Sitting in Tepum’s modest jungle house, we sipped weak coffee and ate crackers. My friends Eduardo and Murilo translated as we discussed the possibility of catching a Kapum frog. Kambo as it’s known here in the west is a traditional medicine of the Yawanawa people of Brazil. A large, beautiful and poison member of the Phyllomedusa genus, it’s scientific name is the Phyllomedusa bicolor. The Yawanawa use the poison from this frog to clear ‘panema’ or laziness from a person leaving them feeling strong, connected and focused. I came to Brazil with a strong desire to meet one of these beautiful creatures, having benefited so greatly from my personal work with Kambo. Enter Tepum, a small friendly and gentle man, peacefully living in the Yawanawa village known as Aldeia Nova Esperanca or Place of New Hope, a sure reference to post-colonialism. Earlier in the evening we met Tepum for a pre-arranged frog hunt but he informed us soon after we arrived that “the frogs are not singing” and so we’d need to cancel the trip. The triple Taurus in me decided it would be wise to hang out in case the frogs changed their minds. Half a packet of dry crackers later, Tepum jumped to his feet with his hand to his ear; he looked happy as he’d obviously heard something that we’d all missed. It was the call of Kambo. A distinctive sound, once heard never forgotten, this tree frog calls to the others especially in and around the time of rain. Living up trees it rarely comes down unless it is to make whoopee in the shallow jungle streams. Tepum gestured that we were going as he picked up his flashlight and machete. He headed out into the night and we excitedly followed. Walking through the village with a dim flashlight I could not help wonder how he was going to locate a little frog in that huge jungle and more than that, if we did find it, how on earth were we going to get it out of a tree? We left the village and headed down a steep, slippy mud bank towards the river and huge fallen tree. Nature provided a bridge of sorts and I dared not look down as I followed the agile frog hunter across. Once in the jungle Tepum would stop from time to time and call the frog. He expertly imitated its call and then we listened for an answer. Often it came and I felt so much glee, that a man could talk to nature, something that we were never taught. By calling, listening and walking towards the sound we quickly located the location of the frog. A medium sized tree strewn with jungle vines. There were a couple of younger saplings to the left. By shining his flashlight carefully upwards, Tepum located the reflection from the frogs eyes and the fun began. Kambo was sat on the vines and Tepum began to violently shake them while being showered with a steady steam of bugs. At some point Tepum decided that the saplings were interfering with his good work so he hacked them down with his machete. Next some of the vines, thus isolating Kambo and allowing a better, cleaner shake. After he had worked up a sweat, yes the locals go sweat from time to time, Kambo remained resolute and looking down at us wondering what all the fuss was about. I stepped in and and offered to help shake while Eduardo and Murilo kept a keen eye and flashlight on Kambo. Tepum and I both grabbed a vine and began to shake, building a rhythm we managed to dislodge Kambo who was now hanging by one leg, I was covered in insects and was doing a strange dance as I felt a large and unidentifiable winged insect in my shirt. Kambo must have been chuckling to himself. Finally with one final syncopated pull we watched as Kambo imitated a flying frog and headed to the ground. Leaving the spotlight we thought we knew where he landed but searching revealed nothing, had he outsmarted us? Eduardo half fooling imitated the frog and got an immediate reply from behind him. As he turned he saw Kambo hanging on a vine, at head height, their noses almost touching. We laughed so very hard.
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