Traveling off-season to the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve can be very interesting. What does I mean by off-season? The Amazon is there every day of the year, full of life, beauty and stories.
Many people plan their visit in the dry season because they think the main attraction are animals; in my case, I had no choice but to go during the rainy season and had no idea what to expect.
That’s also what a journey is about, discovery. True discovery, I mean.
Set sail from the safe harbor and face the unknown. It can be pretty scary at the beginning.
My local guides Elvio, Gavino and Tomy made feel so comfortable, safe and relaxed.
It can be hard when you’re alone with strangers on a little boat in the middle of the jungle where telephones are totally useless.
When they started telling me stories, they made me happy and I kept asking them for more.
As a teenager I dreamt of becoming an anthropologist and to travel to the Amazon to study the indigenous communities I had read about in books.
Many of their stories are about the pink dolphins, lovely mammals living in the rivers of the Amazon.
The stories often begin with some unknown people that show up in the community: they seem like humans (and, just like them, they’re quite tricky) but indeed they belong to the people of the water.
If you suspect that the person in front of you is actually a dolphin, you should throw some water at him, or her, as a test. If you were correct, it’s likely that his shoes will become fishes again and his clothes will turn into other aquatic animals.
When the first tourists began to visit the Pacaya-Samiria, the elderly living in the communities along the rivers didn’t want to talk with them, believing they were people of the water: better not to have anything to do with them, you never know…
The black boa is aother animal that often recurs in the stories. They name it with respect and fear, because it has incredible powers. It’s very unlikely to encounter, as it lives in virgin waterbodies, places that normally people cannot reach.
If the boa spots you first, you’ll die; if you’re so lucky to spot it first, you can still find yourself paralyzed and unable to speak for a long time. As you can see, both of them are quite unpleasant conditions: hence the respect and fear people show for the black boa.
This is why when fishermen discover a new lagoon they must ask for the help of a shaman. He will create a ball with the poisonous latex of a specific tree, then place it in a hollow trunk, which is pushed in the middle of the lagoon. If a Boa is hiding in there, being the very aggressive it will come out to attack the trunk, but after eating the ball it will end up poisoned.
These are just a few of the stories I recorded, I wish one day I’ll go back to hear some more.
During the few days I spent in the Reserve, we went around with the boat, listening to the endless sounds coming from the forest. I was astonished by the skills of my local guide, Gavino: being a hunter, he was able to recognize so many animals from far away, where I could only see a dense green wall. Even after he told me where to look, I could see but nothing.
Look there! There is a toucan!
Or a sloth, a big turtle, or monkeys… Still, most of the times I could’t see them. Of course I was also without binoculars.
That’s also why I started to become more interested in sounds. The most amazing sound was the one produced by the howler monkeys, which is like the sound of a wind storm.
In the cities people don’t even look at the real world around them anymore, what a big difference!