Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rumble in the Jungle

My response to recent attacks against jungle guide and naturalist Richard Fowler and herbalist Alan Shoemaker who live and work in Iquitos, Peru. Someone waging a very primitive and dirty campaign against them.

At Jungle camp.

I have spent 2 weeks in 2004 with Richard in Jungle. I would do it again in a blink of eye. It’s actually only guide in Peru I would trust. This is very competitive trade, somebody trying to smear his reputation and ruin his business. To get an idea what Richard have to offer, one should read book “Trail of Feathers” by Tahir Shah. Author put dedication on the first page: “To Richard for keeping his promises”. This was after first trip with Richard. Bigger and more interesting part in the book was about Richard. If no Richard book would be weak. Tahir paid peanuts for the boat and Richard’s service. Second trip with film crew went sour because they refused pay what promised. Tahir is good writer, but he is a real blue blooded prince. As we all know, princes are spoiled and like to boss around. Rich people always feel that they entitled to service without paying. I’m on the Richard’s side on this. I found Richard after reading this book, so far it was the best trip I ever had.

Richard with his friend Ramon - tribal leader, shaman and healer. Richard proudly displaying skin of previously unknown Giant Jungle Bat he just discovered.

You should be realistic with your expectations, Amazon expedition is nothing like trip to local zoo or park, and you will be dealing with seasoned Vietnam veteran. He is not a summer camp boy scout leader. He is real human being. And some of them likes to drink beer, tell stories and entertain the way they know. I slept like baby in the jungle just because Richard was around. Richard HIGHLY RESPECTED PERSON in remote villages and he works with the BEST and HONEST people. He is welcome guest to any house.

Richard with local Jungle guides Fernando and Meyaer.

Our expedition waiting for the boat.

I met Alan Shoemaker as well, very nice guy who works in Shamanic/spiritual tourism field. Intelligent, helpful and honest person. His house is wide open for everyone. He will help and advice. Just because Alan & Richard and their charming spouses I would like to visit Iquitos again.
In a whole story just follow the money trail. Not too many tourists in Iquitos, but a lot scoundrels after their money. For them its easy money. A lot lodges build around which sell prepackaged tours. Shamanic rituals for thousands of $$$! Just walk in the street in Iquitos, dozens self appointed guides ready to take you for the ride. It’s easy to spread rumors about competitors and harm their business. “They are foreigners strange, alien, not like us. They have all the money anyway, they taking our jobs” Sounds familiar? “I’m good, they are bad. Give me $100.00!”

Richard making American style popcorn for children.

To Gringos. This is A JUNGLE, my friend. THIS IS SOUTH AMERICA. Not a picket fenced community with $ 5.00 morning coffee and 401k plan. Have you noticed that a lot of people even has no shoes here? Have you seen mangy dogs dragging their spilled guts on the street? Do you know that a lot of children not live to reach their fifth birthday. The ones ho live are infected with parasites and lice.
Do you know that porters who cary you bags abandoned their little gardens and hunting just to please you and earn a couple bucks, while their families waiting hungry. You leave generous tip in sushi bar at home, but here you don’t feel like doing it. Do you know how difficult life for ex-pats here? Try to live here. How long you will last. You came back in one piece and be thankful. Next time go to Disneyland or Las Vegas, Basta!

P.S.: Anyone considering to hire Richard as a jungle guide, please bring him a bunch of Punch Maduro cigars. He likes to smoke more than anything. Not a crack, cigars.