Jessie also took a couple of swigs and confirmed that it had alcohol in it. Grandma followed the drink up with a plate of Uka (white root that was boiled and not unlike a potato, perhaps dryer), and the tastiest soft-boiled egg I have ever had. We were truly in heaven at this point. The whole family was looking at us amazed at what the boys brought home from hunting today. We were running out of questions to ask and the conversations were one way. They never asked where we were from, what we did, etc. They’re family had been in that cabana for the past forty years, overlooking the source of the Amazon River, they seemed incredibly happy, all of them. I wanted Chris to video this awesome experience we were having, being taken in and fed after such an ordeal by this wonderful family. He was afraid of offending them. Then I remembered a few days earlier when he was videoing a group of kids at the take out and had the video screen pointed at them so they could see themselves on TV for the first time. The kids went nuts and couldn’t get enough. Chris agreed to try it. He started with the Dad and within 30 seconds everyone was scrambling to get on the screen like New Yorkers trying to get on the train on a busy workday. Grandma squeezed her grandchild out of the way for a better look; everyone got to see him or herself in action. The little baby that was in the hammock started crying the second mom stopped rocking it to check out the video action. I took over rocking the baby. He was quite cute, and as all babies do, made me feel special by smiling at me, when I paid attention to it. Chris sat down and momma seemed happy that someone else was taking a shift rocking the baby so I spent the next ten minutes doing that until he went to sleep. There was a squeal that came from a small box. A baby Toucan jumped out of the box and looked me over. I offered it my finger and he jumped on it, so I got to hold him. That was unexpected. The bird was all beak and no body, quite out of proportion looking. The boys (Dad and two sons) wanted to rest for an hour before taking us to the road. We worried about Danny but figured that our best bet was to have their help the rest of the way. Jessie was in good spirits knowing that she would not have to carry her boat any more. She never complained about it once, just ran out of gas, and told us matter of factly. I was getting anxious and asked it they had any water we could fill our water bottles up with. Our 12-year-old savior, I regret that his name got confused between us and now is beyond remembering, filled our bottles up. We asked them how much they wanted to carry our boats to the road beyond the $25 dollars I offered the 12 year old. Dad said for $40 they would carry the boats to the road as well as get us to the road where we could catch a bus. We all went outside and got our boats paddles and gear ready. It was apparent that we only had three carriers for four boats (we still had Danny’s with us). Dad called inside and out came his 10 year-old daughter. My daughter, Emily, is 11 and I carry her boat to the river unless it is quite close. This little 10-year-old girl came out as the boys watched, picked up my boat and gave them the nod. Yes, she said, I can do it. Well, I carried my boat this far and there was only another three hours left, there was no way I was going to have a 10 year old girl carry my boat so that I could be spared the pain. I told them that we would still pay them the same money, but I would carry my boat. We all loaded up and started down the mountain. The way was muddy to say the least. We were either skiing on our booties down slick muddy inclines or up to our shins in mud. Our guides were moving quickly and Jessie was struggling to keep up. Her booties didn’t have treads on them like my 5-10’s, so we switched. It was quite interesting taking off booties that were covered in and oozing out rich mud. I easily slid her small sloppy booties on and we continued on down the mountain trail. The rocks were interesting to cross with a thick layer of mud on the bottom of the booties. It was definitely slick as ice. I finally gave in to the desire to skate down the mountain. We stopped periodically to catch our breath, and drink some water. It was hot and humid out. I finally saw why the natives where tall rubber boots, for the mud (and snakes). I was desperately searching for even just one footprint that could have come from Danny but it was impossible with the amount of traffic this trail has had. After about two hours we reached a the bottom of the mountain and there was a large trail that cattle use. We followed that for a while until we finally reached the a small dirt road. The feeling that we actually made it was creeping in and replacing the one of determination to push on. Our friends showed us a small creek to wash off. We were disgusting at best. Our polypro was dripping from sweat, and had been for the past two days and we were muddy from head to foot. I doubt the bus driver would have let us on. There was a pool in the creek about two feet deep that provided the best bath I have ever had. We took off our shirts and booties and washed ourselves from head to foot in the cool water. It took five minutes to get all of the mud out of my booties. It was another 30-minute hike to a bigger road where the bus would come to. The bus was expected at 4:30 and we were there at 4pm. We paid our new friends their $40 and they were quite happy. Sure enough the bus arrived on time, even early. We hoisted our boats on the roof and tied them down along with our paddles and gear and jumped on board. It was both a great feeling and a sickening one. Jessie, Chris, and I made it, yet Danny was still M.I.A. Were we driving away with him in the Jungle, or were we heading towards him back in Tena? The only way to find our would be to get to the hotel. It made no sense to anybody that he would have just left us and somehow found his way home. Jessie being a doctor offered a less than pretty picture of somebody delirious from dehydration and possible heat stroke. The jungle extends from where we were all the way along the Amazon into Brazil and thousands of miles further, trails by natives the entire way. Perhaps the worst kind of getting lost would be there.
Our bus stopped and let us off at a corner one block from our Hostel at 6pm. We unloaded and saw a local friend, Genair. He was laughing at us, knowing that we were somehow just returning from the river run a day late. Genair said he saw Danny and got the story from him. Danny was now headed back to try to find us and had a taxi scheduled for 6pm to pick him up and bring him back, theoretically with us in it. We all decided that we needed to eat and went to the local pizza place to wait. Danny showed up 15 minutes later at 7pm and we wanted some answers. I didn’t care how he got out, just why he did.
Danny suffered from dehydration and had an uncontrollable panic attack after going 30 minutes down the trail he was scouting. He got pointed in the right direction by our native boy and his family along the way and continued on looking for signs of a road. Of course it was a 5-hour hard hike to get from where we were to the road so Danny wasn’t going to get any kind of proof that he was on the right trail. He said he had already walked 2.5 hours and only thought he was 30 minutes away. He panicked and was desperate to find food and water, so pushed on. He got to the road and got a bus going the wrong way and had no money to pay for the ticket. He then begged for some bananas and water in the town he ended up in. He got on a second bus without money to Tena an hour away. It was there that he got all of the food and water he needed. He then stocked up with Gatorade and food for us, a flashlight, and rubber boots for his rescue attempt. When he got to the trail he found the boys who helped us and they told him we were in town. He caught his taxi home and met us at pizza. I left a note for him, somewhat sarcastic, trying to make a point. “Danny, we are at pizza, decided not to wait.” Danny felt bad about what happened and we just wanted to make sure he wasn’t just using bad judgment. We were so glad to see him and amazed that he made it. Any number of things could have gone wrong. He could have taken the wrong fork when he was 5 hours out, he could have passed out from dehydration and heat stroke. Most likely, was just getting lost. Genair’s comment to us that night was that not many people get out of the jungle after getting so lost. We were all quite lucky and happy to be eating pizza and recuperating.
We were all on the river the next day by 10am and doing quite well considering. All of our legs looked like they have been abused badly, we were walking bug bites.