Otorongo, part 8

The first week of my diet


When it got dark the next day, I already had a plan of how to deal with the rat like opossums.  With the yoga mat rolled up and two pairs of shoes, I closed the gap between mattress, bed frame and mosquito net. My bed became a fortress and I felt safe. Smaller animals like ants, mosquitos and flies were not a big problem. They were easy to catch and I threw them out of my sleeping area. The bird spider I discovered beside my bed before crawling into my protected area had other things to do than harassing me – it was waiting for a prey and did not bother me. (I was so glad that I did not have a spider phobia). However, whenever I heard the opossums coming, I was pointing the flashlight into their eyes and they crawled back to the outside.




Later in the day, I took the photo of the bird spider. Without being afraid of me, it crawled around on the screened entrance door.



During the night, I had all my clothing packed into the suitcase, but left my hat and raincoat on the clothing stand. I assumed that the opossums would not like to eat plastic. The next morning, heavy rain was pounding on the metal roof and I wore the raincoat over my pyjamas when walking to the pond for the morning wash. Halfway to the camp, I looked down on my blue coat and saw hundreds and hundreds of tiny termites all over me. Luckily, they were peaceful and it was easy to remove them.




Later in the day, the big termite colony outside was eliminated by Milton and Luis. Judith and Rosalia, the two women working in Otorongo, removed the termite tunnels in my cabin and on the cloth stand and sprayed diesel fuel to keep them from coming in again.





Luis removing, with his machete, the colony of termites



I could find solutions to deal with the outside problems I was confronted with. However, I had to accept the challenges of my body. Beginning with the ceremony, I started a 21-day long diet with a plant, the resin of the Copaiba tree. It required taking about 15 drops of Copaiba oil in the morning. I was told that this oil was good for a healthy colon. I only drank water and had twice a day a vegetarian meal, a variation of unsalted carrots, red beets, potatoes and rice. Sometimes I had fish. The meal was brought to the cabin, most of the time by Judith.







With the lack of salt, sugar, tea and coffee, my body developed severe withdrawal problems. Day and night, I had terrible headaches and my breathing became short and choppy. The time during meditation seemed endless, after 15 minutes of sitting, I felt I was sitting an hour. When I did just simple yoga poses, sweat was running down my body like tiny streams. Often, I went to the little creek beside my cabin to pour cold water over myself. In general, I felt so weak that I slept most of the time.




View from my hut into the jungle



On the fourth day, all the challenges were gone. The opossums did not come anymore and my body felt so fresh and rejuvenated that I could start to enjoy every moment of my stay. Dr. Himmelbauer told me later that people doing a diet go through a typical pattern of behaviour during the first four days. The first day they feel angry, the second day depressed, the third day lonely and the fourth day they develop a nihilistic attitude. I was very surprised.

After five days, I had developed a flexible structure. It consisted of going swimming in the morning, cleaning the cabin, meditation twice a day, doing 108 prostrations in combination with certain phrases and practicing yoga, going on jungle walks for about 2 ½ hours, sewing and reading. There was not one moment I felt bored or out of place. This simple hut became my home. I finally also had the strength to do longer jungle walks.





Dr. Himmelbauer suggested that I first walk to the Chullachaqui-caspi tree and then to the spring, which would bring me back to the main path. With my barefoot shoes and walking stick, I started my hike with a queasy feeling in my stomach. The path is called “the jaguar path” and one of the trees along it has marks from a jaguar sharpening its claws. I was advised to immediately return to the camp when I hear birds breaking out into a frantic noise – this would be a warning sign that a jaguar is somewhere close.



Looking up


In order not to get lost, I made arrows from wooden sticks and laid them down at crossways. Getting lost six months ago in the middle of the jungle was a lesson I did not forget.

Thousands of different shades and hues of green were surrounding me when suddenly my gaze was caught by the sight of a wonderful being. It was a dragonfly so transparent that I only could see two floating, fluorescent yellow points at the end of its wings. In the same moment, however, a deep roar came from the left. Immediately, I thought that I had disturbed the siesta of a jaguar and I was in severe danger.  As fast as I could, I returned to the camp with the shock still in my bones.






Dr. Himmelbauer assured me that the roar of the jaguar is so penetrating and loud that it would stop every sound in the jungle. In addition, he told me that a jaguar had not been sighted for more than 6 months in this area and there are other, smaller cats in the jungle. Furthermore, he claimed that those on a dieta are never attacked. I should not be afraid. His words really calmed me down. At the same time, I was aware that he was contradicting himself. He once said that a jaguar is passing the path about once a month. It took all my courage to walk on this path again. Each day, however, it became easier and soon I was not afraid anymore. Also, each day I saw different fascinating things.




Roots of the Bona palm tree





A vine embracing the tree like a snake



Wasps were building this tower for their offspring



A unique growth on a dead tree trunk



The path to the Chullachaqui-caspi tree is a gorgeous jungle path blanketed by dead brown leaves. Sometimes, fallen trees blocked the path and I had to climb over or under them. Here in the jungle, trees often fall to the ground, especially after a heavy rain. When this happens, the trees fall with a dull thud and the jungle floor is trembling nearby. Natives say that the trees are tired and want to rest. Sometimes, new shoots grow out of the trunk, as parts of their roots still are connected with the soil.



Fallen tree with a new shoot



During my first two walks, I could not find the Chullachaqui-caspi tree, a peculiar tree on stilts with unusual knots and lumps inside. “Chullachaqui is tricking you”, Dr. Himmelbauer said when I told him about it.

Chullachaqui is the Lord of the Forest and master of animals in the Amazon jungle. He lives in the Chullachaqui-caspi tree and rests under the Caimito tree. His appearance is that of a dwarf with two uneven feet (one animal and one human foot) and legs of different length. He is known as a trickster, often leading people astray. He can appear to people day or night and is able to choose any form he wants.  Although I did not really believe in the stories of Chullachaqui, I still had an open mind for the plurality of worlds and the existence of all kinds of spirits. Therefore, I followed the advice not to make a photo of these two trees in order not to disturb their magic.




After I had found the Chullachaqui-caspi tree, I noticed a vine growing just several meters before it. The vine became my marker for the tree.




I found the way to the spring and later on to the two huge medicine trees.




1000 year old medicine tree with giant, wavelike buttress roots








The entire walk to the Chullachaqui-caspi tree and medicine trees took about 2 ½ hours. I knew where the Huyhuyshu birds will sing and that the rustling sound in the leaves is most probably from a lizard disappearing from the path. Day and night, birds can be heard in the jungle. However, it is very hard to see them. In order to connect better with trees and plants, I always took drawing utensils with me and looked for good subjects to draw. However, when I stopped walking, mosquitos immediately were all over me, especially near water.














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Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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  1. This was very well done and was quite interesting. I wonder if you were a little physically sick at the beginning of your venture but I know that fasting brings reactions that are negative at first at times. thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Don, I felt very healthy when I started the diet and am pretty sure that I experienced a reaction of not having salt, sugar or caffein. It was a cleansing of the body. At the same time, I could have been sick without realising it. The effect of the diet was the same – I felt great afterwards! Love, Traude


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