Thursday, August 12, 1999

Early Morning Sun Rise

SunriseI woke this morning at 5:00 am to watch the sun rise on the river and do a little reading. When I travel I always like to bring along a book about the area I am visiting. This time I brought "Cloud Forest"by Peter Matthiessen, one of my favorite authors. When I opened the book this morning the first thing I read was the following, " . . . one must hurry if one is still to glimpse the earth's last wild terrains. The greatest of these, the oceans and Antarctica excepted, lie not in Africa but within the mysterious continent of South America." I thought that was a "telling" passage to read prior to taking our walk in the forest this morning.

There are two kinds of rain here according to the locals; male rain which is referred to as "el chaparron" and female rain which is called "la lluvia." El chaparron comes down hard and fast and is over very quick so you can play soccer, meet your friends and get on with your day. La lluvia is gentle and lasts for a very long time. Today we had both male and female rain during our morning dolphin watch.



Forest Walk

Group in forestWe all dressed up in our jungle walk clothes; long pants, long sleeve shirts, boots, socks, floppy hats held on by string, and mosquito nets. We looked like a bunch of aliens. How the locals must laugh. The rainforest is big, dense and intimidating. How would we ever find our way without a guide? Its virgin trees are immense and the lianas are huge. I was impressed with the amount of growth under the canopy. We were not bothered by the bugs and the paraphernalia soon came off as we relaxed a bit. We were in awe of the pretty flowers, the big "Jurassic" tree roots, towering palm trees and the denseness of it all. We pinched ourselves to think we were in the middle of a rainforest in a national reserve in Peru.



Ranger with turtle eggsAt about 7:30 this a.m. we got off the Delfin and walked up the logs embedded in the river bank to get to the ranger station. The first thing we noticed was a large "sand box". This contained mounds that covered turtle eggs. The turtle eggs are picked up by the rangers because the turtles are endangered and the rangers want to prevent the local people from taking them illegally to eat. The eggs are placed in the sand mound exactly as they were taken from the original nest. Their position is determined by the markings left on the eggs when they are laid in the sand. The eggs take from 60 to 80 days toConfiscated lumber hatch depending upon the temperature. The baby turtles are then taken to the river and turned loose. Also there were big logs of mahogany that the rangers had taken from men who had cut the trees illegally as mahogany is a protected species here.




We leave the clearing of the Ranger Station #2 and walk into a curtain of green that appears to beRanger impenetrable. The ground is still soft and damp form the receding water -- the air inside the green curtain, slightly cool with a slight musty smell -- the greenery surrounds us and towers above us.





Dolphin Watching

This morning we went out on the skiff to survey dolphins and take environmental measurements. Right after breakfast, Tamara gave us a brief description of the instruments we were going to use. Then, four of us went out: Tamara, Shelly, Susan and me. Our boat driver was Fernando. As we were leaving, it started raining very hard. It did not stop us, for our leader, Tamara, is very persistent and will not let anything, including weather, stop her or us. Tracy was filming us as we left like this, "was the last time we saw them in their latest, elegant rainy jungle gear."

Every ten minutes we stopped and recorded position, time, and environmental factors. Susan did a great job keeping the notation sheet under her poncho as she totally covered herself, except her ears, to write the readings. Tamara and Shelly scanned the river for dolphins, took the various environmental readings and I was just there day dreaming!! No, no, NOT! I was in charge of measuring the clarity of the water with a fanny-looking black and white disk tied to a rope as well as reading the GPS.

High water markWe moved on to another location and repeated the process; counting dolphins and taking measurements. Then, we just stopped and turned the motor off. There was a concert -- the jungle concert -- all around us. The different sounds harmonized with the river's song, and WE WERE THERE; four women and one man in a VERY special situation, sitting on a skiff in the middle of the Amazon River one rainy and very pleasant morning. (Did I mention that the rain stopped?) What a life! We heard howler monkeys howling in the nearby trees while the dolphins swam under the boat gently rocking us. We could see the high water markings on all of the trees (which are shoulder high on Fernando) and couldn't believe how much water there was a few months ago. We were having such a good time that we were late for lunch. Our wonderful crew and co-travelers patiently waited for us. What a sharing -- blessed group! This was a one-of-a-kind experience.


P.S. We also saw two caimans swimming in the river. We decided NOT to swim in this area today.


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