Pondering the Fate of Earth on a Trip to the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador

By Mary and Louis Finocchario, Awakening the Dreamer facilitators

I knew our trip to Ecuador to visit the Achuar indigenous people and the Amazon rainforest would be unique.  What it turned out to be was actually the most satisfying, adventurous and transformational journey I have made in my life!!  How privileged we were to experience a direct encounter with the Achuar, an ancient people just beginning to open their world to visitors from the modern world.  My husband, Lou, and I took our grandson Kyler, age 8, along with us on this awesome voyage.  We traveled with a group of nineteen, mostly facilitators for the Pachamama Alliance in March. We experienced the wonder of being in the heart of one of the largest areas of primary rainforests in the world where the rich diversity has remained virtually untouched.  We learned from the Achuar, (one of the oldest intact dream cultures) how they live in harmony with the earth.  Since their lands have no roads, we flew into their territory on a small ten person plane, landing on a dirt runway carved from the forest.  This remoteness has been a blessing, helping to ensure that thus far no lumber, mining, or petroleum interests have operated in their territory.

The Tinkias Lodge where we stayed was recently built in the Achuar style, located in the heart of the rainforest territory.  It was designed for travelers from the modern world to enjoy the biologically diverse region and live with a rustic level of comfort and safety, sleeping on raised beds with mosquito netting.  There is a thatched roof overhead with no walls, so one can see the greenery, and hear the animals and birds both day and night.  There is no electricity in the rainforest. We had an outside toilet and primitive, private shower with a hose overhead and large bucket below. We had to adjust to fumbling for items in our bags with our flashlights after the sun set. We lived in utter simplicity, connected with nature and each other and discovered to our amazement that it was exhilarating.

We spent our days canoeing and hiking through the jungle with the Achuar guides.  One night we put on our mud boots and hiked to the Tinkias Achuar community for a festival.  Each culture shared their songs and dances.  We ate a meal prepared by the Achuar women for the occasion, consisting of various vegetables, chicken, bananas, hearts of palm with a few grubs (most of which I managed to avoid). Other fascinating phenomena were the two shaman experiences in which we participated.  After the shamanic ceremony cleansing us of negative energy, we were asked to refrain from eating red meat, hot peppers and sugars, as these foods would make our  cleansing less effective.

In contrast to the Achuar, (the least colonized among the Amazonian indigenous tribes), are the Quechua who live high in the great Andean mountain highlands.  We were privileged to spend two nights and three days in the Quechua community of San Clemente. While there, we stayed with Blanca and her family of five children.  They taught Kyler Spanish vocabulary, and he taught them English. Blanca also taught all of us to grind corn and to sift the flour, which was used to make tortillas and empanadas. We also shook quinoa seeds from the plant, washed the grains and spread them out to dry in the sun. We helped Blanca make quinoa/chicken soup that evening.

The Quechua guide, Jaime, took us on a nature hike in the highlands. Jaime pointed out several medicinal plants that are used by the community for natural remedies of common ailments, like diaper rash, aching muscles or torn ligaments.  Lou and Kyler also helped the Quechua men plow their fields. Our last evening there we had a Festival where a community band played and sang Quechua songs; and we all danced.  The Quechua women dressed the American women in their native skirts and embroidered tops.  The American men wore serapes.  The Quechua women sold their embroidered goods, and I was able to purchase several pieces of Blanca’s handiwork as gifts to take home and as a small token of our great appreciation for the hospitality shown us by this gracious, capable Quechua woman and mother.

Incidentally, I began the trip with an infected toe and needed to wear only very loose fitting shoes for comfort.  By the time I returned home, two weeks later, the infection was hardly felt and I was able to wear tight enclosed shoes.  I attributed this speedy healing to the fact that I was occasionally soaking the foot with bottled water poured into a plastic bag whenever possible. After walking through the jungle, I was pouring plant antibiotic (LDM_100) and blessed holy water over the infected toe, and last but not least, participating in Shamanic experiences conducted by renown shamans noted for their healing gifts.

Our grandson Kyler, who has always communed easily with animal spirits, was attracted to and held several dogs and chickens in the Quechua & Achuar communities.  I have several shots of him holding love birds, as well as various insects. As a part of this trip we also explored three days in the capital city of Quito, and visited the actual site of the equator.

I did much reflective writing while swinging in a hammock one afternoon at Tinkias. One of the quotes I recorded was that of an articulate Achuar shaman who was asked the question:   “What do you think about the visitors from the North coming to your territory?”  He responded that he liked our visits because we bring new ideas to them and we bring economic possibilities (with our eco-tourism).  And most importantly, we help them protect the rainforest from the oil companies that destroy the environment.  For us this trip has been the impetus to re-inspire and recommit our efforts to make a difference in honoring and preserving our natural world.  We have become profoundly aware of how we are all connected on planet earth. We understand that human’s role is not to dominate nature, but to be steward of the earth’s resources.  Humans are not the center of creation, but only one strand in the fabric of life. We are gifted with intelligence and must use it not for destruction of the earth for self service, but to protect and preserve Pachamama (Mother Earth). For only with cooperation will humankind and the planet survive and thrive.  If the planet does not survive neither will humankind.

Our trip was sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance which has a vision for a new model of alternative development based on respect for human rights and the rights of Nature, so that the wise indigenous people of the Amazon might attain the autonomous management of their own territories.  After this trip we are personally committed to using our energies to spread the dream of the Achuar people — which is that the people of the North awaken and change their dream of constant consumption of the earth’s resources, and to reflect on what it means to live a meaningful life on this earth.  And I would like to add that this does not mean going back to living as cave men. But it does mean that we must be aware of our lifestyle choices that impact the health of the planet and its people, and to do our part to live a lifestyle that is ecologically sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling for all who share life on this one beloved Planet Earth.

Editor’s note:  To learn more about Awakening the Dreamer, visit www.awakeningthedreamer.org and the Pachamama Alliance.  If you are interested in hosting an Awakening the Dreamer symposium, there are several trained facilitators in the Kansas City metro area.  Contact me at jchristensen10@kc.rr.com for information on the symposium and to contact facilitators.


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