We learned while on this trip that over the years, many lives have been lost to the revengeful Babanoza. At that moment, my mind was engulfed with the picture of Mary, Jacob, and Josef and all the people I love and all my wonderful friends in Young Living and the responsibilities to countless people. I wondered what I was doing here and would it really be worth it. I reflected back two months earlier when I was in Yemen and thousands of people were in fear for our lives and praying for our safe return. I couldn’t help smiling because in reality, Yemen was a cake walk in comparison to what we were facing.
We were grateful for the insect repellent I made with Palo Santo. It really kept the mosquitoes and botflies off of us. They were big and buzzed around us continually.
As we flew up over the jungle canopy, the grand expanse of the Amazon lay before us in such grandeur that we sat quietly reminiscing with great admiration over the exhilaration of the past few days and a prayer of grateful deliverance. I can’t wait to share my adventures with you all at this year’s convention!
After chatting about aromatic plants with a local family, a fifteen-year-old boy took us in his long canoe to look for Ocotea trees. The canoe was hand hewn out of a single log that was 40 feet long and four feet wide. It was tricky sitting in the center as still as possible so that it didn’t rock over—especially going through the rapids.
We docked on the bank against some logs, trying our best to avoid the barbed bamboo hanging all along the river edge. The barbs are like giant fish hooks that can open a raft or an inflatable canoe like a can opener. Then we made our way into the jungle until we found what I was looking for: the beautiful Ocotea.
The tree was 30 inches on the stump and 60 feet tall with an umbrella-like canopy of branches and leaves that entirely blocked out the sun. The leaves were rich in fragrance and the flowers were just starting. There were thousands of these trees. Picking the leaves would not be an easy task without scaffolding or ladders. As I was anticipating the difficulty in harvesting the leaves, the boy shimmied up the tree with ease. After retrieving my samples, we headed back to camp to prepare for our journey on down the river. The rain had stopped and the clouds were gone. The sky was completely blue with sun temperature of about 96 degrees and 100 percent humidity. The tent was dry but we were wet as we loaded the canoes, ready for another adventure.
My journey into the jungle, canoeing down the legendary Rio Babanoza (headwaters to the Amazon River) was truly an adventure of a lifetime. The fame of the Rio Babanoza was unknown to me until I started questioning local people about a river trip where I might find aromatic plants and was told that the Rio Babanoza was the river to explore.
As we launched our canoes and loaded our gear, Giovanni, our guide, and my chief cameraman, John Whetten from our Utah office, didn’t have a clue that this journey would return ten-fold all the emotion possible of the human experience. Fighting the whitewater and the whirlpools was a grand exercise learning to strategically maneuver our 17-foot canoe overloaded with five days of provisions and gear.
We made frequent stops to visit with the local people along the river and inquired about Ocotea, Limincio, Zaragosa, and other aromatic plants. We soon discovered that the Babanoza was a fickle beast; when storms moved in b the river would rise at frightening speed and had been known to rise sometimes 15 feet in a single night.
Stay tuned for exciting tales of our jungle adventures and discoveries!
There’s a reason they call the Amazon the rain forest—when it rains it really pours! By the time you dig out your rain gear, it’s too late, you’re already drenched. You can put up a “waterproof” tent but it will leak like a sieve. The rain is just relentless. John got a picture of me mopping up the tent and wringing out several gallons of rainwater. If the rain soaking your sleeping bag weren’t enough, the raindrops sound like they’re coming down at 200 miles an hour. It makes so much noise you can’t sleep.
We got to see what the constant rain and humidity does to a fallen date palm tree. As the tree begins to decay, grubs bore their way through fattening themselves up on the oil-rich wood. Our guide chopped and pried open the fibrous wood of the rotting tree with his machete, tracing the tunnels made by the grubs until he dug out the fat little Amazonian delicacy.
Because Marc Schreuder was off on his own jungle exploration in Brazil, I invited his assistant, John Whetten, to come to Guayaquil and explore the Amazon with me. John did a fantastic job handling a video camera on my trip to the Middle East in March and April. I thought he’d enjoy going from the land of sand dunes to the wilds of the jungle!
John and I flew from Guayaquil to Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. There we met our guide, Giovanni, and headed out for the drive to Baños where we stayed overnight. We packed up an inflatable kayak and a larger inflatable canoe along with tents and other supplies and drove to Canelos, where we embarked on our river journey in the Pastaza River Basin.
John will agree that around every turn on the Rio Babanoza is another aromatic plant! And this, friends, is the reason for venturing into the rain forest.