Today’s bloggers: Matt, Carly, Cathy, Frank, and Karen
This morning, our sixth day in the Amazon rainforest, we once again awoke in near darkness for a dawn adventure along the canopy walkway. This would be our last opportunity to experience the walkway, and we were excited to ascend the dew-soaked steps into the heavy tropical mist. The barking calls of White-throated Toucans floated through the forest. A Laughing Falcon pierced the dawn with a long series of staccato shrieks. Along the walkway were beautiful orb webs drenched in dewdrops, looking like necklaces of miniature opals. We stopped to admire these webs, but saw no signs of their weavers.
From several platforms and walkways we observed many species of birds, including Paradise Tanagers, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, several flycatchers, and White-fronted Nunbirds. Soon it was time for breakfast so we descended the walkway and hiked the forest trail back to our lodge.
As we returned, we were excited to hear and see a group of Black-mantled Tamarins (a kind of monkey) scampering through the trees. What a wonderful way to start the day.
After breakfast, our time at ACTS was done and we began a long, leisurely hike back to ExplorNapo Lodge. Along the way we jumped over leafcutter ants and watched one of our fearless leaders, Mary Ann, leap into the air to catch a Blue Morpho Butterfly in her net! Our hike, which was just over two hours long, was a great way to talk with one another and explore the plants and insects of the rainforest.
For our afternoon activity, we visited the local shamans at the Explorama Botanical Garden to learn about traditional herbal medicines and medical remedies.
Of particular interest to our group was the sangre de dragon, a plant used to stop mosquito bites (and we have plenty of those!) and chigger bites from itching. This plant has a wide variety of uses in the Amazon, including infection prevention, stomach ulcer healing and skin care!
Another interesting concoction made by the shamans uses Ayahuasca, also known as “soul vine.” This climbing vine is used to make a strong hallucinogen made with liana, coca, tobacco and other herbs. The mixture allows the shamans to “see” images that aid them in diagnosing the ailments of the local villagers. The shamans also gave us temporary tattoos using the “tattoo plant” and performed healing rituals on many of our group members, a very spiritual and calming experience. It was interesting to learn about how the shaman profession is highly regarded amongst native Peruvians; the responsibility is passed from generation to generation amongst families and takes extensive training.
Our evening activity was a boat ride to look for our nocturnal friends. Although we only saw two frogs and two American Pygmy Kingfishers, we observed many spiders and glowing spider eyes. We enjoyed heading up the creek, looking at the thick foliage and hoping to catch a glimpse of an anaconda! The sky was beautiful and we were able to observe the Southern Cross before the clouds moved in.
Some of our blog readers have posted questions about our recent adventures and Cole Powell is curious to know if we have seen other animals besides birds. Yes, Cole, as a matter of fact we have seen lots of other animals. Beside our monkey sightings and arthropod workshop with Dr. Phil, we have enjoyed observing rainforest lizards, snakes, frogs, toads and millipedes. Cathy even had a close up encounter with a tarantula that crawled up her back during dinner!
On the canopy walkway, several participants spent an afternoon studying tree-dwelling reptiles called Shovel-tailed Lizards (Tropical Thornytail Iguanas). These stout lizards have heads about the size and color of an apricot and black bodies and legs. The most interesting feature of the lizard is its thick, stubby tail, which is shaped like a pointed shovel. During a recent night hike we also saw a beautiful brown toad perched at the top of a tall, pointed stick. Can you guess what the leaf mimic toad looks like?
Ryan Powell writes to ask how mosquito nets protect us from being bitten. Ryan, the mosquito nets are made of a very thin material with holes in it. The nets are suspended like a tent above each bed. Before we get into bed each night, we must carefully untuck the nets from underneath the mattresses. Then we quickly slip under the net and tuck it into the mattress before any mosquitoes sneak under the net with us. It’s a very cozy way to sleep!
We welcome our blog readers to send other questions and we’ll answer them as we have time!