Ben is still sick and pretty weak and exhausted! The girls aren’t terribly great either! Martin and I feel shattered, he is suffering too and we’ve had a sleepless, stressful night! We agree pretty early with Gerson and the crew that we should stay put today and spend another night here.
Its still quite early and we see about 7 or 8 teenage girls and kids are gathered at our doorway (there’s no actual door). They’re just concerned, but it give’s very little privacy. Not wishing to appear rude, I move one of the tents across the room and try to make a cool, comfy place for Ben to lie behind and be sick without an audience! The are there on and off through the day and later on, Zoe and Lara sit with them and make more bracelets.
Village Girls with our girls making bracelets
Gerson tells me that one of the village girls has offered to wash all our dirty clothes from our night of sickness that are heaped outside plus anything else we need! I’d been psyching myself up to take them down to the river and try my hand at river washing and in spite of my objections that the stuff is simply too revolting for her to wash, they talk me round saying she really wants to help and these girls love to wash!! In the end I’m too tired to object and I admit I’m deeply grateful! All we can offer her later is a large box of biscuits to say thank you when she brings a pristine, dry, whiter than white pile of laundry back to me in the afternoon. Her sister comes in with her and brings a gift of a cross and chain for Ben to help/wish/pray for his recovery. We want to give it back before we leave but when we offer, she won’t hear of it and insists it was a gift to keep. We’re astounded by the kindness and warmth of these people who live such simple lives and have very little of anything material, yet find something special to give us.
Our guides and boatmen are really concerned and want to know how to help too. Aside from the assortment of drugs Gerson can offer us, they are eager to make us jungle medicine. We hesitantly agree… meanwhile the boat driver come pastor prays with the crew and later lays hands on Ben and prays again.
Mmm! Delicious Jungle medicine made from wood bark!
When the jungle medicine has been prepared, Ben bravely drinks a cupful of the dark brown vile looking stuff! Zoe tastes it too but can’t face more than a sip. This is probably a good thing!
Zoe tries the jungle formula watched by our crew and villagers!
Ben reacts by being violently sick for about 2 hours straight! It’s only then that anyone mentions this is meant to happen as part of the ‘recovery’ process!! He’s super brave and just gets on with it but he’s increasingly weak and the crew start to suggest we take him back downstream, an hour away to another village with a small medical centre to ensure he gets rehydrated! We can’t bear the thought of dragging him back to the boat and making this journey. An hour downstream is at least two back, not to mention a fear of him maybe being put on a drip in a dingy hut and having to stay there. Once again we have the heebie jeebies about the stark reality of being in such an isolated place!
We have rehydration sachets and know too how to make it up with sugar, water and salt. Ben refuses both point-blank in spite of our endless begging and cajoling but is thankfully willing to sip plain water!
The girls, Martin and I traipse back and forth across the football field and around the schoolhouse to the only two toilets that exist as far as we know as we’re all suffering! We also have to carry buckets of water up from the river to flush! It’s rather arduous, the loos are full of spiders and other creepy crawlies but we don’t really care – just grateful to have some privacy and a place to be!
Our place on the left with the field, football pitch and schoolhouse in the distance!
There’s a crowd of school kids of various ages on the steps of the school house and they’re using some very basic kids’ computers, all wired up to a mobile solar panel lying on the grass! The older ones are showing the younger ones and apparently they are learning some basic applications such as Word and PowerPoint. A broken sign on the school indicates something about charitable support from an American organisation. They of course have nothing as sophisticated as an Internet connection. They’re way too remote for any kind of signal. A little later, half the village turn out to buy some provisions from a mobile store/boat that pulls over on the riverbank.
The Village Shop arrives, our boat in the foreground
On our next loo visit we find a teacher and some other adults working with the kids to weigh out and allocate rice and other staples to the different families. Somehow this seems more useful than the computers! In the toilet bins, we see ripped up paper used for loo roll that has complex, impressive times tables written out in neat tiny handwriting! Somehow seems terrible that they have to wipe their bums with their school work!
Zoe is desperately homesick. She and I sit in the hammock together in the afternoon. She tells me she overheard the guides talking to Martin and saying this is no place for ‘western’ children! Both she and Ben ask where the nearest airport is where we can get a flight to England and beg us to arrange it! Nearest airport?! There’s no nearest anything!
So we have a long and amazing talk about the fact that although we feel so bad and homesick now, if we had to choose anywhere in this rainforest and jungle to get this sick, we couldn’t ask for better, kinder people, a better place to have the tents, with relative privacy, a light breeze, minimal insects, the most amazing view up and down the river etc… It’s a defining moment that leaves us grateful to be able to share this together in spite of its harshness! At least I think Zoe kind of agrees!!!! Ben tells me ”Mum, it feels really nice that everyone is praying for me and giving me the cross and the pastor putting his hands on my head…. but I wish I felt better!”
Frank appears, dressed at a chef to make us smile, with meat, rice and salad but only Zoe and I can face a little!
Luncheon is served!
Once Ben is through the violent sickness he rests and sleeps much more calmly – In the mid afternoon heat, Martin and Lara go off to wash in the river and with no-one else about for a while, Zoe and I get washed down in the room with a bucket of water from the river and a plastic mug – not fancying the river itself! After a few days without anywhere to really wash and 24 hours of sickness, we’re feeling pretty disgusting and are very glad to get clean and change our clothes.
A moment to relax and enjoy the river view!
Feeling much cleaner and happier after a wash in the river!
We accumulate more dirty washing and this time I can’t bear to let someone else do it again (besides, Zoe wouldn’t let me give hers to anyone!) I discover how amazing a bleaching agent can be and feel very virtuous making undies white again – but the village girls come and watch and I feel the need to have our guide to explain that it wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the girl’s efforts this morning and I desperately hope she’s not offended!
The village girls bathe by our boat
The girls and our village friends by our boat as sun sets
Beautiful Nuevo Vencedores and the Rio Napo at sunset
We have an early and much more restful night – Ben is only up once! I have let Zoe have the Thermarest and struggle to spend another night on hard floor but I’m happy we seem to be through the worst and should be able to get back on the river tomorrow!