Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve
Land Based Extension
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They say that Kapawi Ecolodge is located about a 10-day walk from the nearest civilization, a statistic that started to sink in as we flew in our 4-passenger Cessna over the thick mass of vegetation. As far as I could see in all directions -- a blanket of green! I had never before visited such a remote place; I couldn't wait to land.
A "thump, splash, splash-thump-thump" landed us on a very muddy air strip. Smiling Kapawi staff members greeted us with open arms ready to carry our luggage. On our way to the river, we walked through a small Achuar village - our first glimpse of life in the Amazon. As our motorized canoe navigated up the Paztaza, then the Capahuari River towards the lodge, the forest seemed to engulf us.
At the lodge, I stayed in one of twenty thatched cabanas overlooking the immensely peaceful Kapawi Lagoon, complete with covered balcony, hammock, private facilities with sun-heated shower, and solar powered electricity. At night, I lay content, sheltered within my mosquito net and fell asleep to an orchestra of monkey chatter and insect songs. When not in my cabana, I wandered into the lounge for a refreshing drink and a chat with other guests and staff. Meals in the dining room were consistently delicious and fresh from the jungle: fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, homemade juices, and snacks.
Daily activities were flexible and were tailored to our interests. Our group of seven consisted of myself, my brother, a wonderful family of three from Paris, Lorena (our guide from Quito), and Ilardio (our Achuar guide). Our guides -- Lorena, an English/Spanish-speaking biologist, and Ilardio, a native Achuar who taught us about the forest and his fascinating culture -- complemented one another perfectly. We learned about the infinite uses of palm, the technique behind the Achuar's home construction, various medicinal plant uses, and the vital difference between the harmless and poisonous Conga ants!
Son of a Shaman, Ilardio took a moment to bless each of us during one of our many walks through the jungle. Standing in the bosom of a gigantic fichus tree, their version of a cathedral, he brushed over us with three sacred branches.
Later, we tested our canoeing skills in a few quiyas (dugout canoes). Though unexpected torrential downpours ensued, our spirited group paddled on, exploring small tributaries off the Capahuari River. Once back at the dock, we all dared one another to take a dip in the river! Swimming with piranhas proved not so scary after all, as they don't attack humans as seen in the blockbuster movies!
A visit to a local Achuar village introduced us to their staple beverage, chicha. A mixture of yucca root, sweet potato, and water, this traditional drink is consumed regularly from beautifully handmade bowls. As we sipped our portion, the village's chief, about twenty-nine years in age, spoke with us through our guides' translations. Before departing the village, two of the Achuar women painted our faces with natural paint from within seeds of the Achiote plant. Men typically sport brown motifs, and women are adorned in red. Contrary to what one might assume, this display is not used for warfare, but instead to celebrate moments of joy and special occasions.
En route back to the lodge in the motorized canoe, I quietly smiled to myself and gazed through the labyrinth of lush vegetation surrounding us, knowing that somewhere within the jungle lies a quiet village similar the one we had just visited. I felt a sense of privilege and almost initiation into the simple yet captivating Amazon way of life.
Gathered around the dinner table on our last evening, we shared a tasty and traditional Achuar meal of fresh caught fish wrapped in banana leaves and another bowl of chicha. Looking around at my 'Amazon family', fellow guests and staff, it was hard to believe that barely four days had passed, and, yet more interesting to realize how quickly we became acquainted with one another, the peace and simplicity of the jungle, and its people.