Etnobotánico Omaere Parque, Puyo

Jun 28 – After a good night’s sleep and a very good breakfast, we ventured out to find the Omaere botanical park, on the edge of town. And just like that, we’re back in the jungle!

Omaere means ‘nature of the rainforest’ in the language of the native Waorani people. The park (once a cleared field used for grazing cows) was purchased by two French women and one Schuar indigenous woman almost 30 years ago, and planted with all the medicinal plants important to the nearby indigenous people. It now looks like the jungle it used to be, lush and green and teeming with life.

We met Chris, a biologist from California who came to Ecuador to complete his dissertation 30 years ago, and never went home. He provided a bilingual tour of the medicinal plants, telling us what each one was good for, and how each medicine was prepared.

Vanilla vine
Biggest prayer plant ever

Chris explained how the Schuar and Waorani people lived and hunted (with blowguns and curare darts), how a fierce hunter could have as many as 15 wives, and how they maintained an ecologically sustainable life over the centuries. He also had tinctures, shampoos and handicrafts to sell.

Chris expounded about the eco-friendly toilets he created for the park. Urine flows out a pipe right onto the forest floor to nourish the plants, and poop is covered with soil and stored until it turns to compost. We agreed that it makes no sense to use our precious fresh water resources to flush away our waste, but are not sure that folks back home will be willing to store their poop for a year…

Then we were treated to a native cultural performance by a Waorani family – a man named Yeti, his wife Rosario and her sister. They offered to perform in their native costume – stark naked with a single string tied around the waist – but we figured that we could get the gist of their dance without their full disclosure, so they just wrapped themselves in ropes and put on headdresses.

They chanted several songs in a flat repetitive tone, and shuffled back and forth. Rosario offered to paint my face with the red mask that she wore, but I politely declined.

Chanting – no eye contact

Then Yeti asked if anyone would like to get married. The college kids in our group all declined that offer, so Jim volunteered that we would get married in the Waorani way. We all got up and shuffle danced, then everyone gathered in a tight circle around us and chanted. And just like that, we were married (again!).

We walked out of the park to find some lunch and found ourselves in the tourist part of town. We were the only tourists in sight.

Wall art!

After a fine meal of pollo y papas (chicken and fries), we walked home. The roads are being torn up to put new pipes in. Unlike our experience in Guatemala, most all the roads we have encountered here are paved.

After a siesta, we went out for dinner and found that almost all the restaurants we had seen in the afternoon closed at 4pm. Dinner out isn’t really a thing here. Way down the street we found an Ecuadorian Chinese restaurant – not your typical fare, but not bad, considering.

On our way home we heard music, and walked over to the sports stadium. There, under the lights, was the biggest community Zumba class ever! How fun!

An ad at the pharmacy – I’ll have what she’s having!

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