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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Further Amazon Adventures.

It is now Sunday the 14th, although the only way I can know what day it is is
by looking at my phone. This will be our last night in the jungle, and our
second night at the Tayuanu Research Station. Tomorrow we head back to
Iquitos, about a six hour boat ride down river, then fly tomorrow night to
Lima where we will meet up again with Franz and Carolina.

Carolina and Franz have been hanging out with brother Miguel again, who has returned to Lima. They plan to meet up with Erika, the only sibling that Carolina has not yet met. I did meet her though, when she was about two and Carolina was about four. I was visiting Lima with Max, and our lawyer Raul had brought Olinda and Erika for some foot surgery. That was the
second time I’d met Olinda; the first time was the day we got Carolina, and
the third time was a few days ago in Tamashiyacu.

The research station here is a slightly smaller version of the main lodge, and
about two hours further upriver. It is a little more remote. From Iquitos to
the lodge we saw several settlements, including Tamashiyaco. Between the
big lodge and this one we saw none.
Our room at the first lodge had its own bathroom, although some of the
rooms shared. Here there is only one set of bathrooms and showers, so a bit
more rustic. The main lodge had 17 rooms. This one has 12, or so I was told,
but I have only seen eight. Perhaps they had counted the staff accomodations, or it may be that there are other rooms for visiting
researchers. There is one researcher here now, plus a high school student
from Florida who is doing a three week project.

The first lodge was fairly quiet most of the time we were there, perhaps half
full. Our last night it became more bustling, with the arrival of a group of
adults and kids, all friends from California. They told me the kids were all
friends from school.

Here at the research station there are very few of us. There’s the two of us,
a mother and her 13 year old daughter, the young man doing the monkey
research internship, and the staff. There were two sisters, from perhaps
Australia, who were here last night but left this morning.

Right now Loring is out with guide Melisa on a walk to hopefully see the
anaconda that has been spotted a few kilometres away. The three of us,
plus boatman Jackson, who is training to be a guide, all went out together
for a walk yesterday in the jungle behind the lodge. I had indicated I was up
for a short walk, about a half hour. It was, of course, more than two hours
before we returned to the lodge. I had been a bit leery after teetering on a
narrow log bridge (ie one log) the day before, through muddy pools whose
depth was impossible to judge before stepping in. Yesterday’s walk led us thru many more puddles and streams, and a number of log bridges. Luckily,
most of them were several logs wide and not that difficult to cross. In some
cases, it seemed easier just to wade thru. I never got above the top of my
knee high rubber boots provided to each guest for the duration of the stay.
(we got ours at lodge one and brought them with us to this one. )

I confess I was rather enjoying the tromping thru the mud and woods, until
it seemed that there were larger streams in our path and Melisa had to reroute us several times. It was just rather longer than I had bargained for, as I am not the most avid of hikers, as you may know.

We saw little in the way of wildlife yesterday, although I did spot a small
brown lizard on a branch, as I was in the middle of traversing one of the log
bridges, and stopped to say hello. Melisa said it was a tree climber.

She, and also Jackson, the apprentice guide, have a remarkable ability to
both spot and identify wildlife. We constantly marvel at how they can see
something in the woods while we are walking or in a boat. Even after they
shine a laser near it, I can only sometimes find it amidst the greenery.

There have been lots of birds, and we have spotted sloths twice, a couple of
river otters, monkeys a couple of different times, with the best view of several while out on the boat this morning. We have also seen pink dolphins turn, I did expect there to be more, and it to be more visible . There are surprisingly few butterflies, I have seen almost no insects (was hoping for
some colorful ones, like the iridescent green beetles one sees in museums. )No spiders, just a few webs, and none more impressive than many I’ve seen at home. Not even as many mosquitos as I expected, although I am certainly not complaining about that! Although Melisa tells us that at times there are many more mosquitos.

This morning we found a blue and yellow butterfly in the bottom of theboat. And I’ve seen perhaps another half dozen all told. This morning, though, from the boat, we did finally spot a blue morpho, the beautiful large iridescent butterfly that I thought was common here. I have seen them in
much greater quantity, from a car, on one of our other trips, to Costa Rica, I
believe. We spotted the monkeys, saki by name, at the same time that the
morpho fluttered by, very close to the lodge, on our way home.

Our main intent of this morning’s boat ride was to go fishing. Yesterday, on our way up here, we passed another boat with tourists from the lodge. Melisa gestured to him, with a a rolling of her hands, and then pointing at
him and herself. She explained to us that he had taken her fishing poles from the lodge. She seemed unperturbed, more amused than annoyed. I was initially a little frustrated, since we had planned to go fishing, andd now only had the rudimentary ones made from a branch with a fishing line and hook. But then I decided that it was better to try a more authentic method
than using commercially made equipment.

So we set out upriver this morning. We had ham from breakfast as bait. Loring caught the first fish, and we used it for bait. He eventually caught three, and Jackson caught about six. Three of them were pirhana. He pulled the jaws open so I could see the teeth. I didn’t catch any, but had one good tug that I lost, and we think Jackson caught it a moment later.

He cleaned them on the boat, using his paddle as a table. We could see the
cut marks of many cleanings on the paddle.
Their paddles are a different
shape from the ones we are used to at home, kind of a leaf or pear shape, and made from a single piece of wood.
a couple of times.

The river otters were rather different from my previous impression of otters
as playful and friendly. We had a family of them one year on the pond in
Maine, and they did fit that vision. These creatures were an entirely different breed. They poked their heads out of the water at us, baring their teeth and hissing menacingly . Not at all the endearing creatures we thought  of.

The jungle itself is less foreboding than I had imagined. Even when we paddled by canoe down a small tributary, a great experience, we could stillsee sky above. And the moon!
My impression of the environment in general is rather different than I had
expected. While I did not anticipate a place teeming with wildlife at every turn, I did expect there to be more, and it to be more visible .
There are surprisingly few butterflies, I have seen almost no insects (was hoping for
some colorful ones, like the iridescent green beetles one sees in museums. )
No spiders, just a few webs, and none more impressive than many I’ve seen
at home. Not even as many mosquitos as I expected, although I am certainly
not complaining about that! Although Melisa tells us that at times there are
many more mosquitos.

This morning we found a blue and yellow butterfly in the bottom of the
boat. And I’ve seen perhaps another half dozen all told. This morning, though, from the boat, we did finally spot a blue morpho, the beautiful large
iridescent butterfly that I thought was common here. I have seen them in
much greater quantity, from a car, on one of our other trips, to Costa Rica, I
believe. We spotted the monkeys, saki by name, at the same time that the
morpho fluttered by, very close to the lodge, on our way home.

Our main intent on this morning’s boat ride was to go fishing. Yesterday, on
our way up here, we passed another boat with tourists from the lodge.
Melisa gestured to him, with a a rolling of her hands, and then pointing at
him and herself. She explained to us that he had taken her fishing poles from the lodge. She seemed unperturbed, more amused than annoyed.

I was initially a little frustrated, since we had planned to go fishing, andd now
only had the rudimentary ones made from a branch with a fishing line and
hook. But then I decided that it was better to try a more authentic method than using commercially made equipment. So we set out upriver this morning. We had ham from breakfast as bait.

Loring caught the first fish, and we used it for bait , much more effective than the ham. He eventually caught three, and Jackson caught about six. Three of them were pirhana. He pulled the jaws open so I could see the teeth.

 I didn’t catch any, but had one good tug that I lost, and we think Jackson caught it a moment later. He cleaned them on the boat, using his paddle as a table. We could see the cut marks of many cleanings on the paddle.

Their paddles are a different shape from the ones we are used to at home, kind of a leaf or pear shape, and made from a single piece of wood.

 We had the biggest pirhana fried up for us for lunch. It was quite good.

I have a bird book here, and am now going to leaf through it and try to find
some of the names of species that Melisa has identified for us. There is one bird that seems to reside here at the lodge. When we came back from the woods yesterday, having spotted just the little lizard, it was perched on the railing of the cabin next to us.

Before I could fetch the camera, it had flown, but not far, to one of the boats, and then to several other spots, all within
view from our porch. Melisa said it was a falcon.

Now  let me mention some of the birds we’ve spotted while here. There
have been flycatchers, kingfishers, woodpeckers, herons, hawks, vultures,
swallows, jays, a tanager, antbirds, a cotinga, a kiskadee, macaws, parrots,
and a toucan. The macaws were impressive flying overhead, although to me
they looked black. Loring, thru the binoculars, could see a lot of color.

I also saw about a dozen vultures sitting in a tree. Loring told Melisa that vultures
are looked at negatively in our country. She said that here in Peru they are regarded very positively because they help keep the jungle clean.

 We’ve seen owls twice, once a brown adult with its white juvenile. Loring went on
a long walk with Melisa to see the hoatzin.
 Melisa has made bird and animal calls whenever she spots something.

The sound of the macaw she made sounded just like the name. I suppose
that’s how it got its name. She says a lot of the bird names are onomatopoetic. Her calls and those of all the guides sound very authentic and impressive, although how would I actually know?

Another surprise is that there have been virtually no flowers. It must just not
be the right season. The only ones I have seen are large red blooms called
bromeliads growing atop trees.

Right now there are only three of us here at the lodge. Loring has gone with Melisa in
search of an anaconda. Kim and her daughter Arianna have gone out on a
canoe ride. The other two here beside me  are researcher Malika and intern Andre.Plus the staff, maybe four or five people. I don’t think any others are arriving today.

I will stop writing now and head to the hammock room to relax, and most likely take a nap.


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