Tuesday, August 5, 2003
08:42 - It took a little while to fall asleep last night because an army of frogs were croaking in the lagoon. The racket was unbelievable! (but cool). At 6:30 this morning we boarded the motorized canoe and headed out to a salt lick, where macaws, parrots, and parakeets eat clay to help them digest some of the toxins in the food they normally eat. Not long after we stopped to watch them, they all became very upset and flew far away, screaming loudly. Hilario said that they wouldn't be back until 9am, so we left. I'm not sure how he knew that. :) Birds spotted: channel billed tucan, chacalaca, yellow headed caracara, black vultures, propendolas, chestnut fronted macaw, parrots, parakeets.
I met some more people today. Jeff and Sue are in the cabin next door. They're from Washington D.C.; Sue is a bassonist in the National Symphony, and Jeff is a bassist who will be moving to San Francisco to play with the SF Symphony for a year.
14:44 - The morning hike was great fun. We were dropped off to hike a path that used to be used by the local military base (a couple of them were watching us through binoculars when we passed them during the morning bird watch). It was not a strenuous hike; we kept a slow pace, stopping periodically to learn more about the Achuar culture from Hilario, and to observe wildlife. We saw a couple of interesting frogs that looked like dead leaves when still, a small red and black snake with white marks on its head, army ants, and leaf-cutter ants. We also saw a tinamu trying desperately to fly away from us in the thick jungle. Hilario was on a roll today, and Lorena was having fun expressing her ... disagreements with the place of women in the Achuar village. Hilario talked about hunting using blowguns: the women carry food and chica for the male hunters during the hunt, and they also carry back the dead animal carcasses. More interesting facts: the Achuar day starts at around 3am (and of course, the women have to wake up first to make sure the house is tidy). Everyone gets up and drinks copious amounts of tea -- until they throw up. It's a cleansing thing, we are told. We also learned today how chicha is made (Lorena, like all of the guides here, lived with an Achuar family for three days). Unfortunately, it is made in a way that sounds rather revolting to those of us with Western tastes. I won't spoil it for those of you who may end up visiting the Achuar some day. After hearing about its preparation process, it remains to be seen who will try chicha tomorrow when we visit the village. :)
21:25 - We spent a very relaxing afternoon drifting/paddling down the Capahuari river in an inflatable raft and a dugout canoe. Having motorless transport made the experience very peaceful, and we were able to watch the wildlife (birds, mostly) at our leisure. Some pink river dolphins joined us for the last hour of the drift, which was pretty exciting. They were very shy, however, and wouldn't come near the boat. But -- dolphins, in muddy fresh water! The very notion is just bizarre.
We're all having fun getting to know Lorena more. She has a great sense of humor, and got stuck in the mud today (we had to pull her out!). Even though we have only been here one full day, it feels like we've already been here a long time. Sitting out on the deck between activities is the perfect retreat from "normal" life. No one can contact you, and all there is to do is to watch the birds out in the lagoon.
Six more guests arrived today; they are only staying for two nights before returning to California.