To avoid being a delectable morsel for an untamed Jivaro's dinner, I found a different way to get to the jungle. I obtained government permission to fly in an Ecuadorian Air Force plane from Quito to Pastaza.
When we landed in Pastaza, Terry and I saw a C-47 government plane parked nearby that carried provisions to the outlying military bases. Lt. Col. Alberto Serrano, Commander of the Pastaza base, invited us into his office and showed us on a wall map where the C-47 was headed — to Tiputini, deep in the jungle. I told Serrano that we wanted to go into the jungle to buy Indian artifacts, so he escorted us to the airfield to board the C-47.
We sat along the side of the plane, facing a couple of Indians and two nuns dressed in gray. It was a smooth one-hour flight. Captain Jose Montesinos sent his steward to invite us, one at a time, into the cockpit to see the jungle below. The vegetation formed a thick fluffy carpet of emerald green. When the wheels hit the landing field in Tiputini, both nuns promptly threw up.
Captain Montesino led us to a clapboard building where lunch awaited us. We sat on boxes to eat. After I had eaten most of my rice, I noticed that many of the grains were moving (rice worms).
After lunch, a Lieutenant drove us by Jeep to headquarters (the 'casino' they called it), where the men ate, drank and played pool. The Colonel, who was Base Commander, met us there. We talked about the Galapagos and he asked about his sister, whom he had not seen for 17 years. His sister was the Ecuadorian woman who married Gusch Angermeyer. She was the mother of Johnny Angermeyer, with whom we went to Turtle Bay.
The base and pueblo of Tiputini rimmed the Rio Napo. It was one long dirt road with bamboo huts on either side. The doctor on base led us to one of the huts where he thought we might find some artifacts to buy. The hut was built on high stilts, with steps cut into one long tree trunk. All the woman could offer us was a tigre skin (actually a leopard skin), which was outside stretched and drying on a rack, still fairly bloody. That gave us the idea to look for tigre skins—but one not quite so fresh from the animal's back.
I wanted to go farther into the jungle. So, the Lieutenant took us out on the water to find a Jivaro crew with a canoe willing to take us down the Rio Napo to Nuevo Roca Fuerte at the Peruvian border.
The canoe was a long hollowed-out tree. One man stood at the back of the canoe, using a long pole to navigate and to test the depth of the shallow water, which was golden from the mud. Three men paddled it with paddles that were short and wide like Japanese fans.