In the Amazon...
We write from the Los Amigos Research Station in the Madre de Dios River Basin of the Peruvian Amazon. We are staying in screened-in cabins, and are becoming accustomed to the feeling of humid jungle days, sporadic rainfall, cool evenings, and the consistent nighttime sound of buzzing cicadas. We are lucky, as we’ve landed here during a “cold front.” This means that the days are relatively comfortable and the nights are even chilly. We haven’t had to deal with the oppressive heat we were expecting. The Milky Way shines bright, just as it did early this morning. This will be a perfect evening for our post-dinner night hike!
Yesterday we arrived to the Los Amigos Research station mid-afternoon. Our mode of transport was a large motor-powered wooden canoe. It was a four hour ride upstream from Boca Unión, and the students enjoyed the mellow ride through the smooth waters of the earth-colored river. We ate our lunches, which had been packaged in banana leaves; we read, slept, and let ourselves fall into countless engaging conversations…about our surroundings, mining, ecology, development, traveling, literature, personal stories… and the four hours flew by!
After arriving to the proper river bank, and climbing a couple hundred stairs to the Research Station, we were brought to our cabins and then shown around the premises. The scientists’ enthusiasm for their unique work here is tangible. Our students continue to tell us that they are feeling inspired by these people who have identified their own passions, and who have chosen to follow them with such dedication and vigor. In the past two days, we have heard guest lectures from resident experts who are excitedly studying the behavior tiny catfish, macroecology and the relationship between abundance and distribution of species, the many values of biodiversity, mimicry and the evolutionary history of butterflies, and the day-to-day rituals of tamarins! Even our students who are not so scientifically-inclined are impressed by the knowledge and passion of these experts.
Each morning before dawn, students are invited to go on a short hike to a lookout tower, where they can watch the sun rise over an expansive green canopy. Macaws emerge from the trees and fly about as the cloud-strewn sky turns from deep blue, to pink and orange, and back to a lighter shade of blue. Then, after breakfast, we have had the opportunity to go on more extensive hikes–through the deep, rich forest, and even to some bodies of water. Today, the students enjoyed floating around an oxbow on a handmade raft.
Throughout all of these activities and lessons, we instructors are loving witnessing all of the positive interactions and bonds forming between our students. They are consistently supporting one another, and getting along wonderfully. It’s hard to believe that only four days have passed.
On Thursday afternoon we’re headed to the remote Boca Inambari, which is a village of recently contacted people. There we will learn how to hunt with bow and arrow, and how to fish with the extraordinary barbasco root (which, when tossed into the water, suffocates all nearby fish, bringing them to the surface)! We will be out of contact until Saturday, and will be sure to post more then.