Live with the Shiwiars in Amazon base in Ecuador
The Shiwiar: Dream People of the Amazon
The Shiwiar people of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon rainforestare one of the few lucky enough to have finally achieved a good balance between Western influences and their own way of life. They took Ayahuascaand in their collective dream, they asked their ancestors what should be done. The ancestors spoke, and so it was decided - there would be no more negotiations with oil companies.
The Shiwiar nation may be one of the fiercest in the Southeast Amazonian region of Peruand Ecuador, and the world. This aggressiveness and their skill in shrinking the heads of their enemies, in which the head is reduced to the size of a man's fist, are sensational parts of their culture that often eclipse other aspects.
To ethnologists, the Shiwiar are better known as one of the 'dream peoples'. Contact with this tribe was only made in the 1970s, and their culture is more intact than most of the world's tribes. This is not to say that they weren't almost eradicated by disease and aggressive exploration - numbers have fallen from an estimated 1,000 to some 3,500 today. However, ceremonial customs are still adhered to, and when the tribe received an offer in the early '90s to allow test drilling for oil on their land, they sent runners to branches of the tribe hundreds of miles away, summoning them to a great vision ceremony. The most isolated tribes attended telepathically, in concurrent ceremonies of their own.
The Shiwiar vision ceremonies, led by shamans, take place on a regular basis for ceremonial purposes. The vehicle that enables contact with the elders and the gods is Ayahuasca, or yage - a hallucinogenic vine that according to one ethnobotanist can "free the soul, allowing it to wander in mystical encounters with ancestors and animal spirits".
In this ceremony, ancestors were duly consulted, and their response was uncharacteristically strong and unequivocal: No, don't have anything to do with oil. Many Shiwiar now work as guides they have allowed onto their land. Here they share their encyclopedic knowledge of flora and fauna with guests like you and me. Most if not all of the 4,500 remaining Shiwiar have adopted some Western customs, but still protect their way of life by remaining sequestered in villages of their own and adhering, for the most part, to traditional beliefs.
The Shiwiar traditionally live in houses shaped like large ovals with high roofs containing inner, but no outer walls, for the sake of ventilation. They hunt and fish for protein, but rely heavily on large gardens of indigenous plants kept near their homes. Bigger houses fit multiple wives and many children, indicating status. Women are in sole charge of gardens, and it's there that they go to give vent to grief and other emotions that are not socially acceptable. They also bear children among their crops, which gives you some idea of the garden's importance in society. Gardens are watched over by their own dedicated protective spirit, Nunkui.
VOLUNTEER TRAVEL –WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
You are looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world is most important conservation areas-and in community project – Then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
HOW THIS HOLIDAY MAKES A DIFFERENCE?
The Tanguntsa-Juyuintsa reserve is assisted in this management by FUNSSIF, an Ecuadorian NGO for indigenous people. The expedition is a biodiversity research expedition working in conjunction with local community projects and research findings will help to more effectively manage and conserve this endangered habitat. Local people are employed at the camp, and food is sourced locally. Volunteers will be heavily involved with liaising with the local communities and setting up education initiatives.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VOLUNTEER
Want to live and work somewhere truly remote? Accessible only by aircraft and based on tributary of the might y Amazon river, this expedition in the Tanguntsa-Juyuintsa reserve in Ecuador is a biodiversity research programme working in conjunction with local community projects. Volunteers will have the opportunity to live in a remote and beautiful part of the tropics, to study rare and endangered species, to work alongside the local community and to be based deep in the Amazon jungle! Base camp is 30 meters from the banks of the river in a cleared area within the rainforest . It consists of open- sided cabins providing basic conditions for sleeping, eating and fresh river water showers.
A typical day begins at 4.45am (well before dawn). After a quick breakfast, 3 different teams set off into the forest. The forest is still dark and we walk in silence using our head torches to find our way. The birds start singing as we walk towards different areas of our research site. The sounds of the forest waking up are unforgettable and you are likely to hear sounds of Dusky Titi monkeys and Howler monkeys bringing the new day in with their haunting calls. The Point Count team stop at their first destination to record the dawn chorus before moving on to another station where they carry on recording. Meanwhile, the Mammal and Bird transect team have walked to a different point so as not to interfere with the recordings and they begin their slow 2km long transect, recording all birds and mammals seen, and those who can be identified by their calls. A trail clearing team will be in another part of the research site, starting work to expand the transect system by creating new trails and tagging them to aid navigation.
The Point Count team, having finished their recordings, return to camp for a coffee break before beginning a full day of data analysis. The other 2 teams remain in the forest all morning, returning to camp for a late lunch at around 1pm.
A typical transect walk may include sightings and sounds of many bird species; for example toucans, guans, antbirds, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers. The sightings of mammals may include several species of monkey including the rare Saki monkey, Saddle Back Tamarins, and squirrels. In addition we may also see tracks of many mammal species including the elusive tapir, peccary and potentially wild cats.
After lunch the tired teams will be involved in data collation using the FUNSSIF library for reference. Other afternoon activities may include assisting local staff in the kitchen, fishing, and community projects such as constructing new buildings. The end of the day sees volunteers jumping into the creek surrounding camp to wash off the days grime and cool down. This rounds of the day in a relaxing manner and is a great opportunity to chat about the days events.
After dinner we pack our bags, sharpen our machetes and prepare ourselves for the next day, another day of adventure in the jungle! Throughout any given phase, our science routine is interrupted sometimes for short excursions to places of interest and adventure experiences. These may include nocturnal boat rides, survival treks, trips to beautiful oxbow lakes, visiting mammal and bird clay-licks and camping out at satellite camps in the forest.
|Mapa territorio Shiwiar