Travel Story 

Napo River, headwaters of the Amazon

Page 3 of 4

Still smarting from the humiliation of his gas problem our young boatman delivers us silently back to the dock at Misahualli. The man in the grey suit disappears into a waiting limo and is gone. We pile into the back of a 4-wheel drive truck and head out along a narrow dirt road to the local indian community of Capirona. Forty-five minutes later we are greeted by Delfin who leads us around the washouts at the end of the road and down a trail to his home.

Delfin Pauchi is a Quichua Guide – a friendly, soft spoken man with a deep reverence of nature and an intimate knowledge of the jungle where he grew up. We are introduced to his wife, Astella, and their five outgoing children who immediately welcome us as their guests.

Astella brings snacks and a cool fruit drink into a thatch-covered breezeway between the family home and a small sleeping wing that Delfin has added to accommodate guests. Everything is made of local materials – bamboo, thatch, and woven fronds. Delfin hopes that tourism will provide a living for his family and save his land from the ravages of logging and mining.

The children are curious about where we come from and anxious to show us their world. We go for a dip in a nearby stream, come back and practice shooting balsa-wood birds with darts from a long blowpipe. The kids are incredibly accurate!

Astella calls us in for a sumptuous meal of fried chicken and roasted plantains. Afterwards, Delfin brings out his bongo drums, his daughters sing, and before the evening is over the kids have all of us dancing on the packed dirt floor of the breezeway. By the time the first fireflies begin to light up the edge of the forest we are all tired – ready to slip under our mosquito netting and drift off to the drone of cicadas and distant chatter of monkeys.

The next day Delfin leads us on a long hike, beginning with a visit to his neighbour’s still. The fellow is busy cutting sugar cane but puts down his machete and greets us warmly – clearly anxious to show us around. The pungent smell of fermenting cane wafts from a wooden tub just below the small cane field. The distillery itself consists of a 45-gallon drum over a smoldering wood fire. A length of copper pipe coils through a smaller drum filled with cool water piped in from a nearby stream, and the final product drips out the end of the pipe into a glass bottle.

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