National Geographic : 1964 Aug
Silver nose pendant decorates a tattooed Machiguenga. Like the men of her tribe, she keeps her name secret. Although only 13, she has a husband and daughter. The family floated downstream on the expedition raft. with negligent grace: Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 'noble savage.' "In the rafters I see bundles of five-foot arrows of three distinct types: One with an eight-inch bamboo blade, razor sharp, for hunting pigs, tapirs, and jaguars; one, which is barbed, for birds; and one, multi-pronged, for fish. Except for the bamboo-bladed ones, the arrows are tipped with the hard wood of the chonta palm, also used for bows. "Small parrots shiver on perches against the wall.... The guides occasionally take food-plantains, beans, yuca-and roast it in the coals of the small fire. A pipe is passed around; its stem is made from the hollow 296 bone of a monkey's forearm. Masato and honey are both offered around and we drink politely. [Masato is a beer made by the wom en; they chew yuca, spit it out, and let the result ferment.] "From our tents we hear Marino's deep voice rising and falling all night.... An aris tocrat of the jungles, an old-fashioned orator, spellbinding his two visitors." Indians Part Without Farewells Because these wild Indians are shy and guarded under direct questioning, it was hard to learn much about them. They live not in tribes but in small, widely scattered family groups. Linguistically they are related to the Campa of the Apurimac Valley. The people we met are the result of a move ment away from the Urubamba that began long ago. They and their ancestors fled white man's civilization-largely to avoid the rub ber slavers. Although they have no memory of it, their blue facial tattoo, we were told, dates back to the rubber-hunting days of the 1800's. An Indian who had a specially fine nose for wild rubber trees was tattooed thus by his owners. The mark is now purely decorative. After leaving Marino, we lived and traveled with small bands of upriver Machiguenga, finally taking a young man and his wife and child out to civilization with us by balsa raft and canoe. The Indian wished to work at a mission downriver so he could buy a machete. This Machiguenga family taught us an in teresting thing about their jungle tribe: They may greet each other volubly, but they do not say goodbye. The three Indians knew they might never make the long journey back to the Alto Picha. But when they got on our raft, neither they nor the relatives they left behind smiled, waved, or spoke a word. No one looked back. We reached our goal-the Dominican Mis sion at the confluence of the Sepahuaand Uru bamba Rivers-on November first, 89 days after we had jumped into the cordillera. A thin line had been laid across the map of the Vilcabamba by our two small teams, supported by another in the air. The Vilca bamba had been crossed. It has been seen in a first small glimpse that will be followed, I am sure, by other, more leisurely eyes. Eventually all parts of the world are opened up and used in ways un dreamed of by the men who were first inter ested enough to go. But the first trip through is never easy.