We had been trekking for 30 minutes through the hot and humid tropical jungle. A thin layer of sweat coated my body causing my clothes to stick to me. The two hunters in front of me walked silently under the closed canopy without making a sound. I tried my best to imitate them, but the sound of the snapping sticks under my feet showed what a dismal job I was doing. After five minutes, we stopped and I was told to stay where I was. Clearly I wouldn’t be joining in the hunt; like a man with a foghorn at a convention of mime artists, I just wasn’t welcome.
The guides who had brought me out into the middle of the jungle on this hunt slunk silently off into the forest, each holding an old battered rifle in his hands. Within ten meters they had disappeared through the trees and I was left alone in the middle of the Amazon jungles of Peru. I sat down on the log and the large black mosquitoes that had been lazily circling me started to hone in on their new exotic delicatessen.
visiting Alto Purus
At this point in my adventure I was halfway through my month long trip to visit one of the most remote of Peru’s indigenous tribes in the Peruvian province of Purus. This province that borders Brazil is one of the most isolated in Peru. There aren’t any tourists that come to these parts. Instead what you had was a mixture of illegal loggers, drug smugglers, Christian preachers, conservation groups and a host of indigenous communities. It made for an interesting mix of characters
see Alto Purus
I had flown into the province on a military plane and then spent two days on a small riverboat chugging down one of the many large tributaries of the Amazon to reach one of the many small villages found along the banks of the large winding river. The village, such as it was had been founded less than 30 years ago. Few of the residents in the village spoke much Spanish and instead communicated in a number of different local languages. While I was there I communicated with the villagers through a mixture of broken Spanish and plenty of sign language.
Alto Purus, Peru
Anyways, I digress, back to the hunt. Almost twenty minutes went by before one of the hunters returned empty handed. There hadn’t been anything around and though he didn’t say it I had the distinct feeling that I had scared everything off. We continued through the forest, mostly going forwards, but every now and then cutting back on ourselves or turning haphazardly. With no sun or any notable landmarks to see I had a feeling that everyone should be as lost as me, but they continued confidently, stopping every now and again to listen for any sounds.
After almost an hour of this routine I was feeling a lot less enthusiastic than I had been when I first agreed to join the hunt. All my boyhood fantasies of living like Indiana Jones or any other crazy action seeking survivalist came rushing back to haunt me. I realised very quickly that I had absolutely no idea where I was and if anything happened, well, put simply I’d be f#%ked.
My thoughts were interrupted by the loud crack of two rifles. Two fat and briefly happy game birds lay dead fifty feet away from us. Being as I wasn’t carrying a rifle and didn’t know how to shoot I was given the task of carrying the kill back to the boat. Slipping and sliding down muddy tracks lugging the two bleeding carcasses over my shoulder that were getting covered in flies, I realised how much I loved the simplicity of a supermarket. I no longer yearned for an authentic jungle experience, what I really wanted was a nice cold shower and possibly a can of beer. It was the moment that I realised that after all that I am at heart a simple city boy.