Hello everyone again! Welcome to Week 3 on my Biodiversity in Peru Program :).
To start the week we went to a bakery on the way to university for some energy. A friend and I are feeling pretty exhausted from all the cardio over the past couple of days. We are being treated to a bbq lunch to celebrate an early Australia Day, before we head to the Amazon tomorrow. The weather is beautiful and sunny. Unfortunately I fell rather Ill and was diagnosed with an intestinal parasite, so I missed out on the barbecue lunch.
The true excitement of the week started on Tuesday by officially leaving for the Amazon!! We had to rise at 7.30 to get a bus for our flight at 8.30. Upon arrival we immediately felt the warmth and humidity- it hit me with a gush of fresh air!
Madre Di dios means the mother of god, this is the area we were residing in in the Amazon. The organisms found in the Madre Di dios river are Piranhas, Electric eels, Sting rays, and Anacondas. We had the luxury of Electricity from 7am - 2pm and then 7-10pm at the Eco lodge and hot water!
We went on a short nature walk out the back of the Eco lodge grounds. Our guides educated us on the many plants and fruits the Amazon provides. For example a Medicinal plant stalk we were given to chew functioned as a natural pain killer (producing a numbing sensation). It tasted like a sour lemon first and then a salty surprise erupted causing you to salivate. We also got given an Ant that smells Like Banana when you squish it into your skin, it also was a mosquito repellent. We also came across fire ants, which can induce a fever from one bite. Coconuts fall from the trees around us on a regular basis, I feel like I should be wearing a helmet.
We then came to a hut in the jungle where we had the opportunity to use a small Brazil nut cracker and taste the fresh nut, it was delicious. We then tried tree sap that tasted like coconut milk. The mosquitoes here are very opportunistic, they don't seem to mind the repellent scented and soaked skin so the majority of us are constantly swiping at the air. Tonight we boarded a canoe shaped boat and went down river scouting for caimans. We saw two white caimans.
The cabins are very homely, this Amazonia Eco lodge is absolutely fabulous. Everyone is ecstatic about being able to cool down and refresh themselves in the pool each day. I know I have mentioned one too many times about the view, but I must continue to emphasise how beautiful and majestic the Amazon really is. We could see the stars outstretched across the sky, they met the dark outline of the jungle which was separating the glowing waked water as we glided across it.
We have been getting into a habit of rising well before the sun. By our 2nd day in the Amazon, we were rising at 4am to catch a boat by 5am. I'm almost beginning to feel nocturnal. The humidity in the jungle is high. I can taste a mix of insect repellent and sunscreen first thing! We rode the boat downstream until we got to a place called Tambopata. We then hiked roughly 6kms in our provided gumboots though thick slushy mud. We saw a bunch of macaws feeding on palm trees on a detour from our walk, they were huge birds, very loud and beautiful. We arrived at a lake (which is a meander of the Amazon river) and got into canoes, we saw a Red howler monkey, a Brown capuchin monkey and a Squirrel monkey feeding in the trees by the lake. We were told the lake contains four species of Piranhas, cat fish, anacondas and giant river otters.
This lake (which is part of the Madre Di dios river which connects to the Amazon river) gets isolated from the main river. The entrance to the lake is covered by palms. The macaws eat the fruits, from neighbouring fig trees and palms. The swamp gets created from the palm tree sediment, this lake gets shallower and shallower each year.
We then visited Monkey Island, but the only way to get there was by walking through deep muddy water. We had to take off our gumboots and roll up our pants and go barefoot into the made Di dios river and cross onto monkey island. We saw two monkeys which greatly appreciated our offerings. This time of year the fruit is abundant so we didn't see as many monkeys as we did feeding in the reserve at the lake. Monkey island was sarcastically called “mosquito island” because 1. The mosquitoes were most definitely abundant there and 2. The monkeys weren't. There is an introductory program on Monkey Island which involves capturing and releasing monkeys to this island for protection, in the hope they can increase their populations, but the monkeys put together don't like each other and don't necessarily always form groups.
On Thursday, we went to go bird watching in another local town nearby. We saw a beautiful small group of green parrots eating the clay, while I managed to witness two hummingbirds chasing each other through the side shrubbery. We then walked from the watch tower to a tower that was based in the tree tops, it was an outstanding view of the jungle and the river. We saw two toucans resting in a nearby tree watching us.
We then walked back to the lodge and boarded a boat over to a local farmers land, he had a variety of plants and animals, mainly chickens, ducks, dogs, cats and native and non native crop species. He had a macaw which we fed Brazil nuts and I got to have it on my arm! The guides always carry a machete on them that easily cuts up fruit or slices down banana trees with a small swipe. We learnt about grafting, they cut gently a branch off one fruit tree, it produces a sap like mucous, they then put it into water, grow it for a month, then they attach it to the new tree, the fruit that grows is expensive because only 2/10 plants survive. The new plant is small but a hybrid.
I was rather thrilled when we had a natural dye fruit rubbed onto our finger and were encouraged to not touch our face. This dye can last up to two weeks, the colour appears tone a deep blue. This fruit is called hueto - pronounced "wee to". The last fruit we tried was red skinned and white bodied. It tasted like a tomato with the texture of a nectarine. We then got back in the boat and went downstream to a local family’s home. We tried some archery using their tools (such as a bamboo bow and arrow with a toucan feather at the end). The chief of the family was wearing toucan feathers on his head, when we arrived he welcomed us and painted our faces with an orange/red paste, to tell us we are welcome. The family had recently killed a female wild boar, they had one of her babies with them, we were allowed to hold the baby boar. It was the same size as a small pig. I then was offered a fat witchery grub-like worm, which had been cooked in a banana leaf, I tried it and it tasted like corn!
I then enjoyed a banana smoothie by the pool, and read my book. On the walk back from the pool I ran into a local rodent called “Peter”. I must conclude by saying it was a lovely last night....
Upon catching our flight back to Cusco, I started the day by saying goodbye to the parrot ‘lola’ after we had a cuddle. On the way we briefly stopped at the local markets to buy trinkets and some Brazil nuts that everyone loves. The weekend was spent relaxing and finishing up assignments due for this final week here.