Our time spent with the Waorani nation was by far my favorite part of this entire experience. We left early in the morning as we had a 90 minute bus ride and 6-hour canoe ride through the Amazon Rainforest ahead of us. We were lucky enough to have slightly overcast weather for the majority of the canoe ride. We listened to music, ate snacks, and got to know the drivers to pass the time. On the way there, we were introduced to the biodiversity of the Amazon. Spider monkeys, arias, turtles, green macaws, and more were all out enjoying the beautiful weather.
After the 6 hours and 70-so miles that we traveled, we finally arrived at our destination. We were immediately welcomed by 2 parrots, 1 red and 1 blue that very obviously weren’t as excited about our presence as we were with theirs. Soon after getting settled, we went to meet the family/tribe that we would be visiting. They were all wearing traditional Waorani face paint; the women had red fruit around their eyes, and the men had 4-5 dots over their faces. They then gave us Waorani names. I was named Ñaima, which was the name of a very tall woman who often fought with the men in battle.
We got back into the canoe to visit the entire tribe. We were once again greeted by a slew of parrots, but this time we were able to hold them! The family we were visiting kept them as pets. We then learned how to blow blow darts, which are traditionally soaked in poison and used to hunt monkeys, and throw spears. Lots of laughs were shared as the majority of us completely missed the target. After that, one of the women named Maria wanted to paint our faces. She used a red fruit and painted traditional Waorani face paint on everyone.
We then played a very intense game of soccer with the family. It was amazing how to see how universal of a language sports can be as everybody was laughing and enjoying themselves. Afterwards, we headed to the river to cool off a bit before returning to buy some of the art that some of the women had made. I stocked up on bracelets, and bought a stunning clay toucan-shaped pot.
We headed back for dinner, but the night was far from over. Once the sun set, we boarded the canoe once again and made our way back to the tribe. The night sky was truly breathtaking. It was unliked anything I had ever seen. I could see every single star in the sky, even those on the horizon. It genuinely almost moved me to tears.
The family then greeted us in traditional Waorani attire and performed a dance for us to welcome us to their home. It was a very cool experience as we all got to join in at the end and dance with them. Afterwards, we performed some staple American songs such as I Want It That Way and You Belong With Me. We then performed the Pitt version of Sweet Caroline. We then turned on some Salsa music and all danced together for the next hour or so.
We said our goodbyes to the tribe and headed back to our rooms to get some rest before the long return journey we had ahead of us the next morning. The return journey was unfortunately not as pleasant as the ride to. As the name “Rainforest” suggests, it rained almost the entire time. We did however, see a lot more wildlife. There were toucans, tamarins, spider monkeys, and so many more breathtaking animals. After being without electricity and running water for the past 3 days, returning to Iyarina lodge was a great feeling, but I really missed the amazing people that we met in the Waorani Nation.