The Pongo de Mainique is a dramatically beautiful spot on the Urubamba river, with tall waterfalls, a rapid current, and spirits in the mountainous rocks by the side of the river who are said to give information to healers who pass through here.
The Machiguenga believe this is the place you go when you die. If you have lived a good life, your spirit goes on to the good waters. If you are bad, you go, essentially, to the waters of hell. Everybody gets a chance to come back again, as an animal, and then as a human.
I crossed the pongo with a group of Machiguenga and other people who were travelling to attend a meeting in Sivankoreni. We all bowed our heads and prayed to the spirits so that our asses wouldn't crash on the rocks.
I guess they heard us, because we arrived safely in Sivankoreni, about six hours away from Ivachote.
There was a lot of talking and the usual local political tug of wars at the meeting. I met some great people, and plan to visit the Lower Urubamba again.
The community has a giant tv screen and pretty modern community center. So there we were in the middle of the jungle, a whole bunch of us, watching big screen wrestling.
Outside, the women cooked in an iron pot over an open fire and washed their hands in the rain.