Mingui, the patriarch of the local Huaorani family, offered to take us out on his boat for the day ( and charged double the usual price). He took Eric and the group of scientists out for the afternoon, so he had a very lucrative day. There was a community of indigenous people near the station for years, but some time ago there was a disagreement amongst the members of the community, and the town was burnt to the ground. Everyone except Mingui's family left to settle elsewhere. Mingui has been very helpful with the research station and gets along well with Pablo, the director of the station, and has scared everyone away except for his family, which turns out to be a good thing for the scientists.
It was his son Bolivar who took us out our first day here, and the resemblance between Mingui and Bolivar is obvious. Mingui is a small and wiry man in his 40s or 50s. He showed up in a long dugout canoe with an outboard motor. He asked Pablo for fuel for his boat. We learned very quickly that he could either drive quickly down the river or stop completely. He was unable to slow down or linger, so the riverbanks swept by and we were all frustrated that we could not see much with the world sweeping by so quickly. I am not sure what Mingui understood about our wishes. He was very accommodating when we hiked to the claylick and he found beautiful macaws screeching in the trees and throwing discarded fruits and nuts down to the jungle floor. Unfortunately the clay lick was empty because of the rains of the past few days; the animals wait for the clay to dry somewhat to visit. We found a second claylick nearby, also abandoned.
Blue and Gold Macaws
The river was swollen after so much rain and the water extended far up the river bank. We wore lifejackets on the boat, and since Mingui had difficulty starting the boat, or slowing down or stopping and restarting, I wasted far too much time worrying that we would end up in the water. Our boat was crudely dug out of a very long log, and felt tippy all day long.
We zoomed back to the research station after our short walk, but I kept looking for dolphins where there were huge bends in the river, or where another stream came in. Finally, I saw three backs and then spouts coming to the surface, so we waited in the little basin, so I could convince Mel and Debra of what I had seen . They are grey bottle nosed dolphins, one of two species in the Amazon. I have seen the pink ones on the Amazon when we traveled with the alumni a few years ago. We were all excited to see them today. I felt lucky to have identified them. I kept asking Mingui about finding them, but he was not particularly interested or inclined to look for them.
Swallow Tailed Kite
Eric and his gang took the boat for the afternoon while Mel and Debra and Pamela and I had an uninspiring walk in the afternoon. I hoped to see the hoaztin birds near the lake. Debra was convinced that she had seen them the day we were out with Bolivar, but I was not so sure. They look like prehistoric birds (like dinosaurs) and have a spectacular crest and a long fang on their wings, but the lake was so flooded it was unrecognizable and perhaps the birds had moved to another part of the lake, which was inaccessible to us because there was so much water. We had planned to extend our walk to a night hike, but rushed back so as not to be clambering over the bridges and logs in the dark.