Thursday, 15 August 2013

How to Become a Shaman

Hello Everyone,

This post is a little different to my others, but whilst flicking through my diary which I wrote during my travels, I found that I had written down the story which Delvine had told us about how to become a Shaman. It is a story which young training Shamans are told, about what to expect in the final stage, before they can become a real Shaman. I hope that you enjoy it!!

When and if you pass the trials, then you must learn all about the plants and animals of the Jungle. These are the most important things that you will learn in your training as, they will become your tools. After this, you must carry on to the final stage, where you will and must prove that you have what it takes to become a Shaman. You must get lost in the Jungle.

During this time, if you are ready and have what it takes you will come across a waterfall where a lady will be waiting for you. At the waterfall she will clean you and whisper words of love, and then take you through the waterfall to her father. On meeting her father she will say 'I love this man, and we are married' (You are married as you pass through the waterfall to meet her father) But, the father is not sure, and replies 'You may be married but, will you love him forever?' She will turn to you and say 'Yes'.

After the meeting with her father, and the declaration of the ladies love for you, you are allowed to spend two days, in this new world, that exists behind the waterfall. Here she will teach you new things which prepares you for life as a Shaman. But two days is a long time, and soon you become hungry. So she prepares you a meal to quench your hunger. She kills a small bird and adding vegetables she makes you a soup. But you must not eat the meal she has prepared, instead both you and the lady will feed off of the steam coming from the pot of food. When you are full and can 'eat' no more. She will remove the bird from the pot, which she killed  for the meal, and through touching the bird, its life returns and it flies off.

When the two days are over, the lady leaves you and returns through the waterfall, where she discovers that your family are looking for you, and believe you dead. On finding this out, she rushes back through to the new world, where you sit learning all these new and wonderful things, and announces that you must leave her and return to your world, where your family wait. However, when you leave, she forbids you from telling anyone about her, the waterfall or the new land. When you return, if you keep your promise of not telling anyone, then you will retain all the knowledge gained from her/the new world, and must start healing all of your people, because you are now a Shaman.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

My Amazon Jungle Homestay - Ecuador

Hello Blog Followers, Welcome to the land of Ernest, I hope that you enjoy the next few weeks, which will be packed full of adventure and surprise, as I fill you in, about my Quito to La Paz Tour. 

So to start... 

Welcome to Days 1-4, My Amazon Jungle Homestay!!!!

On May 28th, the morning after our introduction evening, where we met each other and our tour leader Gabriella, we were all up early for the bus ride to Tena, a small town just outside the Amazon Jungle, where we would meet Delvines Family (our host family) and be on our way into the largest rain forest in the world. 

The drive to Tena was long, but the landscapes we passed were truly 'breath taking', the way the clouds rose over the mountains and how small the villages looked in comparison to the hugeness of Quito - which as we left seemed never ending. 

(Although, at this point, I hadn't been in South America, for any length of time, the vibrancy of Ecuador and Peru was already so noticeable, even if just through nature.)
When we arrived in Tena, we all went to a supermarket, to buy food items for the local school, which we would also be supporting through our stay in the Jungle. 

In the afternoon, we went on two small hikes, with Delvine and his son. The first, was to a view point, where after looking through the never ending canopy, you could see the Napo river, which is one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon. It was incredible to see it, and be in the jungle, especially after studying it for so many years in Geography. The second hike was to a small river in the jungle where we all got mud masks. It was so much fun, and the evening finished perfectly, with me writing my diary by candlelight listening to the bugs clicking and the rain falling. 

May 29th, our first full day in the Jungle: My roommates and I, decided this morning that we would get up early and wash in the nearby river, it was really refreshing, and gave a small break from the humidity of the Jungle. After a lovely breakfast, we were all given a jungle headband and had a symbol painted onto our faces. My symbol represented 'the cycle'. The idea that everything that begins, must end, and will then be replaced/or start again. I thought that this idea was really lovely, and I, admittedly from this point on, became fascinated with their idea of Life, Death and a need to keep the balance. 

After we were all dressed ready to face the jungle, we started out for our cascada (waterfall) climbing trip. We climbed up 2 main waterfalls, both about 5 metres high. Rather than climbing up the other waterfalls, we used fallen trees which had been made into ladders, by cutting grooves into the length of them. The first waterfall we came to, we all climbed onto a ledge and stood beneath the water, the water was so heavy, it was crazy. On the way down, I slipped and fell, cutting my leg and bruising my bum, but looking back from the comfort of my new home, I realise how much worse it could have been. But at the time, the only positive of hurting myself, was that I got to try some jungle medicine. Using the sap of a tree, Delvine covered the cut, the sap worked as an antiseptic, plaster and glue. It was incredible, and by the time it washed off, the cut was healed. 

It is incredible to think what the jungle contains. We went on a nature walk that afternoon, and it just proved how blind I had been whilst walking around, to me it just looked  like a lot of greenery, but to Delvines Family and many many like them, the Jungle is a hive of food, medicine and organic material. There are branches which when broken down and plaited can be used as rope strong enough to hold houses together, leaves that when weaved together can create watertight roofs. Then there are Aloe Vera plants, root vegetables, cinnamon trees, Palm trees that move, poisons which help catch fish when dropped in the water, bark from a tree which when bitten causes numbing so is used in dental practices, and rubber trees which weep rubber when cut. Out of all the days in the Jungle, today was the day that really opened my eyes. It was incredible. 

May 30th: our last full day in the Amazon Jungle. Today we visited the school, which at the beginning of our stay; we had brought all the food for. Delvine's wife is the only teacher at the school and teaches a range of grades and ages in one class. She has been teaching for many years and her main aim is that all children get an education and therefore have the knowledge to expand their horizons. Before we left, she explained how due to decreasing numbers of children coming to the school, as people having the next generation of children, have moved into cities rather than staying in the jungle, has led to her numbers dropping, and if her numbers drop below 6 the school will be shut down as the government won't keep it open and the children left will have to travel for anything up to 3 hours to get to and from another school each day. That is awful, and we all left with a huge amount of respect for Delvine's wife. The afternoon we spent swimming in some natural springs before returning to make CHOCOLATE!! It was delicious and we made it from scratch, from cooking the beans, to pealing the shells, grinding the beans, cooking with the milk and then serving with fresh fruit. Yum!!!
Playing football at the school

The walk to the natural springs

Making Chocolate

That evening whilst we sat around eating our chocolate, Delvine taught us all about the Jungle way of life and how you can become a Shaman. It starts off so young, 3-5 years old, where they will put you through a series of trials to see if you are right for the training. The trials can be anything from putting chillies in their eyes to making them drink tobacco tea through their nose. The trails finish when they are 10 and they are ready for training, and their final task. This is where they have to walk alone in the Jungle, until they find their path and are told that they are ready to return and be a Shaman. It was incredible and something that Delvines family believes in very strongly, but can see through their own children, start to disappear, as they have more contact with the outside world. 

Recreating a jungle wedding

The last evening in the Jungle was beautiful, it rained so heavily, and along with the Thunder and lightning it created such a mysterious atmosphere. 

I hope that you enjoyed reading about my Jungle Adventure, and if you are wondering where day 1 went, seeing as I have only recorded 3 days in the Jungle. Day 1 was spent in Quito meeting my new group and exploring. I got to stand on the Equator, and visit the beautiful old town. The pictures below are all of that first day in Quito. Until Next time... 


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Blogging in Ernest

Hi Blog Followers!!!

Just a really short blog, to let you know that I am back from my South American adventure, I had an AMAZING time, but whilst I was away my Mum moved (its taken me several days to track her down!!! ) and we still are with out the world wide web, soooo...  as soon as we are all reconnected, I will be blogging in ernest. (If you've never been to ernest, its a very nice place)

A taste of things to come - me with a Llama at Machu Picchu!!


Monday, 27 May 2013

The Galapagos Adventure - Jatun Sacha

Hello Hello Hello

I hope that you are all well, and thought, seeing as I have a free evening here in the wonderful city of Quito, that I would allow you to indulge on the start of "My Big Adventure".

I have now been gone just over a week, which means that my Galapagos days are over, and that I have a day and a half until I start on my new adventure - my 35 day tour from Quito to La Paz.

On May 19th, I flew from Quito airport to Guayaquil, and from there to San Cristobal.

Arriving at San Cristobal Airport - I was finally there. 

After arriving at the airport I was met by a lady called Lydia, who is one of the owners of the project I am working for called Jatun Sachu. The main aim of the project is to remove invasive species of plant which have been brought to the island over a period of years, the main plant type we worked on is called Maura. (It looks a bit like a raspberry bush.) The problem with maura is that it grows up and around already existing and usually endemic trees, strangling and killing them. This has therefore led to a huge decrease in San Cristobals endemic plant species on the island, which has huge effects on the Islands wildlife. Using machetes we cut down the Maura, creating space for endemic species of plants to be planted or as in the case at Galapaguera, another area of the island I work at,  place to start growing coco, so that the island can start making its own chocolate. Over the course of the week, I made some amazing friends, and was really sad when I had to leave, but new adventures, now await.

Aside from the voluntary work, there was also opportunities to go out and explore/discover the famous Galapagos' coastal areas and famous array of animals. During my time on San Cristobal, I was lucky enought to see Giant Tortoises, snorkel with sea lions, swim with turtles and see hundreds of new types of birds, from small yellow finches, to huge pelicans and Frigit birds.

A Sea Lion Pup
A Giant Tortoise
On 23rd May, we got the opportunity to to walk to one of the coastal areas near Jatun Sacha, it was just breath taking, the sounds of the waves as it hit the black volcanic rock cliffs, was just something I never imagined I´d see outside of a David Attenborough documentary.

The last week has been better than I ever imagined, and I feel it has been a real privilege to have had the opportunity to experience what I have.

I hope to log in sometime before I go home, but if i don´t get the opportunity, have a wonderful 6 weeks, and be prepared for a lot of blogging when I return.


ANNND..... because I took sooo many photos and not all of them will fit into the text in my blog, gaze below for some more..... I hope you like them!!!

One of Darwin's Finches

A Giant Tortoise

Me at Galapaguera with the Giant Tortoises

San Cristobal Island

Me on the Coast, on the "David Attenborough Walk"

Sea Lions taking over the small town of San Cristobal

Sea Lions love to snuggle

Kicker Rock, where I went snorkeling 

Me with the Sea Lions, on my last night on the Island.