Alone Like a Rolling Stone

In the Jungle

A terribly loud hissing, just 50 meters away, makes us freeze to a pillar of salt. 

In the Jungle, Leticia Colombia 

We are standing in the middle of the jungle, in the very south of Colombia, not far from the Peruvian and Brazilian borders. The Amazon River forms the border river. Gaby and I left in the morning with our three companions to visit a local family living in the middle of the jungle. The mighty foliage engulfs our small group and there is not much to see on the narrow path except dense plant growth. Our indigenous guide suddenly stops and begins his ritual. Whenever he dives into the bush, he has to make sure that nature remains pure and his actions in harmony with the same. From a tin, he dips his little finger in a black paste and spreads it on his tongue. He then passes the tin around. We do the same, and quickly spreads on the tongue an intense tobacco flavor. Gaby and I both slightly contort our faces. From another container, a powder is taken, with a tablespoon and drizzled into the mouth. In my cheek pocket, the green powder mixes with my saliva and is slowly released into the body. Coca is a remedy among the indigenous people that gives strength and makes you withstand the dangers that await you in this environment. The stuff is highly concentrated and like a squirrel that has collected nuts, I continue on my way over tree roots, small watercourses, fallen tree trunks and swamp-like humus soils. My lower jaw and tongue become furry. So we walk for about an hour through the bush, until the noise mentioned at the beginning makes us freeze. Strained we look in the direction and try to recognize something in the thicket. A movement, a cracking branch or something else. But nothing happens. Big cats are not rare here and you have to watch out like hell, but in most cases they avoid people. So also in our case. Except for the hissing we get to see nothing of the animal. We walk slowly, always looking backwards. A little later the treetops move and we discover monkeys swinging almost silently through the air, hopping from branch to branch, trunk to trunk. At some point we come to a small river. One of the countless ones that flow into the Amazon. 

Tributary of the Amazon, Leticia Colombia 

On the other side are a few huts and a boy playing on the opposite bank of the river. After a shout, he pushes the boat into the water with which we will cross. A rather shaky affair which we master all together prima. We have arrived at our destination. Friendly and with a lot of patience, they explain us the life here and show us with which means the people in the bush are treated, if it is necessary. Whether anti-mosquito spray or something against stomach ache everything is obtained from plants. We are invited for lunch. There is fried fish, rice and a flat cake made of plant flour, which tastes indefinable. Nevertheless, the food is very tasty. The elder appears and we get an audience with him. Rather I get the audience, Gaby watches the scenery from a certain distance, because women are not allowed in this circle. 

House in the Jungle, Leticia Colombia 

Yes, here the world is still in order. We talk about coca, about life in the jungle, how the families relate to each other and how the land is distributed in order to build houses on it. Of course, the corresponding dose of coca could not be missing and so we kind of chatted away. The three-hour hike turned into an eight-hour hike, although we actually only walked for three hours. It is already evening when a poisonous snake runs or crawls over our way. 

Micrurus diastema, Leticia Colombia 

Overwhelmed by the day and the impressions, we fall dead tired into our bed. The next morning the Amazon is on the agenda. We take a river trip up the Amazon and visit Peru, the island de los Micos and drive to Puerto Nariño. On the island of los Micos, a horde of monkeys ambushes us. The little guys are nimble and you have to be careful that they don't steal your glasses or grab your pocket. What they get hold of is inevitably lost, because in no time they have disappeared high up in the trees. 

Red-backed squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), Amazon Colombia

What was completely new to me is that there are dolphins in the Amazon. And if I hadn't seen them with my own eyes, I would still think it was a fairy tale. But as we leave Puerto Nariño, a pink dorsal fin suddenly emerges from the brown water of the river. The boat stops and we watch the pink dolphins for quite a while. Finally, shortly before Leticia, we are stopped by a speedboat of the Colombian water police. But obviously the papers are in order and we are allowed to continue.

Floating House on the Amazon, Colombia

Street noise comes up to us in the hotel room. After returning to Bogotá from Leticia yesterday, we were looking forward to a warm shower and after a short visit to the old town, the evening was already over. Many houses in La Candelaria are painted with graffiti. Traditional motifs alternate with modern ones. 

Graffiti in Bogotá, Colombia 

On the Plazoleta Chorro de Quevedo we sit in the sun and watch the colorful hustle and bustle. We drink a hot chocolate and then make our way to the government district. By chance, we witness a changing of the guard in front of the presidential palace. The streets leading away from Plaza Bolivar are littered with numerous street vendors, small alleys lead into an area reminiscent of an oriental bazaar. Since the weather remains dry, we watch the trade for quite a while. In the evening we enjoy a Colombian sausage pan and find a quaint wine bar to finish our stay in Bogotá, where we drink a bottle of Bardolino.

Street in La Candelaria, Bogotá Colombia 

How our round trip in Colombia continues, you will find out next week on our blog. Until then, always fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.