The Yanomami live in small villages, grouped by families in one large communal dwelling called a Shabono; this disc-shaped structure with an open-air central plaza is an earthly version of their gods' abode. They hunt and fish over a wide range and tend gardens in harmony with the forest. Villages are autonomous but constantly will interact with each other. The villages, which contain between 40 and 300 individuals, are scattered thinly throughout the Amazon Forest and the distance between villages may vary from a few hours walk to a ten day walk.
The Yanomami people's traditions are shaped by the belief that the natural and spiritual world are a unified force; nature creates everything, and is sacred. They believe that their fate, and the fate of all people, is inescapably linked to the fate of the environment; with its destruction, humanity is committing suicide. Their spiritual leader is a shaman.
Though many Yanomami are peaceful, many are fierce warriors. They have their dignity and honour and this is an often cause of duels and fights between the villages. Sometimes their warring is to capture women, so that their best warriors can maximize their reproductive success. In general, warring villages are usually several days walk from each other, whereas tranquil ones may be less than a day. Villages will usually fission when the population reaches 100 to 150 people but in times of warfare villages will not split before they reach a population of around 300 individuals. Villages may go to war for a number of reasons and warfare makes up a large part of Yanomami life. About 40% of adult males have killed another person and about 25% of adult males will die from some form of violence. Violence will vary from chest pounding, in which opponents take turns hitting each other on the chest, to club fights, to raids which may involve the killing of individuals and abducting women, to all out warfare.
Marriage arrangements are not only vital in forging alliances but keeping the peace between families as well. Most women have prearranged marriages and marry at a young age. The preferred marriage is the "bilateral cross-cousin marriage" which helps produce strong relationships between families and villages.
Day 1: Arrive Caracas International Airport (CCS) and transfer to Gran Melia Caracas (5 star hotel) for overnight.
Day 2: Private charter flight from CCS to Puerto Ayacucho. Visit to the indigenous markets and shopping for expedition supplies and gifts for the Yanomami. Sleep in a beautiful Jungle Lodge on the banks of the Orinoco River.
Days 3-4: Private charter flight to San Carlos de Rio Negro. Load up the bongo (dugout canoe with outboard engine) with supplies and drums of fuel and begin our journey up the Rio Negro to the Cassiquari River. The bongo is big enough to string up hammocks and stretch out but progress will be slow. Time to enjoy the wonderful Amazon Jungle and wildlife all around you. We will make stops at various indigenous communities along the way including Piaroa and Arawak as well as Guardia National check points, finally arriving at the mouth of the Siapa, we will encounter our first Yanomami settlement.
Days 5-6: Upon arrival we offer our gifts to the Chief who in turn distributes them to the villagers. Then that evening there will be an initiation ceremony, where Yopo is blow up the nostrils of all visitors, and wild dancing well into the night ensues. This enables us to visit the spirit world and the following morning we will know if we are welcome to stay or not.
Days 7-14: After careful negotiation with our new Yanomami friends we will continue on foot to find a more isolated group of Yanomami deep in the jungle. Here there will be villagers who have had little or no contact at all with the outside world, ever!
Days 15-16: Begin our journey back to the modern world. It is a lot quicker going back as it’s mostly down river.
Day 16-17: Private Charter flight from San Carlos de Rio Negro to Puerto Ayacucho and then a second flight to Caracas International Airport for flight home, or option to spend a night in Caracas.
Suggested Personal Items:
- Wide brimmed hat & Sunscreen
- Shorts & 2 T-Shirts
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirt and trousers
- Sport Sandals
- Compact Toiletries
- Pack-towel or sarong
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