Sitting here in an internet cafe in Arequipa, Peru – the second largest city in the country with a population of around 900,000 located in the desert foothills of the Andes – I find myself reminiscing of the jungle.
Traveling down the Pan-American highway, stretching along the entire West coast of Peru and turning inland to reach major destinations cities including Ica and Nazca, the scenery is dusty, orangish-red, mountainous. You can sense the dryness and heat, even from within a double-decker bus, even in the middle of the night. It continually strikes me as odd to be in the heat and scorching sun of the desert while right next to the misty sea; two expansive natural phenomenas butting up alongside one another.
The jungle is totally different. Every inch is crowded by a million shades of green, a thousand competing odors, the chirp-crow-ribbet-caw-click-clack-beep-howl-thump-rumble-pitter-patter-and thunder clap of life. A general chorus of jungle bugs and other creatures of the Amazon grows in intensity as the sun fades, their songs sung loudest in the dead of night. When the rain comes you can sense it for miles away. The air begins to whirl and a slight chill fills the air and you can almost hear the rain before it starts to hit the ground. Suddenly, the entire sky opens and the rains come down as if there was no tomorrow. Lighting and thunder are a near daily presence, reinforcing the intensity of the storm. Tropical rain is the best kind of rain there is. So confident, powerful, reassuring. The jungle is like a love affair, pulling at your heart strings; a tender embrace, a delicate balance. The jungle is life, growth, death, birth, renewal, motion, sound. The jungle is in charge and it will make sure you know it, one way or another.
(100 or so bites per leg being one such indicator).
Considering I was in the jungle to study permaculture and practice sacred medicine, the jungle was more than just the jungle itself. It was an intentional community, a space for learning, a place for meditation and reflection. No phones, no internet, no electricty. Dinner by candlelight. Sleep under a mosquito net. Farming and mapping and measuring under a thick coat of sweat and caked-on clay body masks to stop the constant itch of a thousand bites. San Pedro ceremonies in the daylight, Ayahuasca ceremonies in the night. Trekking through the jungle, listening to nature, floating down the River Italia along a white sand beach. Eating hot pink ice cream treats from the bike-riding ice cream and bread man who honks his horn along the road two times each day.
A little under three weeks which felt like a lifetime.