Dugouts, blow-guns and tarantulas

My dugout canoe.

I awoke this morning and set out in a dugout canoe to silently glide over the river-waters in search of wildlife. I did end up seeing a dolphin and a great troupe of squirrel-monkeys, but really the thrill for me was paddling the dugout. It’s remarkably responsive and easy to steer, but the hand-carved paddle, in a shape with looks just like a spade from a pack of cards, is amazingly heavy.

This morning we continued the theme of handmade things by making our own blow-pipes (or maybe blow-guns, there’s continuing discussion as to what is the correct term). They were made using a variety of palms and bit of tree that we gathered at the end of a machete from the surrounding jungle. We whittled the palms into shape, used a hot iron to ream out the bore, carved a mouth-piece and made darts. The end result was shorter than real ones would have been, but otherwise completely authentic. Well that’s not quite right, a truly well-made blow-pipe would have involved splitting the reed in two and smoothing a bore before binding the two halves back together – but that would have required days of skilled work. And we had neither days not that skilled work.

Target practice with the guns.

The end result shoots remarkably well and the boys were soon making mincemeat out of a target. As an interesting piece of trivia: apparently the natives used to walk about chewing peppers, the hot breath making it easier to get the required force to send a dart 50-100 metres.


After lunch we set out way upriver in the motor-boat. We covered enough distance that the river was seriously narrowing with the jungle edging closer and closer on the sides and then turned off the motor and drifted back downstream. The silence proved to be a great way to see a wide variety of birds including the impressive blue and yellow macaw with its distinctive long tail. Though, the most exciting things was seeing an enormous tarantula – no one was willing to put their hand in the photo for scale, so take my word for it, it’s big.

It was a great final day in the jungle – leaving us with only one unanswered question: how on earth do we get handmade blow-guns back through customs?

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