08 September 2018
Cocha Cashu is now a memory. We departed early this morning to head down the Madre de Dios river. This has been an invaluable experience that I feel truly grateful for. I have been dreaming of being a field wildlife biologist and this past week, I’ve been able to live this dream. The thrill of constant alertness and mindfulness, waiting for the crashing of palm trees to discover a primate species. The distant barks of Ateles chamek (spider monkey)that I trace like a detective makes me feel alive. Observing the various species of primates was a fascinating experience that I cannot believe I had the opportunity to partake in. When we arrived to the station, it seemed like we were a nuisance to to the researchers. By the time we departed, I felt more like a researcher. The opportunities to ask researchers questions and bounce ideas off of each other helped to build confidence as a scientist starting out.
It’s amazing how different the temperature varies from morning to the afternoon. In the morning, the fog rolls off over the river mysteriously, enveloping our canoe in a blanket. In the afternoon, the sun beats down, absorbing its energy into the sand and radiating out as I step onto the river bank, once submerged under the Madre de Dios.
We originally planned on stopping to set up camp at Limonal but we all decided to continue since we arrived around 1 pm. Our trip continued for another three to four hours and we were going to camp on the beach. Around 5 pm, we found a beautiful little resort along the river that we were able to set up camp at. The host told us that we could not tell his boss we stayed there but allowed us to pay 10 sols per tent to sleep on the grounds, far above the river. We pitched the tents outside among the flower beds and had a nice dinner in the kitchen. I am officially a Cashu nut!!
After dinner, I went to my tent to go to sleep. I was extremely tired and needed some time alone. Tomorrow we have a long day on the river followed by our bus ride to Villa Carmen.
10 September 2018 Villa Carmen
I am feeling rejuvenated this morning! After our arrival on land yesterday, the class stayed at the hostel along the river and shared some well earned cold beers together. A few of us woke up early and met with Ursula and Jennifer to do some bird watching. We set out around 6 am around the small lake and witnessed a plethora of bird species from woodpeckers to wood creepers, piping guans and there is no lack of predatory birds.
Later on the class went on a guided walk to learn about Villa Carmen and the medicinal plants harvested and grown there. The land was previously owned by an agronomist that worked for the government. Conservation and sustainability efforts were eventually implemented. Our guide worked for the Amazon Conservation Association, who purchased the property. The ringing of Cicadas was intense in the medicinal garden and vibrated throughout the group and into the surrounding forest. The guide went on to tell us that he obtained his knowledge of medicinal plants from a native person who knew over 300 species. He shared with us that medicines such as penicillin was discovered in the tropics.
11 September 2018
We have departed from Villa Carmen and we are on the road to Wayqecha Biological field station. The Amazon basin is a special place. I can see the differences in varying layers of vegetation and I know we are gaining altitude when I begin to observe giant tree ferns. Along the narrow dirt road, small waterfalls cascade down the steep rocks, giving way to a lush green under story. Soon we entered the land of Rupicola peruvianus, the Andean cock-of-the-rock and Peru’s national bird. These birds are a gorgeous and attractive bright red color. On the way down, the lek was closed off to the public but upon our return from Cocha Cashu, we were allowed–in groups of five–to silently descend the staircase to observe the birds in action. It feels like another lifetime that we ventured down into the Amazon basin. I feel as if I am returning as a new person with curiosity, excitement and burning passion.