PART TEN: LADY OINKSALOT AND THE CAVES OF JUMANDY
Buenas Dias! (Good day)
I've been one month in the Amazon and I feel sometimes the symptons of 'Jungle Fever' coming over me.....oooo sounds crazy doesn't it? most night's I am having the same reoccuring dream..... where I'm waking up on the forest floor, barefoot and surrounded by darkness.....or maybe its these malaria pills I'm taking......either way it wakes me up to relief of still being inside my mosquito net and in the cabana. It's a right party out there in the rainforest in the night.
But things for me have got more exciting and made me far happier out here keeping me busy.....I bought a pig!
It was suggested we have a piglet at the station to eat our left over food in the compost, so me and Sergio headed into Tena in search of a ´Chanchita´. We showed up at Tena Market asking the locals where we could buy one, but recieved no positive response except for the shake of the head and ´no´ pointing us in the direction for ´Senor Busca´or ´Senor Martinez´somewhere else in town - we even drove around stopping to ask a women grilling pork on the roadside! (we were looking for a live pig by the way and it was sure she certaintly didn't have one!) Our search continued out of Tena prompted by various directions from people on the street out into some rural areas looking out for signs for ´Chancho´but every farm we came across, the farmers would just grunt (funny enough like pigs) and mutter they had no piglets. We tried one last time asking this lady outside her house on the roadside leading into Tena and success! She told us she knew ´Senor Rodriguez´ who bred most animals including piglets! only thing was though it was in the town of Contundo, a 45 minute drive out of town and Sergios petrol was very low, so I offered to pay for his petrol for a wallet breaking $5! haha. The game was afoot!
We drove towards Contundo stopping at the petrol station of course and admired the splendid views of the surrounding rainforest. Upon reaching Contundo, there was a mass of school children blocking the road and market stalls spilling out onto the streets, so Sergio made good use of his horn stopping to ask passersby about the whereabouts of ´Senor Rodriguez´. following the directions of fingers pointing off into the distance. After passing a GIGANTIC rock with two children sitting on top of it, we came to a house where we were greeted by two very loud dogs who came running towards us - a lady followed them out and Sergio asked for Senor Rodriguez. She said he was not home but she was Senora Rodriguez and yes she had some piglets ´round back´. Yes!!!We were shown the pigs pen which was kind of inbetween the cows who were in quite small conditions with bulging eyes and tongues sticking out, groaning loudly and the place smelling of dampened straw and manure. Sergio wanted to get two pigs but Senora would only let us have one for $50, so I picked the girl piglet with black spots and Senora plucked her up by her back legs which freaked the piglet out as she stuffed her in a grain sack and handed her to me. I felt really sorry for it as it was so scared and was making so much noise!! wriggling around the bag. I handed Senora Rodriguez my $50 notes and quickly got her in the car as she squirmed and shrieked (I would have been scared too if they had just happened to me) and started to drive off with the piglet at my feet. We had to stop twice as she was so naughty and ended up biting her way through the sack and was jumping about the car while i´m trying to think of the Spanish words to yell to Sergio for help! it was soo funny, but I thought I had chosen a real troublesome piglet. After two attempts to keep her still, it resulted in me having to lock her between my knees and hold her down with both hands! (she´s proven to be one strong little piglet) where she eventually fell asleep!. Once we arrived back at the reserve, it took three of us to hold her while we took her to the ´pig pen area´ right at the bottom of the station, nearly knocking us off the bridge and into the river in the process as she was struggling so much. When you first get a pig - its so stressful!
We put her temporarily in the chicken pen so we could fix the door of the cement pig house - when we came back for her later she had escaped! I was convinced she was dead and wouldn´t survive a night in the rainforest......but the next morning.......the kitchen ladies had spotted her in the kitchen having smelt the food and chased her back to the pen - I couldn´t believe she was alive! for a young piglet she´s really tough, so tough infact that even when we put her in the CEMENT pig pen she found a way to escape again! that time I had doubted we would ever see her again, but the next morning I had a speck of hope and went to the area in the reserve where we keep her and low and behold she was sleeping in a bowl in the chicken pen! she came back! Well now we have heightened security (literally we made a wall) so she can´t jump out. I´ve named her Lady Oinksalot as Sergio is a real fan of Lady Gaga she´s a lady and is a real talker. She´s really good now, I adore her. I feed her food scraps and fetch her clean water from the river everyday. She´s really sociable so I go and play with her when I´m not working - she´s like a puppy, she doesn´t leave your side and runs with you nearly tripping me over half the time. She´s become really obedient, but she makes ALOT of noise when she sees you and jumps up, she hates it when you leave her - pigs are sociable creatures so don't cope very well on their own, so I try and spend as much time with her. I´m really sad I can´t take her with me - she´s a cutie!
Last weekend we ventured to 'The Caves of Jumandy' in the Oriente Region, and it was quite an adventure getting there. First we hitchiked from the station to Tena in a pick up truck that was being pulled along by a truck with a piece of rope with a guy sitting in the pickup merely steering it. Seeing as there were no more vehicles passing by, we had to run after the pickup and help eachother get into the back as it was being pulled along by the truck ahead which was pretty good fun. However, three times the rope broke off and we had to get off and push the pickup towards the truck that had driven off! ha!
The only concern we had was when we were going up a steep hill and praying the rope wouldn´t break coz we would have rolled straight back down the hill - ahh the danger... we didn´t even make it into Tena as the rope broke again (fortunetly on the flat road phew!) so we paid $1 to a taxi driver who happened to pass to take us into Tena. From there, I had to step over a homeless dog who really was just skin and bones with people nudging it to see if it was still alive. Getting a seat on the right bus, which always have a character of their own, I had to step over another dog who´s nose was poking out of a grain sack on the floor - kind of an odd way to transport a dog. Anyway, once we were about to leave, an older man got on with a shoulder bag and started shouting in Spanish which was inaudible, then he put on a headset and turned on a speaker to talk which was still just as inaudible and got out diagrams of eyes and started pointing to his own eyes, mimicking some sort of eye disorder- really funny to watch but he failed to get our custom.
When we reached ´Cuevas de Jumandy´ lying in the heart of Cotundo and about 4km north of Archidona, we paid a cool dude named Ramon to take us down into the caves for a couple of hours. We all needed to take headtorches as we descended deeper into the caves passing visitors coming out of the caves covered in mud - yes!. The caves are very impressive- they were formed by volcanic activity and named after 'Jumandy', an Amazonian hero. Today, shaman rituals are still active in the caves and are home to really odd rock formations, huge staglamites, minerals and crystals, quite a few things to bang your head on. The caves are also home to crab spiders and small coves you can explore - we had to crawl on our fronts into these small caves with Ramon and when he shon his light to the ceiling......it revealed an army of false vampire bats! of course the bats went crazy and attempted to shoot of the cave in a panicked flurry one proper whacking me and rickashading off the side of my face! ahhh (good thing they were just false vampire bats ay?) . The caves were awesome though, and huge, having to wade through waist deep water, but my knees took quite a knocking. The coolest thing was seeing an underground waterfall. Ramon pointed to a part of the plunge pool, held his breath, jumped in and disappeared! thinking he was going to shoot out from elsewhere in the cave, we were looking around until he resurfaced out the same spot and scared the living daylights out of us! haha
The adventures didn´t stop there as we took a bus ride the next day to the ´Cascadas de la Umbri´some reknowned waterfalls in the Oriente Region. They told us a hike to the big waterfall would take 30 minutes but never trust that! we had to pass a natutal waterslide which was so slippery, I was halfway sliding in before I had to be helped up - that would have sent me halfway down the springs! After much sludging and sliding in the mud, we reached this amazing waterfall - one of the boys flip flops broke so he had to do the jungle trekking bare foot oh yeah! but jumping into the plunge pool and actually experiencing being under a waterfall is amazing. The waters so strong it feels like your´re being thumped repeatingly, but its in a real theraputic way - seize it if you ever get the chance....
We left just before the sunset and hadn´t thought of a way to get home - so we had to walk the way back to Tena hoping we could hitchike a ride.....we didn´t. Noone wanted to pick us up so we walked for a good hour through the forest and little indigenous communites who would call out ´Buenas Tardes!´ they´re really friendly out here in the forest. Dogs were coming up to us, snapping at us - children played in the road and stared at us curiously, while some families sat on the street side with a television set and looking up to say ´Buenas Noches´. and probably wandering what a bunch of gringos were doing walking around at dusk. Fortunetly as the light was about to die (and it is pitch black in the forest) and none of us had torches, a bus pulled up behind us allowing us to sit on the floor for a well earned rest back in town.......guardian angel there again.
Ok thats all for now, onto the next adventure! It' now creeping into the Christmas season here so kinda weird seeing Christmas trees in the windows with this humidity of a climate - but tis the season!