Saturday, August 25, was the most incredible day we had in the Huaorani territory - and not just because it was MY BIRTHDAY! In the morning we took our BEST hike. It was a simulated hunting experience and we learned about every step of the hunting process from the trees and ceremonies used in crafting the weapons to fasts and preparation before a hunt, the hunt itself, and how the hunt is commemorated. Bei, our guide, still hunts in the traditional ways so it was incredible to learn from him as he described not only what they did a few hundred years ago…but what he did last week!
The Huaorani traditionally hunt with spears and blowguns that shoot poison darts. They are 8-9 feet long and made of HEAVY wood. Seems overkill to me, but I guess that’s the point! We learned how to make and throw spears, blowguns and darts, how to climb trees and track the animals, how to honor the animal you have killed by giving thanks, and how to quickly weave baskets to carry it home. It was a full morning. We were generally horrible at spear throwing but I got a bullseye (or equivalent) with the blowgun which further endeared this "Machete" to our Huarani guide, Bei. Birthday luck, you say? No. Pure skill. I was born to be Huaorani, after all.
One of our favorite experiences was getting caught on the river in the canoe during a rain storm. Being in the rainforest and all, this happened a few times! Getting wet was no big deal, we had a dry sack for cameras and such and the humidity was 100% so we were generally already wet, all the time, rain or shine! Some rainstorms occurred on short commutes and we enjoyed the sights, smells, and sounds of the water falling on the river and forest. BEAUTIFUL. However, on our final 2 hour canoe ride on our way out of the jungle the rain fell so hard that we were bailing to stay afloat! The canoes are watertight…except for all the cracks and holes. The rain beat down loud on the river and surrounding forest canopy so we had to shout to hear each other! Everyone working at the lodge had joined the trip to drop us off at “the bridge,” where we would catch a ride to Coca, so this was a FULL, narrow, canoe with over a dozen people in it. I was sure we were all going in…with the piranhas. I can’ t think of a better way to have ended our trip than all the laughing, yelling to hear each other over the rain, and bailing the canoe as fast as possible with half of a salvaged plastic bottle.
For now, I will let the following pictures tell the story of the rest of our experience with the Huarani.