Friday, September 14, 2018

Adventures in the Amazon Final Day: Day Drinking with a Shaman!

During our final meal at the lodge, one of the teens in our group mesmerized Antonio, our shaman in tow, with excellent sleight-of-hand coin tricks. Pretty amazing, something I thought I'd never witness: old magic meeting new.
Our new family.
Even more astounding is what transpired on our last day in the jungle, something I never thought I'd do in my lifetime, something that I'd never even considered: day-drinking with a shaman!

Cheers! ("Tink.")

We were told we were visiting the rum "factory." Yay! Something finally more my speed. Still, to get there we had to go via boat, so I blundered into my usual seat (the anchor position), and off we went. Across from our destination, I witnessed entropy in action as a tree toppled into the river with a gargantuan splash. Just another amazing sight, one of many. But the best was yet to come.
Shaman at work in the rum factory.

Calling the rum joint a "factory" was pure embellishment. Our tour consisted of standing around a hot shed, where an old-fashioned press was operated by a horse to squeeze sugar from cane. Antonio passed around the resultant sugar for us to sip from. I figured if I hadn't caught a rare disease by now, sharing germs with my fellow travelers wasn't gonna kill me. 
Victor explaining rum to a thirsty crowd.

Our shaman then dumped the resultant sugar into a fermenting barrel. Once he set the bowl back on the ground, a friendly pig lapped up the rest (I still don't know if he was a family pet or breakfast). Hey, alcohol kills germs! Apparently the pig had too much to drink and then sat on my wife's feet.
Rum-guzzling pig.
We hurried through the rest of the "tour": there's the fermenting barrel, over there's the oven to boil it, bla, bla, bla, let's drink!
All creatures, great and small, love them some rum.
Gathered around a table, three bottles were plopped down in front of us. Again, we shared a shot glass, all of us practically family now. After the first several shots, germs began to not matter so much.

Na zda-rĂ³-vye! 
Ay caramba, dios mio!
The first bottle was straight up "aguardiente," aka "firewater." Akin to grain alcohol, it could strip paint off a wall and melt a clown's face. My chest nicely warmed, we moved onto the next bottle of booze, a ginger-infused alcohol.

To your health!

Antonio nudged my wife, pointed at the bottle, then wound a finger around his ear: muy loco! Didn't stop him from enjoying his rum, though. What's good for a shaman's good for me. 

Here's mud in your eye!
Ay, yi, yiiii, Viagra!
Next came "Siete Raices," which Antonio described as Viagra. For some reason, the factory owner kept pushing it on me. Did he know something I didn't? Hey, who was I to stand in the way of medicine?

Down the hatch!

Soon, our guide Victor filled up his cup by mixing two of the rums. He claimed it was Antonio's fault since he said he needed his Viagra. We weren't about to let him drink by himself, so the men joined him. 
Education can be fun!


Not to be outdone, the women had their turn at the bottles. Again and again. 
Gettin' some good learnin' done about nature!


A perfect way to end our jungle adventures, this went on for a while...
Incredibly, my boat balance appeared to have improved by the time we left.


All in all, a very peculiar day. Which leads me into an extremely awkward and shameless segue: Have you read Peculiar County yet? Here's what critic "The Cellophane Queen" had to say about it: "Amazingly good. Brilliant. Pitch perfect characterizations and intriguing use of language remind me of the master writer, Stephen King. Dibby is a heroine of the first order taking charge in a very Peculiar County in Kansas." Visit alluring and strange Peculiar County now.

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