2011 Donor Peru Trip
by Audrey Bennett of Antisuyu
The plane ride from Cusco into Puerto Maldonado was sad and eye opening as to the devestation of the rainforest and the amount of land lost to those seeking to "use" the land for their purposes. The first picture is what I saw: patchwork of cleared land and swatches of jungle. Even that jungle land is not like the sweetness of the untouched jungle that has no imprint of human catastrophy. It is manipulated as well. There were acres and acres of land being burned as a means of controlling the plants which are not desired. Some of the same fields and open spaces continued to burn for the entire time we were in the jungle. On the way back to Puerto Maldonado the same land was still smoldering. I felt deep sorrow in my heart and being. Mother jungle is dying day by day, clearing by clearing. In the midst of the westernization underway even the town markets are strewn with plastic made and manufactured items in the plenty and the traditional stores outnumbered 30 to 1. As I met others from THOTH who were invested in preserving this majestic land I finally felt connected. We met and had a lovely dinner together before leaving the following day to go to Las Pierdras. Photo: Inflight over Peru
The journey began with stacked luggage on top of our travel van enclosed by net. This was desperately needed to keep it all on there. The drivers had some touch terrain to conquer. We had to take a ferry to cross the river (car aboard), this river has used boat transfers since it can remember, now they have built a bridge which will handle the increasing traffic into the area. However, the bridge will also make the boat transfers obsolete. Another foot print of convenience, yet devastation to the culture economically taking jobs away from the local people. Once we crossed here, we began a ride further toward Las Pierdras. Cindy iMir-Quesada nformed us that 2 years ago, this paved road did not exist. The way of travel then was boat all day. We traveled 2 hours by highway before shifting onto a dirt road for another couple of hours. Along the way more clear cut land was witnessed and trees burnt in the middle of a field. When we could go no further, we were met by a boat which took us on the Las Piedras River right to the sancuary. Photo: Boat trip on Las Piedras River
It was a breath of humblness to see finally the raw untouched old growth jungle on either side of us. We saw some Capybara drinking at the river. These are the largest land rodents in the world. Everything is big in the jungle. Big and beautiful. We arrived at a sand stairway which took us up to a landing and then sand and bamboo steps up further. Finally arriving at Las Pierdras Ecolodge, a serene open aired thatched roofed hub which sweetly held our lodging rooms, open porch where we ate communally, and had our ceremonies, and cook house. Photo: Cabybara by the river
We were well taken care of and ate wonderfully made fresh meals every day by Gloria and Deanna. She and her family Jose and our nature guide Ines also assisted us. Jose was our boatman on the Las Piedras river. Ines was our hiking guide. She is a very conscious young woman decended from this lands first nations people. She carries the love of the jungle in her heart and thourougly enjoys sharing it with others. She showed us how she tracks the animals in the area, refining the dirt along the path in an area and then smoothing it over with her machete. The following day she returns to see what type of prints show up identifying the types of animals in the area. On one particular day we saw a jaguar print in the sand! Photo: Gloria and Valerie Kausen
We were purified by the waterfall, and felt the raw cleansing of this sacred place in Las Piedras. The cleansing prepared us for the evening ceremony with don Ignacio and Robin Van Loon. Prior to the ceremony Kim Hughes and I had the privlege to gather all organic altar items from the jungle. It was as if we were seeking treasures of antiquity. These were the same treasures the first nations people before us gatherd and adored. As we left tobacco in Ayni (exchange) and respect we purposely asked the jungle to allow us sacred items for the altar. Don Oscar found the most amazing candle holders made from tree leaves-they served as the light holders for the 4 corners of the altar. Kim found butterfly wings so blue and irredescent!
In sacred ceremony we gathered and through age-old preparation and ritual we participated in ceremony together. We held each other in great reverence as we were taken into the spiritual realms by the plant rattlings and the icaros (spirit songs) Robin and Oscar so graciously performed. The following morning I was refreshed so much that I did my laundry at dawn smiling like I had not smiled as long as I can remember. I was happy to look for lizards as I hung out my laundry to dry on the line.
In the days to follow we went to see the Macaws (beautiful birds) at the clay lick, Oscar took people to the Mammal watering hole, and I accompanied Rebecca who made offerings to the great trees in a personal ceremony. As we went to find Eric (caretaker of the land) he was working with Jose cutting a tree. He walked up to us with a bright green Tree Boa wrapped around his arm as if he does this all the time!
What an honor to see so many divine sights: Habanero beans growing and picking them up, Macaw feathers on the ground, Wolly monkeys skating across the canopy, and the most amazing sight I will never forget: The Milky Way-- which you can see ALL of amongst millions of other stars and constellations. We sat for hours on the outside walkway near our rooms talking and noticing what was above in awe and childlike giddiness for the "first time" finding these treasures of nature.
Here I was connected to the land, to the water, to the people and to the ever presence of the sorrow of what has been lost, yet greater desire to continue what our diligent leaders at THOTH have begun, to preserve this disappearing land and hold it in sacred community as it was meant to be held. I am forever grateful to the great work Oscar, Cindy and the board members painstakingly perform with fervrent passion. I read that 97% of Jaguars have disappeared from the earth. I want to preserve those 3%! Photo: audrey Bennet preparing a bouquet for the altar
I will do whatever is in my power to hold this land in respectful preservation. Collectively we can do it and only collectively. The time is now the need is great. If for some reason you look for me and can't find me, I'll be in Las Piedras, at least my heart will be.