The Dawn on the Amazon Jungle Cabin on the outskirts of Llanchama Village.
We look forward to getting away from the city to work and play at our Jungle Cabin on the outskirts of the village of Llanchama, (pronounced janchama). No tourists were there for the weekend so we invited Marmelita’s extended family to join us. I think 24 relatives were there Saturday and 20 spent the night and stayed and played most of Sunday.
We don’t call it a lodge. That is too grand a description. It is more like a fishing cabin on the Wabash River back home in Indiana than a lodge. We have two bed rooms with 2 bunk beds in each room. Our maximum group size for tourists and travelers is 8. Like all of our tours, cruises, and services, we only use purified water for cooking, drinking, and rinsing fruits and vegetables. We charge $104.50 per person per day, and provide a remarkable experience.
Our Jungle Cabin is similar to most of the other native cabins in the village except we have more blooming bushes and fruit trees than the others, and by far the nicest outhouse and water spring for bathing.
We never know what our experience in Llanchama Village will be. It is something different each time we visit. This article is specifically an account of last weekend, January 9th and 10th. If you go there next weekend, “your mileage may vary”.
We packed our bags, cleaned up last minute emails and business, paid the Dawn on the Amazon crew, loaded up in Guido’s motocarro, and headed out. First we stopped on the way and bought 4 hibiscus, 3 bridal bouquet, and a pink Baston del Emperador blooming bushes. Then we had to stop at the Amazon Golf Course to pay the grounds crew but that was no big delay because it is on the same road to Llanchama.
Then we stopped at Arapaima Gigas to eat lunch, but that was no big delay because it is only 1000 meters past the Amazon Golf Course on the same road, headed the same direction to Llanchama. I enjoyed my fresh paiche ceviche, Marmelita and Guido got the sabalo fish cooked on the charcoal grill. After our delicious lunch, we turned left at the bottom of the lane and headed west toward Zungarococha, Nina Rumi, and on to Llanchama.
We were lucky the road was passable all the way and we arrived at the cabin at 2:00pm. Most of Marmelita’s family were already there when we arrived.
Marmelita and I walked all around examining everything. Part of our goal for the weekend was to organize a work force to replace the thatch roof with a new one, to line our fresh water spring with sand bags, landscape our yard, and repair the fence.
We were disappointed, again, that our caretaker hadn’t done a better job of maintenance. Gossip travels fast in a small village so our previous caretaker saved face by resigning. That’s fine, firing one of my crew is the worst part of being the boss. I get attached. We are more like family. But I expect a lot, and everyone has to be pretty remarkable or I will find someone that is. Everyone knows that.
The first thing we did was hire a new caretaker from the village. Louisa worked on our boat once and made a good impression with her hard work and good attitude. I think she will be a big improvement.
Then Marmelita and Guido got right to work landscaping our new plants into the yard, including 8 small crotons we started as cuttings from our house plants. A few of Marmelita’s family helped with the landscaping, others were cleaning the cabin, and cooking dinner over the wood and charcoal summer kitchen fire pit.
The young family members started a volleyball game with the neighborhood athletes, and soon the place was abuzz with activity, both work and play.
I went to the back yard and found a secluded quiet place to sit and watch nature. It wasn’t long before a 5 or 6 inch brown lizard came out of hiding and hunted insects on a dead branch. Four small parrots, 2 Black Cara-caras, and 3 chicken hawks flew over, then a green lizard hunted insects on an Aguaje branch. That lizard could puff up it’s throat real big. It was good to get out of the city.
Marmelita came out and found me just before dark. We strolled back to the cabin to make the beds before we lost the last of the light. Marmelita’s mom, Filo, filled and lit the five kerosene lamps, while her cousin Nora cooked a sweet milky, rice and tapioca drink, called mingado. A neighbor brought over fresh fish. Filo fried them. Marmelita chopped up tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers, with the fried fish, and mingado, made an excellent jungle meal for 20 hungry people.
There was much conversation, joking, and laughing all around the table as we cleaned up from the meal. I went to bed early, around, 9:30, but Filo and Lupa went out to a village bar and partied until around 1:30am.
I got up at first light around 5:30am and used the best outhouse in Llanchama. It has a flush toilet, plenty of toilet paper, a sink, soap, towel, and mirror. Of course the toilet, and sink water comes from a bucket.
I cleaned up and crawled back in bed for a few minutes.There was a flurry of activity getting everything cleaned, the fire built up, and the kettle put on to boil the purified water for coffee and tea. I timed it just right, and climbed back out of bed in time for the coffee.
I sat out on the porch sipping my coffee and discovered one of the new hibiscus bushes only had a dozen leaves left on it. Life is tough in the jungle. Only the most adaptive survive.
Speaking of survival, as I was sitting on the porch drinking my second cup of coffee, 5 rifle shots rang out, maybe 1,000 meters from the cabin, followed in quick succession by 5 more rifle shots. We found out later the 1st set of 5 shots bagged a 25 pound majas, a nocturnal fruit eating rodent, considered to be the best meat in the jungle. The second volley brought down a 300 pound tapir, a mammal related to rhinoceroses and horses, and also prized for it’s meat by the natives.
At 6:45, three Duski Titi monkeys were heard calling and were spotted jumping from branch to branch, putting on a show for us in the back yard, right where I was sitting enjoying nature the evening before.
Our neighbors are great subsistence hunters, fishers, and gardeners. One common survival trick is to bait a noose trap with yuca to catch a special type of edible rat, the Green Acouchy. One of our closest and favorite neighbors came over and gave us two of the little rodents cleaned and ready to cook, with half a dozen fazaco fish. Truthfully none of those are my favorites, more survival food than a delicacy, but since we had over 20 hungry relatives to feed, we gratefully accepted his offer. The Green Acouchy is also known as the “cuy of the jungle.” Cuy are an edible domesticated livestock raised in the Andes for meat, which happens to be a rodent you might know better as guniea pig.
Do you remember the research Farley Mowat did on the wolf in Alaska. He wrote a great book and a movie was made called Never Cry Wolf. After observing wolves stalking and killing dozens of rats every day he realized that rodents were their primary diet, not the reindeer as most less observant people thought. Knowing government officials, hunters, other scientists, and the general public would be skeptical, and because his food supply was running low, he started trapping the rodents and eating them himself. He lost weight, and his health went bad. He had a flash of understanding. His problem was caused by poor nutrition because he was cleaning the carcass by gutting it. As soon as he started eating the liver, heart, and the partially digested contents of the stomach and intestines, he put weight on and regained his health.
My point is the natives here already know that, as you can see from the photo I took of the two little “ratoon” carcasses we were given, which contain nearly all of the organs, ready to eat.
We sent Lita out in the other direction and she found another neighbor with better fish to eat.
We have some of the best lime fruit I have ever eaten anywhere, and a lot of wild charapita hot peppers. We brought fresh basil, cilantro, ripe tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, ginger, potatoes, rice, tapioca, salt and sugar with us from Iquitos.
That second morning, Marmelita planted the two new citrus, and the jungle apple pomarosa saplings in the back yard. We used the extra two bags of compost to mulch the other citrus, banana, copoazu, huasai, and other fruit and palm trees.
It started sprinkling rain after the trees were planted and mulched. The sprinkles and clouds kept the temperature down to a comfortable level, and it wasn’t long before the volleyball games resumed.
Around 10:00am another neighbor brought a haunch of the majas, and some good fish, another neighbor brought a piece of tapir tenderloin. Another villager brought over a big stringer of around 20 racta-cara, and yaraqui, some of the best fish in the lake. That was more like it. No more fasaco or rats thank you. We improved beyond survival food into the realm of jungle delicacies. We had a feast.
Marmelita cooked the fresh majas in a delicious stew over the open fire. Nora cooked the Tapir tenderloin over the coals. The fish was cooked four ways, depending on the best way to prepare each species, soup, directly on the grill over the coals, fried, and/or wrapped in Bijao leaves from the back yard, and steamed in their own juices, with cilantro, and sweet peppers my favorite. Very few people in the world ate better than our crowd of 20 hungry guests. We lived off what the fat the land provided, more like how the natives lived 200 years ago than how you probably live in the civilized world today.
We put the word out when we first arrived that we wanted to replace our thatch roof. One roof thatcher brought 80 sticks with the palm thatch woven on, and promised another 20 sticks on Monday. Edwardo brought 50 sticks of thatch, with more promised early in the week. The going rate is S/ 150 soles for 1oo high quality sticks of thatch. We probably need around 300 sticks of thatch, or S/ 450.
We made arrangements to line the spring with sandbags. It will be more like a comfortable outdoor bathtub. Marmelita’s Mom Filo stayed to supervise the work. She would stay at the Jungle Cabin nearly all of the time if she could. She loves it there. So do we.
Before we left, Marmelita picked a beautiful bouquet to bring back to the Dawn on the Amazon Explorers Club office.
We had a very difficult time getting back to Iquitos. The left rear wheel bearing went out of Guido’s motocarro. The wheel locked up many times. He stopped and took it apart 5 or 6 times. Each time it got hotter. He/we were very frustrated, but we made it home. Instead of taking an hour and a half it took four hours.
On the way back we were lucky to stop in three interesting places. The university’s agricultural and forestry department is on the road to our Jungle Cabin.
We were thankful to arrive back at the Amazon Golf Course well after dark. Fortunately Rodrigo had an extra rear wheel and chain that only needed a small modification to fit Guido’s motocarro. After that, everything was easy.
Our work and play getaway to our Jungle Cabin for the weekend went well. We accomplished our work goals and it was a fun family gathering. I hope we can go back soon. I never even told you about the best part of going to our Jungle Cabin, and never even took a photo of the beautiful lake with the rainforest island in the middle and the narrow channel connecting the lake to the Nanay River. I love that lake, the island and the river. Next time I will tell you all about that part. I guess it will be titled the Dawn on the Amazon Jungle Cabin, Part Two, Overlooking The Lake, Island, And River. Or something like that.
Maybe you will want to join us for Part Two? Let me know.
The Dawn on the Amazon Jungle Cabin, on the outskirts of Llanchama village.
Bill Grimes is president of the Dawn on the Amazon Jungle Cabin. Click the link to learn more.