The first week I spent with Ruku Kausai at the Jumandy Caverns was amazing, and a great precursor of what I hope my sixth months will be like. Although I didn’t work much that week, I was able to observe the going on-s of the people and the caverns. During the week I helped out at several mingas (communal meetings where work is done) where I cut mala hierba with a machete for a finca (farm), carried timber for a choza (a specific type of house), made chicha (a traditional drink of fermented yucca), and painted our family’s house with my host-father.
When I wasn’t working one day that week, my host-aunt took me, and a couple of tourists to a system of waterfalls called the Gran Cañón. To get to the waterfalls we had to trudge through muddy paths, climb down narrow, rocky slopes, and as we finally approached the waterfalls, I had no clue what I was getting myself into, but I was determined to find out. The Gran Cañón is filled with waterfalls, which gradually end in a small lake, which pours out into a river. Looking up, all I could see was water pouring out of a dark cave, and apparently we had to go up…Needless to say, I didn’t know where to start to go, well, up. Of course we entered the dark cave, or more accurately, skirted along a ledge to get inside. Next, we climbed up a rickety wooden ladder with a waterfall crashing down right next to it. After climbing up several other waterfalls and moss covered rocks, we swam to our destination. Nestled between two faces a final waterfall cascaded. Much to my surprise, we were going to jump with one leg on each face, and dive straight into the water beneath. While I watched my aunt demonstrate, all I could think was, “I’m not sure my legs are long enough to do that…” When I had mustered up the determination to finally jump, I couldn’t place my leg in the right spot. So what did I do? I jumped straight in the middle of the cascade, let the water push me under, and popped up a little ways away.
By this time I had already began to develop a fascination for the waterfalls of the Amazon, but what happened next pushed me over the edge, literally. On the way down, we stopped and went to a cliff that overlooked the cliff. My aunt looked at us and asked, “¿Quien quiere saltar?” I looked around and knew for certain I was going to jump. Then, after a brief moment, I took a running start and leaped off the cliff. As I was falling I felt my stomach jump, exhilaration, and then just as suddenly the water rushed around me as I fell through the lake. When I bobbed back up to the surface, one of the tourists laughed and said, “¡Trevor, no tienes miedo!” While this definitely wasn’t entirely true, it felt good to hear.