Sunday, April 15, 2007

19 Hours to Take Off

It's 4 PM, Texas time. I've got a plane to catch at 11 AM tomorrow morning that'll get me to Miami in time for the Lima, Peru flight at 5:35. Then it's sitting in the airport from midnight till 5:45 AM for the flight to Iquitos. I'll be there, in the biggest city in the western Amazon before 8 and back in my old hotel room at the Hotel Isabel before breakfast.
I'm headed out to take a small group into the deep jungle for a little while. We'll do overnight riverboats packed tighter than a Mexican bus, night canoeing on a river where there is an occasional 15 foot anaconda and more frequent, though smaller, caiman. There will be hiking in primary jungle, swinging from 80 foot vines, having the Matses blow snuff (nu-nu) up our noses and burning our arms to apply frog-sweat medicine into our subcutaneous skin layers. We'll eat piranha and wild boar or anything else the locals try to sell us because you've got to contribute to the local economy even if you don't particularly lust after wild boar. There might even be a large grub worm or two (suri) or termites we can fry up. And there will be breadfruit and wild purple potatoes, and plantains and yucca we might dig up. There will certainly be some yerba louisa (lemon-lime) and mandarin orange tea we'll make after collecting the herbs and leaves.
And then there will be medicine. Ayahuasca the way it's been done for a long time down in that part of the world. Good medicine that's helped those people stay alive and strong for thousands of years.
So there will be medicine and magic and I'll bet by now my guests, who will join me on Saturday morning, the 21 of April, are beginning to get just a little jittery now that the time is close. I wonder if they're wondering what the hell they've signed up for. Except for one, none of them know me. Yet they somehow trust that I can take them 200 hundred-plus kilometers, 17 hours, up river from Iquitos, put them into this genuine Amazon jungle movie, have them canoeing with crocs and eating grub worms and then get them back in one piece. But by now they're probably wondering if that trust is well-placed or utterly misguided. A couple of them might be heaving by the time it's time to board their planes.
Me? I've been sick for a week. I always get sick before a trip. I have endless things to tie up, from duping tapes someone ordered to getting my kids' tux-for-the-prom rented to doing the lawn, getting the garbage to the dump, finishing two stories for my regular and wonderful gig, not to mention redoing the medical kit (I pray we don't need it but I still have to bring it), packing and sorting out the funds for everything.
And then there is the real reason I get sick: I hate leaving the kids. The older boys are okay, but Madeleina, I think, still feels abandoned when I go. She acts out, I act out. You can explain all you want to kids, that I need time away from writing to refresh my spirit, that I need the extra income to take care of things here at home, but she still feels like I'm leaving her and there is a little part of her that knows there's a chance, not a big chance, but a chance, that I might not come home. Or that when I do it will be like last year, with seeping holes from a flesh eating spider bite that got septic and ugly. Or like the year before that when I broke two teeth on shotgun pellets in a piece of rodent and came home with a different smile that's yet to be fixed.
And I know she wonders what I'll do if I fall in love with someone there.
I know what I'd do. I'd still come home when I said I would because the kids are my real love. But she's just a kid and she doesn't believe that all the way.
And so I've been working my ass off and being sick and feeling like I'm doing something wrong by going away again, even if it's just a few weeks this time. And it's going to get worse tonight, and even worse tomorrow morning when I take her to school and tell her I love her and will see her in a few weeks. She'll be angry, I know, because she always is. She'll tell me not to bother to come back. Inside she'll be crying and lonesome and outside she'll be a defiant little girl who doesn't need her dad after all.
And I'll be crying on the outside and the inside.


Unknown said...

Can't wait to hear stories from the trip. Do you have one planned for the Fall? :0)

Peter Gorman said...

Sometime in September, just to the Mountains: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicacca, La Paz, etc. 13 days. So I guess the answer is yes.
Thanks for asking

dodahdan said...

More like 7 and ½ months until I join you in Iquitos next January, so no jitters here yet. Well maybe a bit over the grubs….exactly what food group grubs fall under anyway?? Hmmmm, might have to go vegetarian during that little adventure.

Although I’ve never had an adventure similar to the one next year, I’ve been away on enough journeys to know that I need those special times to feed my soul. They make up a significant part of who I am. I know that, so do my wife and kids. It’ll be tuff being a hemisphere away for nearly three weeks, there will be tears when I leave. But they will also be as happy for me as I am for them when they win that race, or ace that test, or get that job promotion….

My kids are older then Madelina, maybe one of these trips when you leave she will feel that happiness for you. Maybe she does now. But it’ll always be hidden behind the tears.. That’s the way it works for us anyway.

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Mikhail said...


Not sure exactly where to post this but I guess that this will have to do. I have been reading your articles for several years now since I went on a 3 week trek through the Galvez region of Peru in 2003, which included staying with the Matses at Bueno Peru (Sp.?) and San Juan. We started out in Iquitos and went by boat to Herrera on the Ucayali where we transferred to dugout canoes and from there went up progessively smaller tributaries where we emabarked on foot. All of out food was stolen out of the boat in Herrera so we had to hunt, collect and fish for everything we ate. We ended up at the Killing River and then at the Loboyacu where we ran into some Matses hunters. From there we built rafts and hitched a ride in their dugouts until we reached Buena Peru which took like 3 days due to obstructions in the river as it was low water season. Myself and 2 others participated in the Sapo ritual and it was exactly as you described. Sweating bullets, nausea and the shits. All in all it was quite remarkable. In San Juan I did the nu nu ritual with the Matses headman and it was quite unpleasant. Green snot and the most godawful burning sensation that I have ever experienced. I did however drink a lot of spit beer which made me feel somewhat better. From there we went to Colonias Angamos and spent 3 days waiting for the Peruvian Air Force to pick us up in a float plane. It was an awesome trip and the experience of a lifetime. The food was interesting, to say the least. We ate wild boar, tapir, turtle and turtle eggs, alligator, grubs, pirahnas and myriad other fish, jungle birds, chonta palm, yucca and lots of plaintains. If you are interested in more of my experiences e-mail me at My only regret is that I dod not get to partake in an ayahuasca ceremony as the Matses we visited said they did not do that.


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