Week 2: The Amazon


Wow. Just wow. La selva is so beautiful. It’s hard to capture that beauty on film. It has to be an immersive experience. You have to jump in and feel the cool river water on your skin, squish your boots into the muddy swamp, and hold a frog on your fingertips. You have to see the red streaks of bromeliads poking out of trees, the orange sun reflecting over the water, the yellow chest of a flycatcher fluttering by, and the infinite shades of green that dominate the landscape. You have to smell the sweetness of the natural mosquito repellant created by fire ants, as well as the awful stench left behind from wild boars taking a bath in a pool of muddy water. You have to hear the monkeys howling, the birds squawking, and the rain plunking down in big, solid, unforgiving drops. It’s incredible.

On the river, we found quite a few animals: anacondas, yellow flycatchers, bats (hidden on the underside of logs), and squirrel monkeys.amazon week 21.jpg

We also saw pink dolphins (which really don’t photograph well at all) and four other types of monkeys (I even got to see woolly monkeys swinging on vines). I saw and heard so many different types of birds that I can’t even remember their names, but definitely macaws, toucans, and stinky turkeys (which are loud and smelly).

Some night time finds: opossum (hanging out above the kitchen), big scorpion spider, frog, and white caiman.

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Some nocturnal insects (and apparently some kind of nest a larvae was hanging out in).

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One of the highlights for me was making cassave in the nearby Siona village. Cassave is bread made from the root of the yucca plant (also known as cassava and manioc in other places). To make the bread you peel off the outer layer of the root, grate the root into tiny pieces, squeeze all the water out of those pieces, and then push them through a sieve. Then you just put the small, dried pieces of yucca on a hot stone and push it down with your hand as it cooks. After smoothing it out with the bottom of a bowl, you flip it over and cook the other side. The cassave tasted great and I couldn’t believe that it didn’t require any additional ingredients, it just kind of melted together. Yum! Also, Maria was kind enough to let me make the last one.

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I’ll leave you with some beautiful views from my time there: hiking through a swamp forest, macrolobial trees in Lagunda Grande, boats on the river near the Siona village, and a beautiful sunset on the lake.

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6 thoughts on “Week 2: The Amazon

  1. Anand Sarwate says:

    So cassava is a ton of work and if you don’t do it right you get poisoned right? So how on earth did humans figure out this laborious process would work? Of course with modern tropes I have this image of a lone inventor laboring over the process and repeatedly getting sick until they get it just right, but… that can’t be how it worked. So how did it?


    • Amber says:

      Actually, you just have to peel the outside off and cook the inside which doesn’t actually seem like that intensive of a process. Usually folks grind it up in some fashion, but this isn’t necessary. Someone had to first pull up the plant to get to the roots, that is the person I want to talk to. 😊 Also, boba is made of cassava, so let’s also figure out that story of invention.


  2. Emily says:

    Beautifully written! Love how you make me feel like I’m right there experiencing this journey with you. Gonna start calling you Amber B. Lancaster. The B is for Bourdain. Carry on!

    Liked by 1 person

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