Across the Equator

South American Adventures

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That's Why They Call it the Rain Forest
Jungle Bird
losmorris
Our Easter weekend was a non-traditional one that took us to an eco-tourism lodge in the rain forest in the southeast corner of Peru. The lodge – Posada Amazonas – is located in the Madre de Dios department. It is a joint venture between Rainforest Expeditions, a Peruvian company, and the local indigenous community of Infierno. Currently costs and profits are shared, but over the next several years full control will transfer to the community as a means of developing a local sustainable business that is not damaging to the jungle environment. (website at: http://www.perunature.com/pages/pa_about1.htm )

The trip began with a flight to Puerto Muldanado and a bus trip to the Rainforest Expeditions office. Suitcases were repacked by visitors who were doing multi-stop travels through Peru - Since the boats out to the lodge are relatively small and powered by only 55 hp motors the goal is to minimize the luggage that is brought in. We then went on to the “port” near their office and headed up the Tambopata river to the lodge.




Boarding our river transport:


The happy couple off on a river adventure:


Views along the river:





En route we were treated to a fair amount of jungle life including a capybarra (world’s largest rodent) mother and baby and a whole flock of macaws.




After a 10 minute hike to the lodge we settled in to our eco home away from home. The lodge is very cool. No electricity, no hot water (not even in the showers), mosquito netting over the beds and no windows in the rooms – just an open exposure to the jungle and all its wildlife.

Our room - mosquito netting up during the day and the hammock available round the clock:


The evening set up with the netting down and tucked into the mattress like fitted sheets:


Our very cold but efficient "private" shower:


The lodge has several buildings serving as the lobby, dining area, hammock room and bar area:






I have to admit that for the first day we were a little uncertain about having committed 4 days to “roughing it”, particularly when we got soaked in the rain on one of our more extensive hikes (it is, after all, the RAIN forest). But once we got into the groove of experiencing the jungle – and once it stopped raining – we found it to be a fabulous experience. The sounds are incredible and change significantly from day to night. The smells are clean and earthy and the diversity of flora and fauna is like nowhere else in the world. We’ve never been really big on bird watching and such but it is impossible not to get into it in such a setting.

We also had a terrific guide for our stay. Each group, in our case just the two of us, is assigned a guide who leads the hikes and other trips. Fino, our Brazilian guide, exhibited an extraordinary ability to see birds, bugs, monkeys and all sorts of wild life that we would otherwise have missed. Additionally, he brought along his Princeton Field guide of birds in Peru and his very powerful monocular to help us to see the animals that otherwise would have remained hidden in the camouflage of the forest. While we could see most with the naked eye the better watching was through camera lenses and binoculars.



Adventure activities around the lodge included the following:

A trip to the canopy tower -


The animal and plant life exist at various levels in the jungle. While our hiking kept us on the jungle floor we also viewed the world from above the canopy by climbing a horribly high and somewhat shaky (but I am sure quite safe) canopy tower. As the sign says “diviertete!”



Proof that I made it to the top and yes, I know, that my jungle look is not my most glamorous!


A view over the canopy and the Tambopata river:





A falcon living up in the canopy:


And a shot down at Richard who headed down in advance:


Hikes through the jungle – Each day Fino, our astute guide, took us on morning and afternoon hikes to explore the trails around the lodge. His knowledge and direction helped us to see and hear many things we otherwise might have missed. Since April is the end of the rainy season the trails were pretty wet and would have destroyed any conventional foot ware. The lodge is quite prepared and offered high rubber boots in all sizes to make the hikes possible.



Richard in high fashion rainforest ware:


Essential given the condition of the trails following the rain:


My favorite plant is the Walking Palm tree - not the scientific name but a very good description. This tree puts down roots to "walk" to a better position to maximize access to sunlight.



Larval towers on the ground:


Enormous ant hills:


Another tree with a cool root system:


Which is then recycled in the lodge into a large candle holder to light the dining hall:


Enormous Ceiba trees with a shallow root system - no more than 2 meters deep - but a very wide base.


A boat trip on a local lake


Lakes like this one are formed when, during the dry season, a portion of the river gets isolated from the main channel and develops a separate micro system of plants and animals. Eventually, in 50 or so years, lakes like this one will disappear after filling with sediment and will become marsh land. Then, the forest will eventually reclaim the marsh land.

Our 4 am wakeup call came early and we dutifully headed out to watch the birds and otters and fished for piranha – this time successfully!

Lake scenery:


Cool birds in the lake environment:




And here is our catch and release piranha. Look at those teeth! He really did snap at the leaf and would have loved to munch on us as well. Bait to catch these fish is raw meat.


Animal watching in the jungle – Red howler monkeys are one of the many jungle dwellers that we saw and heard. When the males sound off to each other it sounds like lions roaring across the jungle. We enjoyed watching them eating palm fruit, scampering through the trees 100 feet up and generally hanging around. The combined sounds of monkeys, birds, crickets and other bugs created a natural symphony every night.

We heard this guy dropping the remnants of the palm fruit before we saw him:


This seemed to be a family or other group swinging through the trees very, very high up.


Dad with baby on his back:


In addition to the monkeys, the other major attractions in the Madre de Dios region are parrots and macaws. There are a number of clay licks in the area where a variety of birds come to feed on the clay. There are various theories as to why they do so, but the most plausible seems to be that the clay aides the birds' digestion and helps break down the toxic effect of some of the plants they eat. According to another theory, at least part of the reason that parrots and mcaws congregate at the clay lick is that they are quite social animals and enjoy hanging around together. In any case, the clay lick is, during some parts of the day, teeming with birds so brillantly colored that they put rainbows to shame.

A bird blind was built just down river to enable people to view the clay lick while remaining hidden from the birds.



Lots of patience was necessary.


But sometimes it pays off.




This photo op never quite panned out but is worth sharing. There are lots of tarantulas in the jungle and we did see one from a safe distance inside the Rainforest Expeditions office. Fino was determined to get a good photo for Richard by scaring one out of its living quarters. It didn't work and I for one was okay with that.



And of course one of our favorite species, the jungle cat. The lodge apparently adopted - or was adopted by - a couple of black cats and they apparently decided that our room was a good place to hang out, especially during rain storms.


Shaman and jungle medicinal plants -

Many pharmaceutical products have their roots in rain forest discoveries so part of our tour included a trip to a medicinal garden that is used to provide medical treatment for the local community. Medicinal plants include the Ayahuasca hallucinogenic plant:



As well as analgesic, numbing and of course the local version of Viagra and love potion plants.



All in all, a fabulous weekend!


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