Kane squats on the rain forest floor next to Harnan, his guide. A frame of sticks rests over a fire Kane has built. On top, rows of piranhas roast in the smoke. These fish are fierce predators with razor-sharp teeth. But now they’re lunch for Kane and his team.
Kane is deep in the Amazon rain forest, in the remote Matsés (MAT-sess) National Reserve. Here, miles away from any towns or farms, the Matsés tribe of people live in the traditional way, completely off the grid. No electricity. No plumbing. No grocery stores or cell phones or vehicles. Just miles of waterways and dense jungle teeming with wild birds, animals, and insects.
Kane traveled for two days up the Amazon River and then along smaller rivers to reach one of the remote Matsés villages. His companions were his adventurer father—Paul Hameister—and photographer Dom Farrell. Their local guides and teachers were Sergio; Harnan, chief of the Matsés tribe; and Harnan’s father, Armando.
Kane was on a mission. He wanted to learn how to live like the Matss. It wasn’t long before he found out just how challenging that could be.
Like the Matsés, Kane had to make almost everything he needed to survive. The rain forest provided all the basic materials. Kane just needed to learn how to use them.
He got his first lessons at the village. His basic tool was a kind of a knife called a machete. He used it to chop down wood and hack into tough rain forest vines. The Matsés use machetes for making everything from firewood to fishing rods.
Kane traveled to an even more remote area by dugout canoe, where he learned his next lesson. If Kane wanted lunch, he was going to have to catch or kill something. His guides taught him how to make a fishing rod from a small, thin tree cut off at its base. He burned it to strengthen it, then peeled off the bark. Then he attached some fishing line and a hook. Leftover meat scraps were used as bait. Along with sharp-toothed piranhas, Kane caught wolf fish and peacock bass. He even got pretty good at gutting them.
Kane uses a machete to cut away a thin tree. With it, he can make a fishing rod.
Kane was successful as a fisherman!
Catching and preparing the fish wasn’t enough, though. No fire, no dinner. Kane learned how to chop up tree bark for starting a fire. He held a match to it, hoping for a spark. It lit! Carefully he breathed life into it, then fed it with small sticks. Ahhh. . . fire. Those fish roasting over Kane’s fire smelled better than anything he could have imagined.
Kane learned other lessons here. His guides showed him how to make a bridge from a fallen log to cross a fast-moving creek. Using long branches as poles for balance, Kane slowly made his way across.
They returned to camp at dusk. Kane was ready for bed. But first he had to build a shelter. The Matsés traditionally build permanent shelters from wood and woven palm branches. But here, Kane learned to build a temporary shelter. He cut two big tree branches, each with a Y at the top, and dug them into the ground. A strong branch between the two Y’s made an A-frame for a tarp. He tied down the tarp edges with vines. For a floor, he laid down large palm branches. Finally, he put his sleep mat under the tarp. Exhausted, he fell asleep immediately.
Matsés National Reserve
Amazon rain forest
Matsés National Reserve