Volunteering with the shiwiars, 27th of October-24th of November 2010
“Morta” (drink) says the woman to me after I have taken my first sip of the Chicha. She thinks I need to drink more so that I will gain more strength and energy to be able to live like a proper shiwiar. “Morta” she says for the third time and I take 4 big sips before she offers the bowl of chicha to the man sitting next to me.
This was my first meeting with the bebida de los Shiwiares – chicha, and now 1 month later I have drunk dozen of liters of this wonderful drink that the shiwiar women puts a lot of effort and pride into making. Many times I have been with my host mother to the chakra where I have learned how to sow, maintain and harvest the yuca plant, which is the main component of the chicha. During this month I have begun to realize all the cultural aspects connected to chicha and how important it is to the shiwiars.
The men often drink chicha before they go hunting, and some also paint their faces with ipiek (?) to get more "fuerza" and protection whilst they are on their long hunting trips. Every time Pancho (my host father) took me for a walk in the forest he took his traditional arm with him in case we encountered some animals. One day we returned with a monkey (wolley monkey) and two birds (trompeteros) that Pancho had shot with great precision using his blowgun and venomous darts. Pancho was very pleased; it had been a good hunting trip. This night we all enjoyed a meal consisting of meat, platanos, yuca and chilli. Very tasty!
In my last week we went to the cabañas (ecolodges) to work. The women and I had the responsibility of cleaning up the area around the lodges by using the machete. I loved using the machete - Still got the scars to prove it! The men worked on the new building that is in construction - a traditional type of house that still need 2-3 months of hard work to finalize. So, volunteers - YOU are needed!
I am forever grateful for the kindness all the people showed me, especially my hostfamily Pancho and Neli and Pascual Kunchicuy. It has been an unforgettable month that I will cherish forever and I will never forget the people of Juyuintsa or the knowledge about life “en la selva” that they passed on to me. Who knows, maybe I will return there one day to drink some more chicha with Marcelo or eat some chifle at Fanny´s house.
Torunn Iveland Ersfjord, Norway/Australia
Student of Social Anthropology/International Law&Int. Relations.
Phone: +61 424 793 757
I am one of these persons who always wanted to travel but never did. Until I left. I have been in Ecuador for 6 months now, will stay an other 5 and then the traveling should start.
I had little plans when I set off, and will still just see where I'll go. I had a few landmarks though, things I want to see or do. Like good old 'Machu Pichu', learning Spanish and an other one; seeing the rainforest. To me that meant seeing it 'back-stage' so to say, not with for example a 5 day tour that takes you by the hand and physically brings you to the rainforest while mentally you are still cozily in your comfort-zone. My problem was: I had no idea if that was possible. But it is! Through a friend I found a website with projects with a difference. There were several very interesting possibilities but one in particular stood out for me; Spending with the Shiwiar people deep into the Ecuadorian Amazon. That sounded good and in short; it was.
I have spend 5 weeks with a lovely young family in the little village of 'Juyuintsa' and I must say, different it was. My title was 'volunteer' which meant that I would try to help who-ever as best as I could while they tried to keep me alive. I am not sure about my part in hindsight but I do know I survived fine. The rainforest really isn't the spider infested place where snakes crawl into your sleeping bag every evening. I was basically subjected to professional camping for 5 weeks and I happen to like camping. During my stay I was somewhat 'one of them'. When they went fishing, I went fishing. When we needed firewood, I too carried logs. When there was a meeting I listened in and if there was a party I partied along.
It has been an interesting time and I will admit that sometimes it can be hard to be the only tall white boy in a culture that is definitely very different from what you are used to. But that's OK. The Shiwiars were very open and friendly with me and I feel I can say I got to know them while I stayed with them. I wanted to experience the life of those who live in and with the forest, and I did. So far this has been the highlight of my travels and although many new adventures may follow, this is one that can never
be taken away from me. I recommend it.
Lukas Petow, 31, The Netherlands
Like promised, i would like to give you a feedback from our jungel experience with the shiwiar (rio cunambo - close to the boarder with peru)
we flew from puyo with a little cessna (3 seater) 1 hour 10 minits over the green sea of the jungle to juyuintza, where they cut out of the trees a small landing pist. otherwise it's impossible to reach this place, the next settlement ist about 5 hours on motorboat direction of peru (down the river), up the river it's about 7 hours to a little other shiwiar village.
that means you are in the middle of nowhere an in a wonderful primary forest.
you may sleep in tents (provided by the shiwiar) in one of the village houses (there are 7 families living) or like us in the school during the summer holidays (see picture). you may also move to the jungle cabanas (2 hours down the river), which were build a few years ago. they offer very, very basic accomodation and you don't need a tent there, actually they improve the cabanas and soon or later there will be a shower or so...actually you just take your bath in the river together with prianhias and the other funny things in it...
the idea of the shiwiar is that you join their life for a few days, you don't have a fix programm, you decide everyday what to do and where to go. excursions may include hunting, trekking in the forest, fishing in rio cunambo, visiting other families, drinking chicha, cooking, make your own basket and overall just sit talk to the village people and listen to the selva. one person will be in charge of you - your guide - normally the family where you also stay - and he will join you to all places, also to the cabanas. you may find your way easy in the village, but as soon as you enter the jungle, you will be lost in a minute and it's incredible how the shiwiar find their way during hours of trekking in this green soup.
food is also very special, you will get some supply from puyo, but it's not a lot, very basic and the shiwiar do not really know how to use it...so expect funny combinations. you will eat three hot meals, normally just what you hunt/fish the day before, could include fish (piranhias, motas and other very good tasting rio cunambo underwater amigos), meat like jabali (wild pig), mono (monkeys), pavos (different kind of bird), kaimanos (caiman), land and seaturtel and their eggs, gusanos (worms living in the trees), hongos (mushrooms) and much more...they call their forest, their supermercado.
the best part for me was to talk to this people sit together, listen to their history, how they live and respect the nature and the jungel, what they believe, how their family relation is, how they grow up and how they spend the day.
it's so far from what we know and our life, that this made the most impressive experience for me/us.
i would not recommend to put this in the lonely planet book, like it's really a special experience and for sure not at all for everybody, but the most important is, that too many visitors would distrub/destroy the atmosphere and maybe over a long term also their village and their mentality. so far they don't care about money or other belongings, there is no criminalty and they life very close to their old traditions (no electricity, no water supply, very basic huts, just a few clothes).
some infos :
webpage : www.ikiam.info
(was made by two french people, but explains not really whats going on there)
visitors : about 20 - 25 per year
costs : depends of you request, you may organize a fixed trip, which would be around us$ 750 for a week including flight, food, guide. you will not need more money there, exept for tiping or buying artesana.
other possiblity (what we did) wait for a flight (kind of last minute), costs a lot less and is the best option, if you
have time to wait 3 - 4 days.
the also accept volunters.
stay : there is no minimum/maximum stay, but i would stay at least 5 days, better more.
idea : with the money they try to protect their forest from oilcompanies or other requests. they buy new land and try to protect it from outside influences.
sorry for this long mail, but it would be difficult to give you a fair idea of the trip without a detailled explanation. don't hesitate to contact me for further questions and you are very welcome to visit our website (www.umdiewelt.de
) (searching for / suchen : villa venus) to see more pictures.
thomas & anke