The Hedgecock family had the privilege of staying at Tahuayo Lodge in Peru this summer. I was glad that I had read Paul Beaver’s Diary of an Amazon Jungle Guide, prior to our trip. It truly captures the amazing diversity of animals and plants, the fascinating culture of native folks and the magical, mysterious world of the Amazon.
In one paragraph, tell us about your book, Diary of an Amazon Jungle Guide.
I started the Amazon’s first adventure camping company 33 years ago. I had so many crazy adventures, bringing people into a wilderness that contains the Earth’s greatest biodiversity. So many crazy and funny encounters of people, plants, insects, monkeys, snakes, etc. After 20 years of working in the jungle I found that I was starting to forget some of the crazy times people would recall to me. So I thought I had better start to write things down.
Your tales encompass a large number of expeditions and I imagine the material for your book took years to accumulate, but how long did it take you to actually write the book?
Once I put pen to paper it just all poured out, 10 chapters worth in about a month. Seven years later I added another 3 chapters.
Who is your favorite naturalist?
I’ll give you two, Charles Darwin, the father of modern biology and Steve Irwin, who shared such joy of nature in his Crocodile Hunter series; Darwin appeals to my serious nature and Irwin to my crazy, no-holds-barred sense of joy in wildlife adventures.
If you were a jungle animal what would you be?
People who have camped with me in the jungle say I remind them of a sloth. I don’t know what to make of that exactly; perhaps because I’m always unruffled, even in tense wilderness situations, and always with an absent-minded smile.
Your book touches on many interesting topics including the little known ruins, Kuelap, which you say is more impressive than Machu Picchu. Do you think this site will ever achieve the same tourism popularity?
It should, if the government ever invests in infrastructure like a good airport and roads.
Your honeymoon camping trip in the Amazon was, shall we say, unique. Did you ever take a more traditional vacation?
Hah, let me tell you about that. My bride, Dolly, was so uncomfortable and miserable, but I said to her that one day we would just laugh about it. Well once every few years I’ll ask her if she’s ready to laugh about it yet. Finally after about 18 years she says yes, she’s finally ready to laugh. Then just to make sure I ask her again today, and its back to no, it really isn’t funny. Well, maybe in another 18 years….
Your depiction of the riberenos culture is well done in the book. Can you tell us about your wife’s efforts to improve the quality of life for these people?
It grew out of her compassion for her sister native women. She wanted to make sure they were not abused and had what they needed for their children. From there it led to economic initiatives for the native women, then a medical clinic (it is probably the finest rural clinic in the Amazon), then educational initiatives and additional health care programs.
Do you have plans to write another book?
I hope to add another chapter in a year or two. I have been getting together with my old shaman friend, Cumpanum. He is very old now, as I am. We get together and talk over old times, every conversation starting with “remember when” and ending in gales of laughter. But these talks have given me more insight into his history and life, which I wish to share.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Paul Beaver. Learn more about the Tahuayo River Lodge on his website: www.perujungle.com. Dolly’s nonprofit organization (Angels of the Amazon) website is:www.angelsoftheamazon.com.
The book is available on Amazon.com bookstore at www.amazon.com/Diary-Amazon-Jungle-Guide-Encounters/dp/0972480919.