Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Puesto Vigilancia 5-- Ranger Station 5

(Note: due to lack of power, the VEs were not able to transmit this until the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day)

The final destination on our journey. We arrived at the station earlier than expected yesterday and had time to look around and rest before nightfall. The guys played another game or two of football with the rangers. We weren't able to swim at this station because there is an electric eel living under the dock. There's always something we have to be careful of, it seems.

Like all the other stations along the river, Station 5 also hatches turtles. And they also have dogs. As a puppy, one of the dogs had a nasty encounter with ants that ate away the tissue at the end of the puppy’s nose. The rangers rescued the dog. It is fine now, but it doesn't really have a nose.

Station 5 has a sizable orchard with various types of fruit trees. They share these fruits with rangers at the other stations. The rangers don't often get fresh fruit unless they grow it themselves. We are taking two bunches of plantains down to Stations 3 and 4 when we return.

Everyone who comes into the Reserve must sign the logbook at every station on her way out. We noticed that no one had signed the logbook at Station 5 since this particular logbook began back in February, reminding us again of how few people travel this way.

Just as at the previous stations, the rangers came on board in the evening to eat dinner with the crew and share conversation. They are very happy to have company.

As we sat on the top deck of the Mirón Lento, the sun set against giant cumulus clouds. They glowed pink and purple and cast a glow on the river that was smooth as glass. Everyone was in a good mood, feeling happy to have finally arrived at Station 5.

Because we are so close to the equator, nightfall comes quickly and promptly every night about 6:00 PM. We know by now that we need to be "settled" before the sun goes down, as we don't have much light on the boat.

One of our evening rituals is to have a cool beverage right before dinner. It is a brave soul who dares to open the freezer these days to fetch the bottles, though. The stench is overwhelming and nobody really wants to know what the origin of what the smell might be. Our "fresh" food is not so fresh any longer. Yet, Horacio continues to prepare amazing meals.

We anchored the boat around the bend from the station last night because the rangers told us one of their dogs barks incessantly. We already have enough noise at night. Without the rat that Michina has killed and rangers' dogs, we thought we'd have a better chance at having a quiet night for once. Silly us.

As Tamara was getting ready to sleep, a bat (little brown bat to be exact) flew in the window by her bed and got trapped between the wall and her mosquito netting. She called for Enzo to help get the bat out of the boat. Enzo quickly put socks on his hands so that if bitten by the bat, he would have some protection. After some commotion the bat managed to free itself, take a few turns around the kitchen area and fly out the window. Everyone was relieved, particularly Tamara. The thought of sleeping with a bat crawling around on her netting was a little disconcerting.

This morning we took the skiff up a small channel above the station. The rangers said they had spotted a manatee there a few weeks ago. While we never saw any manatees, the bird life was abundant. A beautiful capped heron with its long blue beak and blue head feathers followed us up the channel. After about an hour, the captain cut the motor—as he always does—and we floated silently back down the river with the current, listening to all the sounds. Along the way we took pH and temperature measurements of the water with our Palm handheld computers and probeware.

A Companion for Waldir

In the evening we cut some tee shirts into small pieces and stuffed a pair of purple socks to make a companion for Waldir. It didn't really resemble anything other than a big purple foot until Tracy performed some magic with a needle and thread, turning it into a critter with arms, legs, a head and a tail. She used a permanent marker to make a face. The crew thought we were nuts when we explained to them what we were doing. Yet the captain played with the monkey doll, keeping it on his shoulder while driving the boat and singing " La Bamba." We might be getting a little stir crazy!

When we arrived at Ranger Station 4 shortly after lunch today, we took Waldir's companion, a dozen coloring books and a few Christmas gifts Tamara had purchased in Iquitos up to the station. The rangers spend Christmas at the stations. Since this is her last trip, Tamara has brought each station the traditional Christmas Eve treat—coffee, chocolate and a special bread.

Shelly introduced Waldir to his new companion. With all the noise and strange people in the room, he was too scared to get acquainted, but we left it with him and a box full of shredded tee shirts as a bed. While holding Waldir, Shelly noticed that he had a scar around his waist. The rangers explained that it was from the rope the poachers had tied to him. Tamara explained that scars can often be seen around the necks or waists of animals that have been rescued from poachers.

It was very hard for all of us to say goodbye to Waldir and the rangers. It seemed the rangers were a little sad to see us go, as well. They stood on the bank and waved to us for a long time as our boat slipped out of sight.

We mentioned last week that Horacio is reading the first of the Harry Potter books, which is also published in Spanish. Susan has an application on her Palm called "Sorting Hat". You enter information about yourself and then it "sorts" you into one of the four Hogsworth houses. She showed Horacio how to enter his information and "get sorted." He was placed in Gryffindor and found it funny.

We expect to reach Ranger Station 3 tonight. There we will spend the night. We are full of mixed emotions heading down the river; we are longing for some creature comforts, but we are also very reluctant to leave the Reserve.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Americans celebrate this day with their families, often traveling great distances to be together for the traditional dinner. Although we are not with our loved ones this holiday, we feel grateful to be able to be in this special place.

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