Wao, What an Adventure!

Hi friends! After a surprisingly quick 8 hours of travel, we arrived at the place we would be staying in Waorani territory. Unlike last year, we would not be staying directly where the people in the community lived, but instead a 2 minute canoe ride downstream.

It was nice because our canoe was the last one to get there, so everyone had already carried our bags up to our rooms (it’s times like these when I start to think being fashionably late is a good thing). The first thing we saw after hiking uphill towards the lodging area was two Macaws, scarlet and blue/yellow there to greet us. It was insane how close they were to us, most likely because they were too young to fly. It seemed as if they were the pets of the people in the community. I was particularly ecstatic, as they are my favorite bird species besides toucans.

Not sure what breed these dogs are…

Regarding the lodging itself, It was definitely an adjustment living without any electricity and very little running water, but as we now know, flexibility is the name of the game on an adventure like this one. We were all extremely tired, so after a delicious meal (shoutout to the Iyarina crew who came along with us to ensure we all had delicious meals despite the proximity from electricity), we all went to bed really early. By really early, I mean early for us, since going to bed when we did (around 8 P.M.) is the anatomically correct way of doing things.

After a solid 10 hours of sleep (something I never thought I would say, especially on this trip) we got our day started.

And during breakfast…

I FINALLY GOT TO SEE A TOUCAN! Well actually, it was a Toucanet. Whatever, same thing. YIPPEE #BESTDAYOFMYLIFE

Sorry for that outburst. Anyways, this day was particularly exciting because we finally got to meet the people in the Waorani community. We each went around and said our names, and they gave us Wao names. Mine is Gata, which is their word for a Capuchin, which is a type of monkey (I guess that’s what they think I look like).

After our first meeting, we took two canoes into a part of the river that branched out into a creek to do a little hike. There, we all got to swing on vines and I chose to walk through the creek. I really put those boots to work. It was cool seeing the Waorani people using their machetes with such skill to literally clear a path for us in the jungle.

I am Tarzan. No further questions

But the coolest part of the day was later when we actually visited where they lived. We were greeted yet again by the macaws, which we got to hold this time! They were kind of fiesty to be honest, but it was still super fun.

Hi birdie

Onto the physical activities (my strong suit, I swear). We learned how to throw a spear and blow a blow dart – two of the most prominent weapons that they use to hunt for food. I was the best at both of these things (again, not lying). These activities were then followed up by a soccer game, in which the members of the community quickly showcased their superior skills.

The best spear thrower of all time

After I had enough putting my sports stardom on display, I went for a swim in the river. When I tell you I have been waiting to swim like the entire trip… the water was so nice and refreshing, plus how many people get to say they swam in a river in the rainforest?

The crew in the river

After buying some of their really cool homemade jewelry and pottery (last minute mother’s day shopping!?!?), we headed back to our housing, but we planned to return later that night for more fun!

Cale and I with our drip

After dinner, we did just that, hopping back in the canoes and heading towards the community again. The stars were unbelievable, especially given that you’d think they don’t exist back in Pittsburgh (thanks light pollution).

My iPhone camera could not do the stars justice

After arriving back at the community, we were greeted with a really fun welcome dance which allowed us to break the ice with the community. We even joined in at the end. After this, we showed them some of our music, including Taylor Swift (because of course) and Sweet Caroline (LET’S GO PITT!). Following this, we had a dance party with some of their music, before saying goodbye one last time. 

Pitt students doing their traditional dance (Sweet Caroline)

Although our time together was short,I really had such an amazing time getting to know this community and their culture. My eyes were opened to the fact that the Waorani are not just one monolith of people – they are different communities with different values and customs, something that people unfortunately forget about indigenous people all-too-often.

Riya, Anna, Maddie, John and I at the dinner table

Ok friends, I am out of breath just writing about these two days. But don’t worry, I still got y’all with next-level amazing content. Until next time!


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