An important part of making your trip meaningful and impactful is to find and explore the story that resonates with you. When it comes to the Waorani of Ecuador there is a lot to learn and share with a wider audience. A few of the narratives begin with the following questions. How have the Waorani been displaced and their culture changed by oil companies and the encroaching modern world? What are the health effects from petrochemical contamination of land and water on the Waorani people? What is the ecological damage caused by this contamination? How do the Waroani think of themselves in relation to the more violent and recluse tribes of the Tagaeris and Taromenanes? How has the history of Christian missions impacted their past and future sense of spirituality? What is the past and current role of shaman’s in the culture and is it at risk? These are some of the bigger questions and the best way to approach them is through the personal stories of some of the people you will have a chance to meet and get to know. Let’s set the stage for what the trip will be like.
You will be traveling to one of the most beautiful and remote areas of the Amazon the Yasuní National Park. We will be traveling by a motorized canoe for long distances. it will be possible to see many birds, specially macaws and toucans, reptiles like the black caiman, white caiman, Anaconda and if we are lucky some mammals like giant otters, tapirs, capybaras, wild pigs, and without a doubt spider monkey, squirrel monkey, woolly monkey, howler monkey and others.
The first village we will visit will be Neoneno. In this village there are only a few older Waorani men that keep practicing their traditions. These men are teaching the younger people about their lost culture. Nanto lives in this village he one of the most famous Waorani leaders. Nanto worked with Moi and Enqueri to protect their land, you can find some information about them in the book Savages by Joe Kane.
The next village will by Caruheno, named after a man called Caruhe who lives there. Caruheno is unique, here you will feel like you have traveled to the past. Villagers here live the traditional Waorani lifestyle, a simple life surrounded by the forest from where they can get everything the need. This is one of the best places to spot for wildlife. Many of the villagers here live like nomads. They typically stay in a village for some years and then they move to another.
The next village is the largest for the Waorani, Bameno, located close to the town founded by Dayuma and Rachel. Many of the people in Bameno used to lived in Dayuma’s village. Bameno was one of the first places where Texaco started oil exploration. There were three oil wells close to the town and an airplane runway that the oil companies used. Many of the people in this area were affected by the oil companies through illness and ecological damage. It is breath taking to realize that the modern world had to go so deep in the jungle for its oil.
In Bameno you will meet Quemperi, one of the oldest and most legendary Waoranis. Quemperi is a powerful shaman, who can see into the future and is in contact with the animals and souls. The Waorani people really believe and respect him. Given Bameno’s history, most of the people that were affected by the oil are already dead and most of them were children. At the moment there only two cases of people that are still alive. Their names, photos and stories, follow below:
Weika Apika is a young mother. While pregnant she and her baby were directly exposed to oil in the river near her village. When she was exposed to it she said the oil burned her skin, and and she felt itching and pain. Her daughter, Silvia Wani, was born with a rare illness. Although it’s hard to prove there is a link with the oil she is convinced. Doctors have looked at Silvia and can’t find an adequate explanation for her illness.
Guinta Tega said that the oil came with the Kawode, with the foreigners. He said when the oil arrived the level of the water decreased. One time when he was taking a bath in the river a large amount of oil came downstream and burned all the skin on his body. The itching and pain was so severe, they had to air-lift him to Coca’s hospital where the doctors tried to help him. He was in the hospital for many days, when he returned to Bameno he was better, but the oil was still in his body. He says that for many years he felt like his skin was rotting. He says that the oil almost killed him and that there were many people that died because of the oil.