Friday, April 2, 2010

Waking Up Alive

Russet Backed Oropendola

Traveling Down the River

I did not sleep much, but I was relieved to be alive in the morning. Maya had a fitful night, waking up frequently with whimpering and tears and calling for me. I would join her on her airmattress for a while, trying to stay warm ( we each had a sheet, which was our 'sleeping bag') My pillow was full of air, but the body of the mattress was flat on the ground, while Maya had more air to sleep on without a pillow. My head hurt terribly, but it also assured me that I was still able to feel. My body hurt from lying on the ground, so all of me was in pain this morning.

Removing Every Trace

We broke camp after breakfast, and every bit of equipment was packed up and loaded on the motorized canoe. Maya was entertained by a young Siona boy named 'Chanchi', who was helping his parents get the canoe loaded. Two girls who had canoed with us left with the large boat, and two young men steered the canoes along with one of the young women from yesterday.

Our guide gave us an introduction to the biodiversity of the Cuyabeno Reserve, and reviewed the animals we hoped to see. Pink and grey river dolphins, manatees, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, tapirs peccaries, capibaras, monkey of several different species, fish, birds (greater ani, caracara, hoatzin, laughing falcon, kiskadee, kingfisher, toucans, macaws and more). He had appeared very enthusiastic when we met him yesterday, but was somewhat irritable today. He was not happy when the young people had chatted on the canoes yesterday and warned us that we would not see much if we were too loud.

Once we started on our canoe trip, Diego talked nonstop to another boat driver, which ensured that we scared away all the animals that may have been nearby. The best part of the ride were the 'morpho' butterflies, which were not at all scared of us, and fluttered along the river, appearing at every turn we made. They were always solitary, and appeared not to stop moving, so I could not photograph them successfully. They are various shades of blue, from aquamarine to turquoise to royal blue and every shade in between, huge, and spectacular. Other orange and yellow and white butterflies alternated with the electric blue, and were the most abundant fauna that we saw.

There were birds along the way as well, but I had a paddle in my hands for the five or so hours, and was too late to catch any with my camera. The trip did not feel too long. There was always so much to see or to look for. The river is not wide, and the trees on either side drape into the water and hide what is further inland. The cicadas were singing loudly, and the birds joined them. The macaws have an ugly screeching sound, and occasionally I saw a pair of blue and gold ones fly above us. There were parakeets as well, also flying in pairs or groups of pairs.

Water Water Everywhere

When we arrived at the 'Laguna Grande', we traded our canoes for the motor boat, and motored to the lodge. Suddenly there were several motorized canoes full of tourists, and five or six lodges appeared. So many tourists!!! I was convinced we were the only adventurers on this remote river in this faraway place, and then there were so many others!

Our lodge was further away from the lagoon, and did not have a name. We met Katya and her six year old son, and Maya was delighted to have a child to play with. The lodge is very basic and has no electricity or hot water. Water is pumped from the river, so is dark and only usable for washing. The beds have mosquito nets and candles for lights.

Arrival at the Lodge

Maya could not wait to jump in the river and cool off. We met Gerd and Joerg having a swim too. They two are very competitive with one another. The river is black water, which is essentially a collection of rain water rather that white water which comes from the Andes.

I was still feeling vulnerable and fragile. I used the mirror in the washroom to check my pupils and my cranial nerves and wondered if I was crazy to be so far from civilization and unsalvageble if anything serious happened. My only choice was to be vigilant and pay attention to symptoms and enjoy every moment of this special place. I did not want Maya to worry, but she kept looking at me as if I was unbalanced, and my efforts at reassurance were inadequate.

Our afternoon activity was to motor, and then canoe over to the 'Laguna Grande', surrounded by a flooded forest (flooded for nine months a year), go for a swim and to watch the sunset. The place is magical. We saw parrots and cormorants and macaws and a beautiful grey and blue tanager, hoatzins and kingfishers. We had to climb a tree to get into and out of the water, since the canoes are too tippy to climb in and out of. Maya is a fish in the water and was disappointed when we all got out to watch the sun disappear. Our ride back in the dark was eerie. I could not figure out how the boatman saw his way in the dark. Maya and I concentrated on the sky, where Orion's belt and the big and little dipper revealed themselves. The lodge was lit by candlelight, and welcomed us for dinner and and early night. I tucked Maya into bed, making sure there was no place for mosquitoes to enter. Later she called for me and I joined her on her narrow bed, holding her tightly and not sleeping. The pain in my head kept me up again, but also assured me that I was alive.

Sunset on the Laguna Grande

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