A Trek through the Selva

I have included some photos here that were taken by my friend and are copyrighted by Darvinia Amazonia Reserve.  These may not be copied and used without the expressed permission of the photographer.

Viernes 23Apr10

Woke up at 6am.  Yawn.  Applied sunscreen and repellant.  Rebecca was still perturbed at me because last night she had been on my shoulder in the kitchen and maybe just knocked against my glasses but I imagined her snatching them and jumping up to the rafters, so I grabbed at her with one hand and the glasses with the other and she jumped up to the rafters, without my glasses, shrieking.  But she did take papaya from my hand this morning.  Loreta was still cautious and kept at least a foot away under the kitchen.

Mary met with Jim and company regarding finances (since she holds the purse strings) so we didn’t leave downriver until 8:00.  While I was waiting I gave the cousins Jhonatan and Sergio their morning English lesson, the pre-school Head, shoulders knees and toes.  I wrote it down for them so that they could practice.  Sergio says – in English – You are a good teacher.

I gave up on photographing today because the battery charger wasn’t working.  But Jim will get the other one in the village and see if it works.  I had to stop typing on the netbook as Mary may need the last power to download her photos for more space on the 4g camera memory chip of which she has two.  Bummer.  Yesterday afternoon I balanced the netbook on two one-inch branches to try to keep it cooler.  Problem was, I typed slowly because I kept looking up the animals in their Peru book.  (The owl was not in it.)

But ahead of us was an hour of boating, a half-hour each way of tripping over snakes in la selva (jungle) and then back.  It was relatively cool.  Jose put on a jacket (!)  Arturo had finally added backs to the dugout seats, which Jim had told him was important for tourists.  With my folder camping air mattress I was very comfortable.

Our guides (those intrepid hunters) said that we hadn’t seen any mammals yesterday because the noise of Jim’s chainsaws had scared them away.  Jim said that yesterday a fish jumped over the boat in front of him, chased by a larger one which flopped into the boat – fresh-water barracuda.  The men had it for lunch.

Jungle Sounds

Keeeah – a hawk on the top of a tree.  The wee weeyah birds we couldn’t see.  We flushed half a dozen red tanagers.  Another hidden bird chee cha cha cha.  On the other side chak chak chak.  We drifted east so the sun was in our eyes until we looked back.  Chirp chirp chirp chirp.  The vines made untrimmed topiaries on the tall trees.  Chirup chirrup chirrup chirrup upupupupup.  Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet.  Mira mira.  Lots of trilled sounds.

Still, not a breeze.  The paddles drip drop drip drop.  An occasional dragonfly.  Bird – brown breast, long beak – flew at us just over the water then detoured up into a tree.  When the river flowed north we were in shade – nice.  When it turned east we were in sun – hot.  In the shade the river was a black mirror, in the sun coffee with just a splash of milk.  The selva unrelenting – green green green.   (Isn’t this a nice photo I took?)

Stick fragments made tiny whirlpools.  A fly (there were so few of them) buzzed my head.  The insect trill, always in the background.  Birds whack whack, trtrtrtrtrtrtree, come here here come here here, week week week week.  We flushed a bird (I couldn’t see into the sun – looked gray) while rowing down the river and around the bend.

Wahwahwhoo wahwahwhoo.  A large branch bobbed up and down in the current.  Greeah.  The high-pitched cheep cheep.  Cecropia trees, sculptural with large palmate leaves.  A loud chir chir chir chir, echoed farther away.  Ants dropped on the dugout when a branch brushed the canoe. 

 The high cheep cheep above us was a masked crimson tanager.  (Mary’s photo.)  An expansive vine with dozens of lavender hyacinth-like flowers.

I folded paper to tuck into my long sleeves to over hang my sunburnt hands.  The malaria medicine made up super-sensitive to the sun, despite sunscreen.  My back was damp with perspiration and sweat dropped down my chest creating patches on my blouse.  The miniscule breeze of our passage helped (minimally).  Need to bring the fan tomorrow.

A crashing.  Monkeys?  But as we drifted silently closer it stopped.  We turned into a passage.  They were low, but too far – squirrel monkeys. 

A yellow butterfly flitted back and forth above us.  Two small burnt-orange butterflies with wing tips white then black, on a red flower, wings flapping slowly.  A pair of macaws; Arturo squawked and they raucously squawked back.  Something heavy crashed from a low branch into the water.

A bird croaked nack nack nack nack nackWhippoorwill whippoorwill, of course not a whippoorwill here.  A loud whira, the chatter of other birds.  A tree rat? in a hole in a trunk.  Epiphytes.  A vulture high above us floating in the sky.

A Trek through the Forest

We turned into the flooded forest.   A feathery seed from the planet Na’vi floated down (but it didn’t glow).  The hunting camp.  A dead fire.  Two sets of vertical poles branched at the top for the horizontal beam which held the plastico.  

The sound of rain was caused by a breeze, loosening dead leaves which ricocheted to the forest floor.  Monkeys with their clatter of breaking limbs.  Mary grabbed a photo of a squirrel monkey staring at us through the leaves. 

A tree with epiphytes – multiple lavender orchids.  Buttressed tree roots.  Stilt tree roots.  A few red flying bugs, occasional clouds of mosquitoes which preferred Jose’s navy jacket to us.  We flushed a large light-brown bird with a wide white stripe on each wing and its tail, the ladder-tailed nightjar, which at night becomes my giant vampire bat.  We ran through the undergrowth to watch a troop of squirrel monkeys overhead.  Jose made their sound by sucking on the back of his hand. 

On the return we turned off the motor as we went downstream, and could hear much more. Wachochochocho recurring.  A fake kissing sound.  A creature walking in the water, but beyond the verge.  A sound like rain, but no rain.  A sound like a machete, but no machete.  And behind us a lonely echoey breehaha, slowly repeating.    All of this, beyond the edge.

The forest is dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

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3 Responses to “A Trek through the Selva”

  1. Jim & Erda Matheson Says:

    What a great story! Suggest you audition with the National Geographic. One question – what is a epiphytites? Is it a tree rat, a high flying vulture, or multiple lavender orchids?

    • notesfromthewest Says:

      Multiple lavender orchids….

      An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree) non-parasitically, derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it, and is found in the tropics (as many ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads) — also called air plants.

  2. Jim Says:

    Very more is heard than seen. I get immense satisfaction in discovering on my own the animals making the mysterious sounds. There are so many sounds that an ardent naturalist could spend a lifetime, and still not discover all the sources of these mysterious sounds. I get so enthralled with hearing and seeing the seemingly enless variety that I rarely notice the occassional discomforts.

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