25 February 2010

From Nieva to Sarameriza via the Pongo

20/2. Saturday. Walking in the early morning over the plaza of Nieva, a man came to us asking whether we could give him a lift to Sarameriza. We directly agreed. He then brought us to his Café and ordered his wife to bring us coffee. It was Washurú Merino Trigoso Pinedo, an Awajun indian, born in Nieva, who hed attended the three-day meeting and had to start working again in Sarameriza. 

In Washurú's coffee shop with Eduardo and Frans.

After breakfast (where we met Max Druschke, whom I gave the booklet of San Francisco Station in Ecuador, which he would send to my home) we embarked on a "deslisador", a rapid boat suitable to traverse thje Pongo. Warashurú brought Maria, who also had to work in Sarameriza. So, together with the silent "motorista", we were 7 persons. We first had to go to the village Juan Velasquez, to fetch our last belongings from Eduardo's car. 

Eduardo Tapia taking pictures in the "deslizador", the boat in which we are going through the Pongo.

Then the great moment has come, we head for the Pongo! The guiding is now taken over from Eduardo by Washurú. He tells us many stories about the Pongo. According to him, the solitory wave had not occurred anymore in the past 15 years, probably because the waterlevel had been too low. Also, in 2002, a large stone called the "piedra Charapa" had fallen into the entrance of the Pongo, perhaps due to an earthquake. The huge stone had later broken as it was moved further by the water.
Nearing the entrance of the Pongo!

When we entered the Pongo we remarked the whirls of water occurring everywhere and moving our boat sideways. Maria was terrified. Because of all the whirls it seems hardly possible to estimate the flow rate of the brown water. But when leaving the Pongo again, we were amazed by the broad, streaming river in front of us: did all that water go through the 50 m-wide Pongo? (La Condamine measured the flow to be about 13 km/h).

Through the whirls of brown water .....

After having passed the Charapa-stone, Washurú commanded the motorista to stop: we climbed back over the slippery stones to the Charapa, where some years ago the best motorista ever had drowned. Washurú explained that you should always take the boat through the middle of a whirl and nót along its side....A scary idea.
The walls of the Pongo were high and impressive. They were covered by trees so you could not see the rocks anymore,as depicted in the etch of La Condamine.  Somewhere in the rocks there was also a tunnel which had been studied by Japoneese scientists.

Washurú at the Piedra Charapa looking back at the entrance of the Pongo.

With Washurú at the Charapa stone.

Somewhere there high up in the rocks is a tunnel; nobody knows why....

It started to rain with huge drops and we climbed back to the boat. After a short ride during we which we saw the Cerro Campanquiz rapidly disappear, we arrived around noon in Borja. Here we found the measure of the water depth: 16 pieds. When La Condamine came to the Pongo it had a depth of  25 pieds! But the water level was rapidly decreasing causing almost a disaster to his "radeau". La Condamine writes: "Mes yeux, accoutumés depuis sept ans a voir des montagnes se perdre dans les nues, ne pouvaient se lasser de faire le tour de l'horizon, sans autre obstacle que les seules collines de Pongo qui allaient bientôt disparaitre a ma vue."

Measure of the water depth in Borja: 16 pieds.

Eating Sapote-fruits in Borja.

Washurú seemed to know everybody in the village. He let us buy a large fish, a Manitoa, and ordered it to be fried for lunch by the wife of another motorista, Primitivo Alvan. While waiting, we drank beer with the Alcalde, Domingo, using one glass and filling it and toasting according to local rules. The Alcalde offered us Sapote fruits that were opened by Washurú; they were delicious, mango-like. After eating the fried fish, rice and patatas (bananas) cooked in the Peruvian way we had to wait for the motorista, who had been visiting his girlfriend. We left around 2 p.m. for Sarameriza, where we had to say farewell to Eduardo and Frans. But not before they had made another interview with Washurú, Hilbert and me.

After the interview on the plaza of Sarameriza.

Washurú had organized a good room for us in the only hotel in town. After taking a shower we had dinner with him. He tells us how the indigenes are being discriminated, not only socially, but also politically. In politics the greatest problem is lack of money. Nevertheless, he hopes to make a fair chance for becoming alcalde of Nieva during the coming election in October.

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