Sunday, July 28, 2019

Grubs, Worms, Ants, Ants, Ants

Chapter 23 of 25 -- Head Hunters of the Amazon
The Morona

Ambusha left the expedition at the end of the last chapter. The explorers were down to four. And they went on, paddling and poling their way on rivers for about 90 days. The first 60 were on the Morona, which overflows its banks intermittently over the first six months of the year. Its depth varies depending on the local rainfall.

There's lots of semi-stagnant arms of the river that drain the marshes all around. It is something like a great swampy maze. It makes for difficult traveling by canoe. But there were no natives around to guard against, the biggest enemy being ants. You can't sit down in the woods or even stand in one place for long without being overrun by ants, from almost invisible red dwarfs to giant Alligator Ants, the biggest ant in the world (1¼ inch). You wake up at night with your camp is alive with them. The book has nearly three pages devoted to ants.

Then there's grubs, worms, caterpillars, toads, frogs, lizards, and even rats out there doing their thing. Seriously, there's enough nastiness to make you promise yourself and your loved ones that you'll never go there. And if you do, you declare that you're willingly taking your life in your own hands and hold everyone else harmless as far as blame. But if you come back, we expect souvenirs.  And we're not talking shrunken heads.

After 60 days paddling they had gone around 300 miles. Now jaguars were numerous, and in the river splashing about after fish. The team passed into the Cusalina, en route for Macas. A few weeks on the Cualina, they came to a portage trail that led to the Santiago. They went through an unexplored zone. The sole representative of civilization they found was an old Ecuadorian half-breed and his family. He lived in perfect contentment. They bargained with him to help them transport their things across country about 15-20 miles in exchange for their big canoe. 

In the area they also came to a place that had a small population, a priest -- the rest being away on errands of mercy and church business -- and a few renegade Jivaros. The priest was lord and master of the area and wasn't pleased to see the explorers. But he cheered up when they told him they weren't staying. Nope, he's on his own. Doing whatever. And that's just the way he likes it!

I'm letting the rest of the chapter go, except at the end it was April 1900 and they met a guy named Don Juan Ramirez. He changed their plans.

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