(Jackson, Wyo.) - Lina Collado recently spent 30 days venturing into the jungle of the Peruvian Amazon -- she traveled in boats, slept in tents, was bitten by an extremely painful Bullet Ant, got a parasite.... and she cannot wait to go back. “I personally miss it like crazy. I miss the sounds and I miss the people,” she said. The local photojournalist was a member of team that included an anthropologist, two filmmakers, a biologist/photographer and a journalist. With special permits and permissions, the group was able to travel to the widely restricted areas of Manú National Park to tell the stories of the people who have very little contact with contemporary society. They funded this trip with a Kickstarter project called The Uncontacted Project, which has recently changed its name to The Manu Project
The team did not strive to make the first contact with uncontacted tribes,
but their goal was to document the lives of the communities along the
border of the uncontacted zone.
“We set out to document the changes in Manu National Park, how civilization
and how connectivity has changed these people for good or for bad, and how
you are able to find people who still keep their culture," said Collado.
"You can start to see cell phones and TV's and other modern technology
slowly reaching into the jungle."
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*"Our team, along with our captains, guides and cook totaled 11 people.
Along with all of our film equipment, camera gear and backpacking supplies,
our weight was too much for an average boat for our journey, called a Peke
a Peke. The team got together, and we agreed on transforming our usual boat
(with a weight limit of 5 tons) into the lightest version possible. We
removed the roof, took out all of the seats and left as much not-needed
equipment (for the next 4 days) in a safe location in Tayakome. We
purchased 4 umbrellas and were on our way for the next eight hours through
the narrowest and shallowest river canal yet!" - Photo and Caption by Lina
During April, the group visited 10 indigenous communities in 30 days, only
allowing for about two days in each location. They prepped by reading up on
the culture, as well as purchasing items like beads, fish hooks and other
essential items as gifts.
As they visited the native communities, each one had less and less contact
with the outside world. When Collado and her team reached the two
communities that were the deepest in the jungle, she found something that
she didn't expect. The two furthest communities could not be more different
from each other.
“When you see them, they are night and day difference,” said Collado.
Collado described the first one they visited as "lost." Their Matsigenka
culture was close to being lost, they dressed in donated western clothing
instead of their traditional *cushmas *(tunics), and had no medicine man.
The women barely spoke and the idea of the leaving the community was
thought of as abandonment. They had lost much of their connection to the
"We saw this and were worried," said Collado. "We thought, 'what is our
story going to be about?' We questioned our project many times, thinking
'are we really helping these people?'"
But the very last community reaffirmed the group's focus of their project.
When they arrived, the school children were singing their Matsigenka hymns,
the kids were dressed in their traditional tunics and even wore a temporary
dye made of crushed fruit pulp and water, believed to repel biting insects.
They still hunted and fished for their food. Things like "meal times,"
grocery stores and leftovers are non-existent. However, things like
jaguars, monkeys as pets, and bow and arrows are second nature and seen on
a daily basis.
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*"While visiting the native community of Yomibato, for one early morning,
we all decided to split up. Some would go monkey hunting and some would go
fishing. Together with two other team members, we accompanied two men to
fish, Jaime and Cesar who guided us through some think jungle until we
reached a small stream. The easiness Jaime and Cesar would have while
walking barefoot through the thick and dense jungle floor repeatedly amazed
me throughout the day. They have a special plant called Barbasco. A plant
with its roots that are large and toxic enough to stun fish. Using rocks,
they mashed the root into pulp, then waded into the stream, dunked the pulp
and waited for the fish. Suddenly the whole families of both men appeared
to help! Wives, children, grandmother...ect." -** Photo and Caption by Lina
Although this community lived in a more traditional way, their thinking was
modern. 20 years ago, the girls would get married at 14 and go on to have
many kids -- up to 7, 9 or more. When Collado and her team visited, girls
were waiting longer to get married and have less kids. She met two teenager
girls who wanted to marry at 24 years of age and only have two children.
Once finished with high school, if these young adults want to leave to
continue their education, they are encouraged to do so and are welcomed
back into the community along with providing them with some land and a home
to start a family.
“Traditions that we lost ages and ages ago, they still have in tact, but
then they have modern thinking of education and wanting to progress," said
Collado. "But everything else is like it used to be, them one with nature,
with the jungle. It is very interesting."
Now back in Jackson, she hopes to spread the message of how connectivity
impacts culture. Her team is planning to compile a photo book, develop a
documentary and their story has been published on The Outdoor Journal and
Matador Network (here's the link
Last month, she spoke at the Jackson Hole Community School about what she
learned during her expedition. She is also holding a presentation at the
Teton County Library on September 29 to discuss the native communities they
visited, their stories, all who live inside a National Park.
“I really want to bring this message to kids, especially adolescents with
how extremely connected we are,” she added.
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*"This became one of my favorite windows. You opened it, with caution, as
bullet-ants crossed it all the time, and suddenly, all you could hear was
the flowing river and the birds. Staring into it, you could never get a
moment of jungle silence. It was never still. All you could see was a deep,
vibrant green and all you could smell was nature. I probably took over 20
different images, just from this window alone. This is Amaru Mayú
Ecological Reserve, a 1,000-acre volunteer-based reserve founded and
managed by our guide and team member, Dante Karin Nuñez del Prado. He was
instrumental in the creation of the nonprofit private reserve in the
Peruvian Amazon, protecting these acres from illegal logging, mining,
poaching and agriculture. Some of the last remaining rubber trees that
survived the Rubber Boom are found nestled in this reserve. We were
fortunate enough to stay here for a total of four nights during our journey
to Manú National Park. This was our first time staying deep inside the
rainforest and waking up to jungle sounds!" **- Photo and Caption by Lina
Learn more about The Manu Project on their website
keep up with updates on their Facebook page
*Feature Photo: Lina Collado and a sloth in an animal refuge near Atalaya,
a port-town, along the border of Manú National Park. Photo by Lina Collado*