Taming the heart of the Peruvian Amazon
Like untold numbers before, I was slowly seduced by the Amazon’s violent wilderness, its outlandish wonders daring me to go deeper. After all, if something as seemingly delicate as that school of dolphins could glide beneath the surface, surely I could too. Calling my bluff, Ricardo navigated into a flat stretch of water and told me to check my skin for open cuts (piranha bait). I leapt in, away from the searing heat of the midday sun to the cool relief below. I bobbed downstream, buoyed by the thrill of danger, awed that so simple an act as swimming could hold such innumerable threats. But the Amazon let me have my fun, carrying me and my brave travelling companions downstream without incident. We climbed back onboard, sopping and smiling, greeted by the bemused Ricardo.
To him, a lifelong resident in this region, our nervous dip was a silly lark. Wildlife may be the area’s primary draw, but the true wonder of the Amazon is the ingenuity and adaptability of the estimated 350 indigenous and ethnic groups that live off this unsympathetic land. In the small village of Puerto Miguel, we met the teacher who travels days by boat to visit the village’s small school, the children who help their parents gather fruit and fish, and the pet monkey who naughtily nibbles at the necklaces local women have crafted to sell. The locals guided us on foot through the rainforest, pointing out the ants whose pinchers they use for stitches, the trees whose sap works like iodine and the termites that can be crushed into mosquito repellent. Suddenly this hostile land felt ripe with the possibilities of healing. Another set of mysteries beneath another canopy of green.