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Shaman Visit

July 10, 2011

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

Mary Ann and Betsy enjoy being on a platform on the Canopy Walkway

Mary Ann and Betsy enjoy being on a platform on the Canopy Walkway

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.

An adult Paradise Tanager at Denver Zoo, USA.

An adult Paradise Tanager at Denver Zoo, USA. Photo by Drew Avery.

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.

Meg on trail

Learning our palm for the day

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!

Linda and Rosemary and Shaman

Linda and Rosemary and Shaman

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!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline permalink
    July 10, 2011 10:23 pm

    Linda, This looks so fascinating. Can’t wait to hear more details and see your pictures.
    Caroline

  2. Ann Smith permalink
    July 11, 2011 9:43 am

    We are following your blog with great interest. What an adventure! Kenan and Aslan Yigit (ages 7 and 4) are Karen’s nephews. They would like to know more about lizards and snakes you’ve seen. Specifically they want to know if you have seen a lime green Amazon Lizard or a Basilisk Lizard (Jesus lizard). Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

    • lizbaird permalink
      July 20, 2011 9:38 am

      Kenan and Aslan Yigit write to ask about the other kinds of lizards and snakes seen on our trip.

      Although we have not seen Basilisk Lizards, we have observed Common House Geckos climbing up and down the walls of our rooms in the lodges. These nocturnal geckos are usually seen at night around the oil lamps as they wait to catch insects attracted to the light.

      We did not see any venomous snakes but had the pleasure of holding a young Common Mussarana caught near the canopy walkway by Phil Wittman. This beautiful snake has a black face with a yellow ring behind its head and red scales edged with black along its body. As the snake matures its body gradually darkens in color until it is all black, resembling many snakes we have in North Carolina such as the Black Rat Snake and Black Racer.

  3. Carol Moriarty permalink
    July 12, 2011 8:45 am

    Was Cathy Scott the Cathy that had a tarantula crawl up her back at night? She is my Science Methods teacher at UNCG. I know she loves spiders but even that may have been a little too much for Cathy! Please tell her I am thinking about her and looking forward to some cool stories from Peru!

    Carol Moriarty

  4. Saundretta permalink
    July 13, 2011 10:48 am

    Thanks for sharing these adventures! How amazing. I look forward to hearing more stories. I feel as though I am there.

    Saundretta Caldwell

  5. Cole Powell permalink
    July 14, 2011 11:40 am

    thank you citizens of the deep! from,cole

    • lizbaird permalink
      July 15, 2011 1:42 pm

      Thanks Cole. We appreciate your following along with us on our journey. Check back in soon as we add more pictures to the site!

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