2018 Spirit of Jaguar

The green colour is all around us. The vegetation uses each ray of sun and closes the sky above our heads. We fight through the jungle of the mysterious Sierra Maugalida mountains. Indians from Hodi tribe accopmany us and search for the path. Nobody from Europe crossed this jungle before. Now, we understand why. 

Steep ridges of the mountains covered in green vegetation are not the only problem. We are exhausted by endless climbing up and down, through woods, rivers in humidity surrounded by all kinds of insect and animals. We are sweating the whole day. Does this all have a sense?

Speaking with people in Venezuela about Indian tribe living in Sierra Maigualida mountains we became misunderstood. Why do we want to go there? There is just cannibalisms and wild animals. To get to know it is our aim: Becko Ondrejovič, Honza Dungel, Peter Kuric and me. We have been in different parts of Venezuela many times before. But this expedition is unique for all of us…

Venezuela is in deep crises. Former rich country suffers by the lack of food, violence, demonstrations… We are the only tourists around. The exchange rate is 1 dollar for 200 000 Bolivars. You can buy 1litre of fuel for 1 Bolivar. Yes, the math is simple – for one dollar you get 200 000 liters of fuel. Theoretically. Because to get the fuel here is almost impossible.  

Caura Rivers joins the Orinoco river from left. This land belongs to the Indian tribe Yekwana. We can be here just with their acceptance.  After six hours in their motor boot we reach new settlement. Becko know the land of Yekwana. Last year he asked them about people living behind Sierra Maigualida. “Yes, they live there. We call them Shadows, because we have never seen them.“, he got the answer.

We pick out our gum boats and paddle 10 hours against stream of Nitchare river. Next day we follow on Yuri river. Yekwana Indians can´t get here with their motor boats. The water level is too low.  

In 2017 Becko paddled 5 days against the stream of Yuri river. Luckily, he met Indians from Hodi tribe when they fished. Once in the year, Hodis come to this river to fish and haunt animals. Becko spent few days with them. They made agreement he will return to the same place next year. In January when the moon gets full.

January 2018, the full moon is close and we are paddling the river with many questions in our heads. Will Hodis be there? Do we meet? We paddle 8 hours a day and bivaque on the little beaches. Each morning we find footsteps of jaguar. Is he following us? He is sacred animal for Indians. Our last day on the river we suddenly meet him. Face to face. Unbelievable!

We come to the beach where Becko met Hodis a year ago. It is empty now. We become nervous. But deeper in the jungle we find hamakas – a prove they are somewhere around haunting. In the evening we finally meet. It worked. We stay here other four days to fish and haunt. We they have enough meat; we prepare for the mountain traverse.

Climbing up and down steep ridges. Two Indians go ahead and search the path. Four others help us with the boats. The others carry meat in palm baskets. The traverse is really exhausting. After four days we reach their settlement.

We sit in the middle of 10 little houses with the headman of the Hodi tribe nad give him presents. He calls the whole settlement, women and children included. He explains the reason of our visit.

We can stay here. The headman shows us where we can build our tents. We start to live with them their everyday routine. To collect the food, to prepare meals, common eating, fun and dance. After several days we became a part of this tribe. Indians point out the spiritual part of their life. They connect with the spirits of the jungle, animals, trees… The jungle is their certainty. Until sun shines and river flows, the jungle take care of them.

Indians Hodi make everything together. Living with them I found out how natural and instinctive it is for a human – to belong to a tribe. It is fundament of our existence. The individual depends on the relationships with other members of the tribe. It is the matter of life and dead.

Whatever Hodis do – they do it with peace, songs and laugh. Here I understand how important is to belong to a tribe. To have people around who accept you and share the joy with you. It is the sense of our life.

We gave a touch to unique and fragile ancient human existence. It won´t be here in several years. I hope though, Sierra Maigualida will protect these people before gold miners, wood cutters and other spoils of our civilization.

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