In the Jungle, the Mighty Venezuelan Jungle

7 04 2009

“As my eyes adjusted in the dark I heard the howling of a monkey in the distance. While the rest of us was trying to sleep, the forest was wide awake.”

A sudden startling jolt woke most of the terrified German passengers aboard the small rickety-shacked plane. I looked behind me to find my new found friend Vladimir asleep while half of the passengers clung on to anything for dear life even though from the looks of the interior and exterior of the aircraft, it could rip into pieces anytime in midair. I had met Vladimir that morning, very early that morning when the van had picked me up from my hotel at half past five, to bring us to the airport and fly on a trip to Orinoco Delta. We later introduced ourselves in broken Spanish our backgrounds. Why were we here? What brought us to Venezuela and brave exploring Orinoco Delta? I found out that Vladimir is a Russian travel photographer on to his next mission to capture the beauty of Venezuela, while I on the other hand was just looking for my next adventure. At that moment, I decided I will try to sponge any knowledge dear Vladimr will throw my way.

The plane flew over the thick fresh swamp forest, a lavish of endless green, while rivers snaked through the jungle below us. I looked out my window and sighed in awe. Orinoco Delta, I thought, what wonders will I endure out of this? It may not be the Amazon (which someday, I hope to experience as well) but I felt giddy-up inside nonetheless. Along with thirteen other German tourists, the group was completed by Vladimir and a Canadian (yours truly) and our heavy smoker female tour guide. It took about an hour for us to finally land on our destination, but having no watch around me my calculation on the length of the time we flew could be wrong. Let’s just say an hour. We landed at Tupacapina on one of the most isolated airports you can ever place on earth, then greeted by the extreme heat as we board off the plane and carry our backpacks to a boat that awaited us on a nearby river. At this point was when the bad news really hit me. Having thirteen Germans on the tour I had booked I should have had read the red flag that told me that this tour was going to be not in English – but in German. Oh did the excitement start as instructions were directed and I committed to not show my clueless face to anyone but just play along to any activity, they begin and then I follow – was what to become my routine. Also my routine, was to pay attention to our local guide, Li, who would give me instructions en Español (and my rusty Spanish was put to test the next couple of days).

As the boat wound and cruised the freshwater river, mangroves, giant water lilies, coconut and banana trees, and an abundance of flora and fauna whizzed by us. There were no roads in Orinoco Delta, the only way to get around was by boat. Locals raced us with their engine-run canoes as they hurried back to their villages. Every now and then at a corner of the forest welcomed us with locals doing their daily chores – whether washing their clothes, fishing, children playing and adults watching over them – they stopped to wave at the boat filled with tourists to welcome. The Waraos (which translates to ‘boat people’) are the Indigenous people of Northern Venezuela who are the inhabitants of Orinoco Delta. Their houses were modest, simply described as colourful boxes with windows on each side of the wall and roofs mounted on top. And in every village we passed seemed to have a large hut with no walls, lined with hammocks and where most of the locals could be found, which is actually a typical Warao hut where most natives lived or gathered. Moments passed and Li tapped my back and pointed straight ahead telling me we were almost at our destination. I squinted my eyes trying to peer on what was at the end of the rio and saw beautifully built huts ahead of us. As we approached closer to the location, I gasped in awe along with the German tourists bedazzled by our humble accommodations.

  

 

“As the boat drifted in pitch dark silence came upon the boat. Nothing could be heard from any one of us, we were all sitting under a million stars tuned to mother nature’s own concerto.”

 

Going alone on this trip had its advantage, I had a lodge to myself! They were lined up along a catwalk and semi-hidden behind the lush greenery. Local birds named Papagayos squawked around us, other birds tweeted, and some occasional howling from tree monkeys while bugs and insects chirped behind the leaves which rustled carefully in the wind created a beautiful symphony. My lodge was at the end of the catwalk, number 16 it said. It had an open space concept windows around it with screens to keep the insects and unwanted animals (such as snakes, yikes!) out. It had two double beds and a small side table attached to the wall completed with one light bulb that illuminated the entire lodge up to the bathroom located on the back. And the most important addition to all was the hammock that sent a big grin on my face, I decided I was going to sleep on the hammock that night.

The rest of the day was spent hiking in the forest, spotting for local wild animals, piranha fishing, drinking a few shots of rum on the lancha (which I wasn’t keen upon doing, piranha fishing and drinking… Hmm…fun nonetheless), visiting a local Warao village, and ending it with watching the sunset. I thought, life was good.

The Waraos are very simple group of people. While the outside and more developed world fell into the depression due to recession, they just casually live their life like how it’s supposed to be. I felt a little jealous of the children I have met in the Warao village, they were happy to see us. As one child approached me with his curious eyes, I decided I did not want to take photos of these people. They were not going to smile for me so I could come home and show my friends and family to boast my photography skills. While the rest of the German tourists (and Vladimir) enjoyed taking photos upon photos of these simple people, I turned mine off. A small Warao child looked at me with adoration that just made me smile. I admit, I found this kid really cute that made me want to pull an Angelina Jolie adoption. As I played with this little boy, I offered to him my hat. Some of the elderly locals giggles and adored his look while he on the other hand stared at everyone in puzzlement. Such simple joys these people have, it didn’t take so much to put a smile on their faces. I envied them. One of the German ladies pulled out a bag of candies and started giving it away to the little children and they smiled even more. Simple sweets for cute little smiles, oh I was melting in adoration, I wish I had done the same.

After dinner later that evening, the tour went on a nocturnal Cayman tour. We were instructed that we had to remain quiet to not scare the Caymans off, and even the boat stealthy cruised the river in the dark. It was an endless search for these creatures and to our dismay we did not find one. However, we did spot a couple of tree snakes. To those who would pass on such an adventure, it would have been their loss. The best part of the nocturnal tour wasn’t even the search for nocturnal animals. About half an hour to the tour, Li turned off the motor and our other guide Alejandro turned off his lamp. As the boat drifted in pitch dark silence came upon the boat. Nothing could be heard from any one of us, we were all sitting under a million stars to mother nature’s own concerto. The sky was filled with twinkles due to the lack of light pollution. It was so clear that we saw two comets in the sky. How amazing and beautiful the sky would be if we didn’t blind it with city lights and actually try to count how much stars we’d see? Frogs croaked, bugs chirped, a harmony of the animals in the forest howled, and the sound of the river flowing made a romantic scene. I could not stop myself from uttering ‘wow’ in disbelief. But alas, it was broken by the engine veering taking us back to our lodge.

I woke up in my hammock in the middle of the night, it may have been such a bad idea after all sleeping on it. As my eyes adjusted in the dark I heard the howling of a monkey in the distance. While the rest of us was trying to sleep, the forest was wide awake. I heard other animals that I haven’t heard earlier that day, the nocturnes now roamed the forest. I slowly moved to the bed hoping to get a decent sleep. As beautiful as the jungle sounded, I was determined that if I had a snooze button to quiet down the noise I would have. The stretch of that night was spent waking up in some intervals, lay wide awake and fall lightly asleep again. There were times that I pictured a snake slithering on my feet and I’d scream bloody mary (or in any funny case, one of the German ladies would scream as a snake slither on her feet). Because of the open concept, I was adamant on feeling violated that someone outside was watching me sleep. I’d hear twigs cracking or light footsteps outside my lodge but I carefully just reminded myself that I was tired and imagined things.

Soon enough I realized the sky was lighting up again and there was no way I can fall properly to sleep that I grabbed my camera and followed one of the lessons I have read from some Travel Photography 101 that waking up early in the morning to catch the crack of dawn had its gifts. The air was still chilly and the nocturnal noises had recessed. I sat by the river watching water plants drift by me. It wasn’t long enough until the monkeys started to wake up along with the rest of the animals. It was time for everyone to wake up. It was like somebody had cranked up the volume slowly that the sounds and noises got louder and louder as the sun slowly rose too, Orinoco Delta was coming alive again. Footsteps were heard from behind me as some of the German tourists started waking up as well greeting me good morning. A flock of Papagayos flew above me crossing the river. I was dying to have my morning coffee, I may have not gotten a proper sleep but I did love every second of my night as annoying as it was. I’d listen to it over and over again. As I entered the restaurant, our guide was already having her morning coffee.

‘Buenos dias,’ she said.

Buenos dias indeed.

All photos taken by me.
Orinoco Bujana Lodge information click here

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4 responses

7 04 2009
Topics about Animals » Archive » In the Jungle, the Mighty Venezuelan Jungle

[…] The Vibe – The World According to SocialVibe added an interesting post today on In the Jungle, the Mighty Venezuelan Jungle Here’s a small readingIt had an open space concept windows around it with screens to keep the insects out and unwanted animals (such as snakes, yikes!) out. […]

7 04 2009
Topics about Plants » Archive » In the Jungle, the Mighty Venezuelan Jungle

[…] info@ecologicalinternet.org (Business Green: Andrew Donoghue) created an interesting post today on In the Jungle, the Mighty Venezuelan Jungle Here’s a short outlineThe air was still chilly and the nocturnal noises had recessed. I sat by the river watching water plants drift by me. […]

16 04 2009
Scrambler

Good post – Felt a bit like we were all traveling alongside you – nice work.
We are planning on visiting Venezuela soon, so will grab some tips from you!
Keep sharing your adventures with us all. Cheers,
Sx

25 10 2013
livlophotography

Ash, this is such a beautiful journey that you had! Thank you for sharing your experience with us online. I totally felt like I was right there next to you in that beautiful nature!

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