Our second day exploring the Marañón River was a very different and special one. After breakfast on board, brave expeditioners went hiking a jungle trail in the Casual Forest. Casual is located on slightly higher ground that never floods, and so the plant communities there are different from most areas surrounding the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. A local community nearby maintains a series of hiking trails that allowed us to experience the diversity of life inside the tropical rainforest and live the intense humidity and warmth of the understory. A few local men from that nearby community showed us some interesting creatures that they found while walking outside of the trail, including poison arrow frogs, centipedes, and tarantulas that really helped us feel “in the jungle.” Our naturalists, born and raised in the Peruvian Amazon themselves, explained the many uses that local people have for the plants here. We also learned about the fascinating ecological adaptations of many of them, including such interesting species as the walking palm and the chambira.
After lunch, we received a very special visitor on board: Mrs. Carola, a traditional medicine woman. She gave us a very interesting talk about the extensive traditional knowledge held by people throughout Amazonia. She showed us many of the roots, tubers, and leaves that traditional healers still use today to help people in remote villages that are hours or days away from modern clinics or hospitals. In fact, the very real properties of many of those plants are the basis of patented medicines found in pharmacies around the world. Mrs. Carola answered many questions and explained how she became the only shaman woman in the entire region, after training for eight years in the jungle with her grandfather, a famous master shaman. She demonstrated several of the products that she prepared, then finished her presentation with a blessing to all of us, sang in her mother language, Cocama-cocamilla.
We boarded our skiffs again for an evening exploration of a blackwater creek called Yanayaquillo. We observed pink river dolphins, some birds of prey including plumbeous and roadside hawks, and three different macaw species: red-and-green, blue-and-yellow, and scarlet. What a great day we enjoyed exploring the world’s biggest rainforest!