Jungle roofing

Evil leaves

One of the heaviest days of work for our volunteers involved hauling and collecting leaves from the jungle. These leaves, which resemble palm fronds, were bundled in masse for roofing for a new traditional hut.

Much of the construction material used by the Shuar community comes from its reserve and this is no different. Local materials, locally harvested sounds more sustainable.

The “rope” used to bind the bundles of leaves is actually the husk of young plant stems. See below.

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Life in even the smallest streams

My little buddy whose name we can't spell

Meat my favorite Shuar boy, a four-year-old named Sing Sang or Thing Thang or Tsing Tsang. Blame the uncertainty on my poor Spanish and inability to understand his accent.

Sing Sang accompanied us on trips occasionally to the jungle alongside his father Jaime. He was energetic little scamp here fishing for river shrimp and crabs in a tiny stream.

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Plantas de la selva: Vol. 12

Silver in the jungle dark

The Shuar in Arutam live in a place between the modern world of cell phones and synthetic fabrics and their traditional world of forest food and medicine.

This one, in particular, was used for tea and salves and apparently is considered both rare and beneficial to memory.

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Shuar baby on board

I love taking pictures of little kids

Day-care isn’t a widespread convenience in the Oriente. Many Shuar women take their children with them when they are working — in the jungle, the field or the kitchen. I’m amazed at the amount of work they do with an infant strapped to their back.

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Mira! Hay perrito cansado! (Look, there is a tired puppy!)

My favorite Shuar dog

There are various communal dogs that roam about the Arutam village. More than a few would come with us into the jungle daily for work. Or for screwing about while we worked. Or for nearly getting killed by falling trees, swinging machetes and poisonous snakes, while we worked.

This one was, in my opinion, the cutest of the Arutam dogs. Though this was debated by various volunteers.

The photo was perfect for my ongoing tribute to street dogs.

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Another weird looking bug

No idea

This one found by Enrique, our volunteer coordinator. I can’t even tell you what this one looks like when it’s wings aren’t folded back. They certainly make ‘em colorful here.

Enrique told us the Shuar name, but I have no idea what that might be now.

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Grubbing about

Dirt is good

This little guy, unfortunately captive, is the absolutely adorable pet of one of the members of the Arutam Shuar community. He was allegedly found in the forest and is being reared into strength before he is released again.

He is however, pretty much domesticated, climbing on humans and following them as they work. Makes me doubtful he’d ever be wild again.

In Spanish, he is officially a cuchucho, a typical animal found in the Oriente, Ecuador’s Amazon basin. He is rather fun to watch, as he digs about for grubs and insects. Note: His claws are exceptionally sharp, as I found out when I got too close while he was mid-grub.

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Jungle fruit provides chocolate surprise


Cacao fruit harvested and eaten fresh in the jungle. Fantastic, fantastic end to a sweaty morning of machete work on a jungle trail.

The gooey part tastes like chocolate and we simply spit out the seeds. Below, you can see Sebastian, one of our Shuar guides, who climbed a tree to pluck a few for us.

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Devil ants

Little bastards

One day, volunteers were put to work ripping down an old, traditional Shuar house. A round structure covered in palm fronds with a cooking fire in the center. Half the house had collapsed, so we salvaged the large timbers and burned the rotting roof.

This did not go well with a colony of biting ants who had since been living in the decomposing mess.

As we tackled the palm roof, they tackled us, biting and biting and biting. Devil ants in your rubber boots is not a pleasant sensation.

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Sacred waters


The Shuar consider waterfalls in their community a source power and respect them deeply. Here, Sebastian, one of the volunteer guides, has a moment of quiet with a waterfall deep in the jungle, after the volunteers finished goofing off.

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