The Amazon basin conjures up images of vast forests extending as far as the eye can see, meandering muddy tributaries, exotic wildlife…. and lost tribes.
A visit to the Huaorani (pronounced ‘Wao-rah-nee’) tribe, who live on the banks of the Shiripurno River in the Ecuadorian Amazon basin offers a unique insight into the life of people who have been living as hunter-gatherers in the rain forest for generations.
The flight on a single-engine light aircraft to the forest clearing at Quehueri’ono, takes just 40 minutes but lands you into another world altogether. Our reception by the locals at the airstrip was friendly and we walked to the main centre of the community, where the people meet to discuss issues of local importance and where a school has now been set up.
Although they have been in contact with the outside world for half a century and now wear clothes, the mindset and outlook on life of the Huaorani is clearly very different. The things that are important to them – the river, the spirits of the forest and hunting trips to find food – are totally different to the day-to-day worries and life of our ‘modern’ world.
A small eco-lodge, which has been set up a 45-minute walk away from the community centre on the banks of the river offers basic but comfortable accommodation in several small ‘cabinas’ and decent food (all of which is brought in for visitors in dugout canoes) in the main dining/lounge area. After the excitement of the day and walking the muddy tracks I slept surprisingly well that night, lulled to sleep by the ‘night orchestra’ of insect and jungle sounds.
The next day we went on a fascinating walk through the forest with a local Huaorani man who showed us many of the traditional plants, and how to use a blow pipe. Having been in touch with nature for millennia, the Huaorani are legendary for their extensive knowledge about the rain forest and its diverse plant and animal life. After the mod cons of modern city life, living in the rain forest seems distinctly tough, but to the Huaorani the forest is a home, a larder, a pharmacy, a wardrobe and a corner shop. This is their land; their lifestyle; their traditional way.
The Huaorani people’s traditional lifestyle has been under threat for many years now – and part of their ancestral lands have been destroyed by oil companies who carelessly poisoned large tracts of the forest during the 1970s and 80s. The book ‘Savages’ by Joe Kane gives an excellent in-depth look at the struggle of this indigenous tribe in the face of the aggressive oil industry.
To find out how you can make a fascinating three-night trip into Huaorani Terriotry in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon give us a call or send us a message.