Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poems and stories from another life - Part II - Moi

Part 4 of  4
story and photos by E.J. Brunton

All too soon it was time to leave. Our last night was spent lying on the plank floor of the school house in the village. But our adventure wasn’t over yet. We wanted to get an early start in the morning for the 9 hour trip by dugout canoe. Two of the men would pole us and our bulky loads downriver to a spot known only as "La Puente," - the bridge.

The morning was almost chilly as we made our way through the dripping vegetation down to the mist-shrouded Shiripuno. When the dugouts were loaded we were tucked in amongst our indispensables. My indispensables now included the shaman’s blowgun, poison darts and Moi’s spear. I couldn’t wait to get them home.

I sat quite rigidly at first, expecting to tip over at any moment. After a stiff jolt or two of the cane liquor our paddlers provided I got quite relaxed. I didn’t even mind the fact that the old milk jug they had it in looked a bit black and slimy inside. It went quite well with the turtle eggs that they dug up along the river bank at our lunch stop.

At the waters edge a crazy quilt of brilliant butterflies sucked up the moisture from the damp sand with their spring like proboscises. Cayman slid into the water as we passed and a huge anaconda dangled lazily from a tree branch. I settled back and let my fingers dabble until I remembered the piranha.

We spotted a bright-red tree, the Jesus tree. Huaoarani legend (with a liberal sprinkling of Missionary lore) says it was the first tree in the jungle from which all life had sprung.

Moi had shown us a special tree on one of our walks. He said that inside the bark was a cottony lining. A big flood came and all the animals got into a boat made out of this tree and were saved.

I found it sad that their own beliefs had become entangled with the Christian beliefs. I was angry at the arrogance of the missionaries who brought disease and shame to this Garden of Eden where there had been no word for evil.

I whiled away the hours alternately reading, glancing at the river bank vegetation or admiring the muscles of the men who unceasingly poled the dugout. We reached the bridge in the late afternoon and made our farewells. Declining our offer of a cool drink, after a 10 minute rest, the men started right back upriver. Their endurance was remarkable.

Once out on the road the coolness of the canopied river was replaced by a scorching sun. It soaked into the tarmac and waves of it reflected back to us. The smell of crude oil wrinkled our noses.

Across the road and for as far as I could see in either direction was a huge rusty pipe. Someone had stretched their laundry on it. ( The next photo is from the net and shows multiple oil pipes. There was only one large one that I sat on..briefly!)

 Not wanting to stand in the hot sun I went across to take a seat on it. I lowered my well-sat-upon buttocks slowly but rebounded immediately. It was scorching hot! Crude oil direct from the bowels of the earth was being pumped through it.

Not too many trucks were passing but finally we snagged one. Even with the tailgate lowered my nine foot spear and blowgun still hung over the edge. Once our gear was all in place I looked at my fellow passengers. There were several oil workers black and shiny from the field, Fridays pay in their pockets, all liquored up and itching to get to the whore houses dotted along the road. They dropped off one by one at their favorite spots. We two were the only women on the truck and were glad we had the boys (the guide and chauffeur from the Quito tour company) accompanying us. At least they would be on our side - we hoped.

At the next stop a man got on with a chicken. He set it on the floor and the poor thing dodged feet and was  thrown from one side of the truck to the other as the truck unsuccessfully swerved to avoid potholes. I picked it up and put it on my lap where it gratefully fell asleep.

It was no different in Coca. The town had an oily black sheen to it. Rainbow slicks formed on the puddles from a recent rain. We were lucky. We would only eat and catch a bus. How could anything survive here?

Moi said in his letter to Bill Clinton, then president of the United States, “The whole world must come and see how the Huaorani live well. We live with the spirit of the jaguar. We do not want to be civilized by your missionaries or killed by your oil companies. Must the jaguar die so that you can have more contamination and television?”

The end

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