazed by the blanket of stars the motor began to sputter and then cutout completely. The boat began to rotate perpendicular to the river as two of the men talked in their native language while wrenching on the motor. after about 10 minutes the motor cranked up again and we continued. this continued to happen about every hour until we pointed to the shore and began to approach.
Since I was up front I grabbed the rope and got ready to jump onshore to tie up the boat. When I jumped out I was on really mushy sticky clay shore and couldn’t see anything. I had no flashlight and didn’t know where to tie the boat. It turned out that we were just dropping one guy off. I got back into the boat covered in mud and we continued for another 45 minutes.
This time we were stopping for real. I got out of the boat again with mud and sand not able to see still. I just saw a little figure springing up a cliff and knew it was gonna be quite a fun time getting to the top with all of our things. first step i slipped and fell stood up and slipped again. finally got my footing and climbed the narrow stairs carved out of the clay cliff face until I got to a 2×6 piece of wood with some blocks nailed to it making a ladder of a sort. when I stepped onto it it wobbled and threatened to slip off causing me to fall about 15 meters. not until the morning did i get a chance to see what I had climbed . we set up our hammocks in the dark and got everything hung up out of reach of animals but i left a can of tuna out.
Some time around 3 am we both woke up to some rustling in the thatched roof. I thought it may be just wind but then I remembered seeing the furry brown little legs around on the wood floor earlier when setting things up. In the morning we found 4 tarantulas up on some beams and the can of tuna was missing. then a kid came climbing up a wood column and entered the second floor where we were still laying in our hammocks. we started talking with him.
He said that there had been a land slid last night so i asked him to take me to see it. but it turned out to be nothing and i then found him with a lighter burning palm fronds which might explain the burnt down house I later found.
it really surprises me how much the kids know about the edible plants and fruits around their village. I tried this nut called e-hE She that is hard as a rock and mush be beaten into submission by a machete i tried kaimito a yellow green fruit with clear flesh inside and a big black seed.
We heard someone killed a deer last night so we went to look for it but were unsuccessful but we met Don Mateo an old guy with two wives. he showed us how to shoot their traditional bow and arrows. i did pretty bad and ended up with a huge bruise on my wrist from where the rope hit me. then a kid told me how to hold it properly and i did a tad better.
The water pump in the village has been broken for several months so we had to walk for about a kilometer to a creek where we filled several plastic bottles with yellowish water from clay particles. when i walked down to the river women were washing clothes and kids were bathing. i dropped all of the bottles and they went floating down the creek and everyone was laughing at me. luckily they managed to stop all of our bottles. Unfortunately these people are only as indigenous in that they speak a native language and possibly in their way of constructing their houses.
after 3 nights with no running water or electricity, everything covered in clay we were eager to get back and see what the police and judicial office had to say about our possible trip accompanying them an a gold mine raid.