Ureakatepe! Bienvenidos! Today, the community of Ritamaka Amazonas welcomed us with good food, beautiful birdlife, and friendly dogs. After a luxurious sleep in, we boarded our skiffs to head to a nearby village that is the epitome of living sustainably from the land. Ritamaka Amazonas participates in the Minga Project, which seeks to empower women and men within communities. They build work and leadership skillsets, while also supporting schools. Minga supports more than 40 communities in the Ucayali, and it has been doing so for over 25 years. Guests support the endeavor when they visit the area.

We began our tour by learning about local artisan practices and the region’s traditional food. Women collect fruits and roots from the forest, such as turmeric and henna, to create natural dyes, which they use to create intricately patterned basket weavings. They shared the process by which seeds are boiled and fibers dyed. We learned that they can make one of the baskets in just three days! But when you consider harvesting materials and dying the straw, the endeavor can account for a week’s worth of work.

Afterwards, we learned about the preparation of traditional cuisine and walked through the village, which is centered around a complex of buildings that make up the school, the heart of the community. Children joined us for much of our walk, and Fred surprised everyone by bringing a brand-new soccer ball, which he gave to the teacher. This encourages the children to enjoy going to class.

We heard from some of the women of the community. They spoke about how the Minga Project helped give them a voice when they once felt like they didn’t have one. One woman told us that she feels like more a part of her community now. Many women serve as president of various parts of the community, from top leadership at school to president of the mother’s club. The community has implemented programs for agroforestry and fish farming so they can live sustainably off the land. These programs provide them with a wealth of resources within their community that can be drawn upon for generations to come.

After purchasing some of the community’s artistry from a market, it was time to depart and prepare for more wildlife outings on the river. We headed to an area called Clavero Lake.

The lake did not disappoint. We traveled by skiff, where we were greeted by a plethora of birdlife from common pauraques and dusky-headed parakeets to the less often seen bare-necked fruit crow and cream-colored woodpecker. Time passed so quickly with all the sightings, and it seemed we had just begun when we had to return for dinner. It had been two hours! We raced back to the boat as a rainbow turned to torrential rains. Everyone donned ponchos except for Matt, who just threw up his arms and embraced the storm.

The whole day felt like a lesson in what it means to live a good and meaningful life.