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First twenty-four hours in the Amazon

July 7, 2011
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Today’s bloggers: Karen, Carly, Matt, Cathy and Frank

After our first night of sleeping in mosquito nets, lulled by rainforest frogs, insects and night birds, we awoke at 5:30 am to prepare for an early morning bird walk.

Gathering in the dining room with naturalist guides Roldan and Ricardo, we prepared to begin our walk just outside the lodge.  Our first bird species were Crimson-masked Tanagers, birds with stout, seed-crushing bills. We also observed several flycatcher species including a Tropical Kingbird and a Lesser Kiskadee.

Next, we left the lodge walkways and ambled down a raised trail constructed of large tree cross-sections. The trail followed a small river backwater, Quebrada Yanamodo. We spotted Russet-backed Oropendolas, large members of the blackbird family whose call sounds like a water drop falling into a shallow pool. Oropendolas build low-hanging basket nests similar to North American orioles.

Troupial

Troupial (Icterus sp.)

Other highlights included White-eared Jacamar with rapidly moving bills, several woodpecker species (Lineated, Yellow-tufted and Crimson-crested).  Perhaps our favorite find was the lovely black and orange Troupial, perched high on a bare branch facing the sun over the water.

After breakfast, we gathered for an incredible series of stations which highlighted aspects of the local Yagua culture.  We learned about constructing temporary shelters (tambuas), Yagua decorative clothing, native Amazonian foods, pottery practices, bag and bead design, plant dyes, roof thatching and sugar cane products such as rum (Aguardiente), sugar water (huarapo) and molasses.

A key question of the afternoon was, “Where does the money go?”  An important feature of the Explorama model is promoting ecotourism.  Our interest in the handicrafts and culture clearly provides an incentive to preserve traditions, but some of us wondered aloud how the Yagua might use the money we spent on their beautiful handicrafts.  The answer: seeds and tools for their “plantations”, supplies for fishing and building materials for their homes above the river.  Explorama seems to have an excellent relationship with the local community, providing income to over 110 families.  This offers hope for conservation in the face of increasing external pressures to clear forest habitat in order to access commodities of oil and gold.

Rosemary Klein trying out a blowgun

Rosemary Klein trying out a blowgun

After lunch, the group walked through the rainforest to a local Yagua village where a group of Yaguas met with us in a large, round building.  The thatched hut is traditionally used for village activities and communal sleeping.  The Yaguas performed traditional music and dances before pulling all of us into the dance circle! After dancing, we had a chance to trade with the villagers, who had set up stalls of locally made jewelry and handicrafts. Participants traded t-shirts, toys, shoes and other items for local handicrafts.

The next stop in our busy day was a tour of the office of Dr. Linnea Smith, ” La Doctora”, a Wisconsin native who has worked tirelessly for over twenty years to make the villages along the Amazon healthier.  With very few resources, electricity, or medicine, the humble clinic provides family planning and emergency and preventative care for locals.  We were inspired by Linnea’s commitment to bring higher quality health care to the area.

The night ended with a talk about the insects of the Amazon with Dr. Phil Whitman, an expert of the diverse species located in the area.  The talk was followed by a night boat ride where we looked for “the creatures of the night.”

We can’t wait to see what adventures tomorrow holds, as we move to our next stop!

P.S. We probably won’t have internet for the next two days, but will post more updates when we reconnect.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Bonnie Johnston permalink
    July 8, 2011 2:34 pm

    It is great to hear about all of the different experiences you are all having. Continue enjoying it all and posting what you are doing, as living vicariously through all of you is fun!

  2. Tina Martin permalink
    July 8, 2011 9:24 pm

    This trip sounds too good to be true. All of you continue to stay safe, have fun, and make sure Linda Yoder is behaving herself. See you back in Lincolnton Linda!

  3. Ryan Powell permalink
    July 9, 2011 4:00 pm

    How do the mosquito nets protect you from getting bitten? How many animals have you seen? Have fun! Ryan, age 8

  4. Cole Powell permalink
    July 9, 2011 4:04 pm

    Did you see any other animals besides birds? How fun was the dance? Hope you are having fun! Cole, age 7

  5. July 10, 2011 10:37 am

    Sounds like an opportunity for American friends to help the good doctor. Can’t wait to see what Linda brings back by way of handicrafts!

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