Its the end of our low water season here on the Amazon River near Iquitos Peru. This means the tributaries from the distant foothills of the Andes Mountains are swelling with rainwater and start their rush to the main trunk of the Amazon and eventually to the Atlantic. There is a annual spike in the water levels at the end of November that is famously know to locals as Charapa Ishpa
Amazon river dwellers have a specific name for this sharp rise of flood waters called “Charapa Ishpa” Charapa being the giant river turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and Ishpa which is a Quechua word for urine. Don’t be fooled though, the water is not rising from all the adult turtle urine . The phrase actually comes from a tradition when a human baby is born in Loreto, Peru, There is a celebratory ritual dubbed tomar Ishpa (literally drink pee) that almost all the fathers (sometimes mothers) comply with. What that means is binge drinking from one night to sometimes over a week ( maybe to escape fatherly duties?).
So the Beer (or other alcohol) is the symbolic Ishpa (urine) from the newborn baby. Yup, that’s right, celebrating the birth of kin by drinking some newborn “Ishpa”
So what does all this have to do with giant river turtles and the rising water?
In the months after the floods recede, many species of turtles climb up the beaches of the mainstream Amazon River to lay their eggs. The incubation period can be as short as 45 days yet the average is sixty days. It has even been known that the young turtles hatch and stay in the nest awaiting the rains to facilitate their dispersal into the water. This hatching happens in our area at the end of October well into November just as the water levels start to rise. This is the event ” Charapa Ishpa ” as if the giant river turtles were drinking heavily celebrating the prolongation of their species.