Twigs and I decided that we needed to a break, and we wanted to experience some of the last, untouched tribes in the world. Twigs loved researching, so he soon got back to me with news!
“I found them! ” I recalled him saying in a paradoxically relaxed tone.
“We’re going to visit the Achuar people. They live deep in Ecuadorian rainforest.”
I nodded my head. I was ready. It was December, 2017 and I soon found myself in a passenger airplane, taking off from the city of Macas, Ecuador.
As we flew in the air all I could see was a sea of forest, in all directions. I was at home!
Our guide, Muchelala jumped out of the plane after it landed, and onto the grassy runway. I remember the baking sun, and a friendly black dog running towards us.
We got our stuff and were settled in a mosquito protected tent, and began to relax. Of the next few days, Twigs and I would laugh about our new life here.
“Where was all the action?”
“Why are we just hanging out all day?” I exclaimed one morning. We had nothing left to do! We had already swam in the river, eaten catfish and yucca for lunch, and had bananas for a snack.
What was left? Well, we had to play with the dogs, hang out in the hammock, read Stephen Buhner’s book on plant intelligence, and of course drink the famous chicha.
You might ask, “What’s chicha?”
Well readers, it is the most incredible drink in the world!
This is how it’s made. All of the women, young and old, would head out each day to the yucca (also known as cassava) patch nearby to gather these tubers. They had these awesome baskets that they would throw over their backs, and rest on their foreheads.
With their baskets full, they’d return to tend to the fire. The fire was somehow always alive. To do this, they had a simple system of laying three logs, in a triangular fashion, with the embers in the middle of them. When they needed the fire to increase, one would simply need to push the logs into a tighter triangular.
The next thing the women did was to fill their pot with water at the river. Then, they would boil the water and let the yucca simmer for about an hour. The women would then pour off the hot water, and place the yucca into a wooden container that looked like a canoe (for a child). They would take a large handful of the cooked yucca and start chewing, while at the same time, begin to mash the yucca with a large wooden pestle. After a few good chews, in would go the chewed up watery mix.
It would take a few days to be ready. With the heat of jungle, the drink would soon be bubbly, and good to serve to the family. This is what we mainly drank! I became used to it over time. Think of it like a combination of kombucha, kefir, and coconut yogurt, but with lots of chunks.
In conclusion, I learned that the Achuar people weren’t “barbaric” or “lost”. They were found, and do currently live a peaceful and prosperous life in their large forest. These people weren’t untouched by the burden of modern society, and have benefitted from their contact with outsiders.
There are many more stories of our adventures in the Amazon jungle, alongside these amazing and kind people. Perhaps soon I will share more. For now, I leave you with the following quote.
“The world’s most primitive people have few possessions, but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization.”
― Marshall Sahlins
Thanks so much for reading.