As part of a butterfly transformation, and a new chapter of my life it is my goal to visit as many Quechua (Kechwa) Lamista indigenous communities as possible.
The people in my village have always talked about a waterfall in the village of Aviación, district San Roque De Cumbaza. Although, no one had any idea what it looked like and I got the feeling it was very small and not such a big deal. Well, no one has seen it! So maybe it’s just a creek. I had never visited the village, so I thought it was time to leave my computer behind and go on an adventure.
An Italian artist called Carla Van Den Burg, a small, young thing – resident of the Sachaqa Centro De Arte – had ventured to the village before with Don Angel. She painted such a great image of the place and the people, so it is thanks to her the inspiration came to finally make it there.
Leticia Borrego a volunteer artist staying at Sachaqa, offered to be the photographer and of course, was excited to go Searching Off-Track!
We began walking at 7.30 am. We bought water and snacks to share with our guide, Don Angel, and a little extra for our new friends along the way. It is always polite to share whatever you have in indigenous communities. Always take more than you need. We met a wagon along the road, who offered to take us some of our journey. We didn’t get far before we got stuck in the mud and had to get off and walk.
We found an Oje tree along the way and Don Angel spoke about how to make medicine for intestinal worms.
Home of Petrona, Kechwa Lamista artisan – Chunchiwi community.
We dropped in for a coffee, at the home of Petrona along the way. I have known Petrona for over ten years. We talked about our arthritis and what plants we used for medicine. She tells me she has cured hers after a plant purge. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know the name of the medicine man in Lamas, but says she will take me another day. It is a mission of mine to find the plant healers, so I can share the wisdom and their treatments. We also talked with her adopted son, Ghoinor, a good boy and a true testament to how well she raised him. He shares a cacao farm and said he loves the chacra (farming land). He will take me to a community called Cachypampa, where his sister lives with her new husband and baby – a four-hour trek from Lamas. An adventure story for another time.
Festival Patrona community gathering Chunchiwi
As we were walking to the village of Chiricyacu from Chunchiwi, we met most of the people from the village of Chiricyacu along the way. Mothers carrying babies, footballers, children, teachers, and leaders. Everyone in the village was walking down the hill, visiting Chunchiwi for the end of festival Patrona. A festival in celebration of the independence of Peru. Which feels more like a summer solstice festival, as there is usually food offerings, fun activities, and music – all through the day. An opportunity for the village to enjoy the fruits of the rainy season and relax in the sun with their family’s. We asked about the waterfall and if they knew where we could find the Apu (town leader.) They said everyone was going to Chunchiwi and there would be no guide or food. We couldn’t turn back now so we trusted and continued walking.
The indigenous community of Chiricyacu
The village was like a ghost town, only a few elderly people were in the village when we got there. We met an elderly couple who we shared some rosquitas with (yucca type biscuits). The beautiful lady in traditional dress said she was an evangelist and didn’t dance at festivals. I met a pastor who said he could cure my arthritis with the love of Jesus. We met a lady selling clothes from Tarapoto who shared her fruit with us. A bad day for her to come also. We met a Spanish student who was teaching at the local school about protecting the environment. She was 21 and 6 months away from home. She didn’t know about the waterfall so we asked her to join us. So she came with us to find the Apu – for permission to enter, a guide and food.
Searching for the Apu.
Indigenous village of Aviación – finding the Apu
So the rule is, to enter any indigenous village – you have to meet with the Apu (leader) first. We were told to wait in a room with no windows. There was a roof made of cana-brava (small bamboo) with earth falling from the ceiling, a computer and a desk. A local man called out on a microphone “We have visitors, calling on …. and the Apu, etc.” We sat there feeling a little nervous, not knowing if we would make it to the waterfall that day. It was one o’clock in the afternoon at this point and the only way back was on foot. A kind man spoke to us and I told him about ‘Roots Of The Amazon’. Then the main Apu entered, he demanded respect and sat down. He officially thanked us for our visit. Then, in my nervousness, I told him about my dream of bringing people to his village. I told him that I was not a big organization, just a mother who wanted to share ecotourism and cultural immersion holidays. I wanted to reassure the village that I was not there to exploit the people and that I was a humble gringa living in the forest of San Roque, with a home made of earth and toucans in the garden. The tension of formalities faded after that and he called his wife on the microphone, to bring his mobile phone to show us a video of the waterfall. Oh my goodness! It was so much more than we expected. We didn’t take any photos at this moment as it didn’t feel right.
Finally reaching the waterfall, a paradise in the Amazon.
Before leaving the village we ordered food with the Apu, who asked one of the village women to cook for us upon our return. We said we would eat what they had. We hiked for another hour to reach the waterfall. It was a little muddy now and our pumps were getting soaked. We passed various houses with children curious to see what was happening. We were not tired yet as the adrenaline of seeing the waterfall for the first time had kicked in.
Journey Back to the village of Aviación – traditional dishes from local farms.
The local women were not prepared for our hungry bellies. With no refrigeration and supermarkets, there needs to be a day warning before visiting an indigenous village. We were told that with notification they could prepare local dishes like; Inchicapi – a peanut type soup with chicken, and Cal De Gallina – chicken soup or beans, rice, and egg. Our meal was simple but oh so delicious. Fresh eggs from a free-range farm are so rich and have more yolk than white, and the beans are energy food. All farmed foods are served with a really hot yellow chili. I’m never too keen on the plantains, its just the shape and the color that puts me off. After more than ten years in Peru and offered one at every Peruvian meal, I just eat them, with indifference.
We were not allowed to take photos in the house so I will paint you a picture… Earth floor, tin roof, fire in the corner where all the food is prepared, a woman sat barefoot by the fire. We sat on wooden benches around the room with the Apu. I asked him a few questions. It was so interesting to learn that if we were to bring tourism to the village that every man would have his turn to guide, and every woman would have her turn to cook – wealth is shared. I think that is why outsiders have not really worked with the village. As it seems ‘organizations’ like their own organization. We love the flow and see the perfection in it all. Give me an earth floor and I will just take my shoes off and cuddle the baby chickens. This is a Roots Of The Amazon – searching off-track adventure of a lifetime.
Tour to Waterfall Maraysillo – hiking holidays Peru
If you would like to do this tour without hiking all the way we have now organized transport. We can drive in a truck to Aviacion. Then it’s only a one hour walk to the waterfall even children can do it. Then we can just walk back its all downhill and the communities and views along the way are really impressive. An amazing day and what is really good, is that we get to help the community in return. Without changing anything.
So if you are ready to come Searching Off-track, we are ready for you, let’s go!
Most of the photos were taken by IG: @leticia.ruth.borrego The good ones, thank you LOVE x
Thank you to the people of Aviación especially the APU.