Peru 2012: Day 2

Today began very early. Housekeeping woke us up at 5:00 AM for our 6:00 excursion to Lake Sandoval. Breakfast was at 5:30, and was a buffet consisting of various common breakfast foods, juices and teas. We met our guide, Jesus at 6:00 before leaving on a boat to the closest entrance to the Tambopata National Reserve from the Madre de Dios River. On the way, we saw another baby cayman, an adult cayman, and a tree covered in two types of bright green parrots. Before long, we reached the dock, from where we walked to the Ranger Station where we checked into the National Reserve, went to the bathroom, and learned about the area. Apparently, Tambopata National Reserve is directly North of a National Park. The difference is that the National Reserve is open to public activity while the National Park is only open to researchers. From here, we began our hike towards Lake Sandoval. Being a National Reserve, hunting, logging, mining and fishing is all prohibited, except to the Miranda family, which has lived in the area since before it was made a National Reserve. This, the trail was marked with the grooves of the tires of rickshaws used by the family to transport goods. We would later see one of these rickshaws being loaded. On the way to the lake, Jesus told us about the various types of trees and took us to a tree that was, at the moment, housing a group of parrots. Finally, we reached the lake, where we boarded a large row boat that was rowed by Jesus. Via a narrow estuary of the lake, we reached Lake Sandoval. Rowing along the lake, we saw many types of birds, including Great White Herons and a group of Cormorants sitting on a log. We found the water turkeys along the shore especially interesting, since they look like snakes when they’re swimming, since they keep their bodies underwater. We also saw several tarantula nests and a couple caymans. We were all really tired from having woken up so early, so we headed back slightly early. Even so, we were the last group on the boat back to the lodge, as we were distracted by a couple caterpillars, which we learned would become moths despite their bright colors because of the fact that we found them just wandering around (Butterflies lay their eggs in very specific, protected places, unlike moths) and a few butterflies and moths. We learned that moths aren’t always dull colors, like the ones we see in Bothell. The main differences between them and butterflies are the fact that they land with their wings open, unlike butterflies, that they have wider bodies than butterflies and that they have a different wing shape than butterflies. The extremely specific method that scientists use to describe them is the differences in their antennas. Upon our return to the lodge, we had lunch, only to realize that Seona, Surya and Sahil all had bad stomach aches. We later concluded that the reason for Sahil and Surya was that they had used tap water to brush their teeth, a very dangerous practice. I also developed a severe headache, which made me quite grumpy until the Ibuprofen kicked in during the Canopy Walk that was our afternoon excursion. The walk began with a journey through the Rainforest area surrounding the lodge (we earlier learned that the difference between rain forests and jungles is that rain forests have four stories: the forest floor, the understory, a third layer which I forget the name of, and the canopy. A jungle, on the other hand, only has two layers: the forest floor and the understory. Due to this, ground vegetation in jungle terrain is much thicker than in rain forest terrain, as it receives more sunlight. The example we applied this to was between the area that we walked through directly outside the Tambopata National Reserve, where logging is legal, and the area inside, where it isn’t.). We saw many different types of ants, and learned about the symbiotic relationships the share with various other organisms. Fire ants live inside a certain type of tree, and use the acid that they produce to burn away plants that surround the tree or try to grow on it. Another symbiotic relationship is between Chicken Tarantulas and a certain type of frog. When the tarantula lays eggs in its den, many insects try to eat them, but the frog eats them. If any animal tries to eat the frog, the tarantula attacks it. While tarantula bites aren’t deadly to humans, they cause immense pain. A much more painful bite is from a type of ant called the bullet ant. Apparently, the pain from the bite is similar to that of being shot. There are other ants that have deadly venom, along with that of most snakes. We also saw a Quinine tree, the official tree of Peru and the source of a malaria treatment. Jesus told us that the type of malaria contracted in South America isn’t deadly, like the virus in Africa. He has caught it twice in his life. Thus, South Americans are not afraid of it in the same way that the high death toll in Africa causes those people to. The beginning of the canopy walk was an extremely tall structure which we climbed to the top of. There, Jesus told us about why this structure exists: to raise money for the Inkaterra organization that supports environmental education of locals and rain forest research and to provide a resource for researchers who desire access to the rain forest canopy. Rather than taking our time as we would usually do, we rushed, as Sahil and Surya were still feeling sick. Nevertheless, we saw an ant highway to and from
a nest on a tree. Jesus told us that the ants at this level are much less dangerous than those on the floor. At the end of the Canopy Walk is the Jungle Treehouse where one person can pay S./ 1200 or two people S./ 1800 to stay overnight. On the way back, we passed the education center where Inkaterra brings local children for environmental education. Upon our return to the lodge, Jesus told us that, should we want to try it, our Rainforest by Night excursion would begin at 6:15. At this time, we met him with our flashlights and headed out for the rain forest. Within just a few minutes, we came across a chicken tarantula in its den. We continued to see more of these for the rest of our walk. We even managed to see a mother chicken tarantula with its spiderlings. The other insects that we noticed were the huge grasshoppers, the fireflies, and another type of beetle that has a light similar to that of the firefly, which it uses to catch fireflies. We also saw a Golden Silk Spider that was eating a beetle that it had trapped in its golden web. We didn’t see much more until we turned back. However, before we did so, Jesus had us turn off our flashlights for a few moments and just observe the sky above (we were able to see several constellations, including the Scorpion) and the sounds around us. On the way back, we made the best sighting of the excursion: a porcupine. It was just like the cartoons I have seen, which really surprised me. Upon our return to our lodge, we had dinner, which, for me, was Gamitana Ribs (a type of fish from the Gamitana Creek that is basically a big piranha with duller teeth). After dinner, we went to bed in preparation for our 6:00 wake-up call the next day.

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