Archive for May, 2008

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Jungle diaries day 2 – 4th May 2008

May 25, 2008

Once the kids were quiet I slept well and was woken at 4-20 am by Harry’s dulcet tones.  Dressing and packing by candlelight felt odd for some reason – it had seemed OK the previous night, but somehow candles in the morning are wrong!

 

Breakfast was a buffet, with a choice of scrambled eggs, yucca chips, fruit, yoghurt, bread etc. and VERY strong coffee (later I learned that it was a type of coffee essence and you’re supposed to mix it about half and half with water)!  We left our bags in the bar and headed off to an oxbow lake (memories of GCSE geography came flooding back!) where a family of giant river otters breed every year.

 

I can’t quite put into words the sight of the sun rising over the Amazonian jungle – it was awesome!  It definitely made getting up at 0420 worth while!  We took a boat about 15 mins upriver from the lodge and moored against a set of rickety wooden steps that looked like they led nowhere (which was broadly speaking true…) and began to walk towards the lake.  Walking through the rainforest early in the morning was very peaceful (the kids were too tired to ruin it by talking yet!) and after about 30 mins we reached the lake.  It is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to! We stepped on board our viewing boat and glided out onto the lake.  The only sound the splash of the paddle, the creak of the boat and the spray of repellent cans as the kids doused themselves in poison!  Sadly we didn’t spot any otters (I may have glimpsed one for a fraction of a second, but I couldn’t be sure) but we did see heaps of birds, insects, fish (we caught some piranha when the kids got bored of looking at birds).  The cutest things by far were the bats we found sleeping on a tree trunk overhanging the water.

 

The journey back was a treat – we couldn’t get the boat back to the launch as the wind was against us, so in the end the guides pulled up to the bank, rigged the oar so it made a gangway to shore and made our way back to the river through the jungle with our guides cutting the trail with machetes as we went!  Proper jungle experience!

 

It was now nearly 10am and we should have been back at the lodge at 9!  Consequently we arrived back at the river boat to find the other half of the group (who had been up to the canopy tower close to the lodge) waiting for us and all of our things packed onto the boat, along with a welcome snack each.  We then began the MAMMOTH journey up river to the Tambopata Research Centre lodge.  We saw more wildlife on the way (including caiman) and made a couple of stops at other lodges to use their (variable) facilities.  At 1pm we were served lunch, again wrapped in leaves, this time of lomo saltado (with rice and chips of course – Peruvians don’t consider it a meal unless it contains 2 large helpings of complex carbohydrates!).

 

The sights were spectacular as we meandered upriver – constantly changing scenery and plenty of birds, but the journey was a little erratic – the river is wide, fairly shallow in places, quite fast flowing and after the floods last week, full of submerged rocks, trees, new sandbanks etc. to navigate around.  The friaje is causing a lot of the wildlife to stay at home in bed, so I took the opportunity, as did many of the kids, to have a nap. I hope I didn’t miss anything!

 

12 hours after I got up and we are STILL on the boat.  The mountains we flew over yesterday have come into view, but a distance we flew over in less than 30 mins yesterday has so far taken 6 hours by boat and we may still have another 2 hours left to go!  I’m not sure my bum can cope – I rarely sit for this long!

 

We arrived at dusk – the lodge is great, I’ve got a double room to myself with a view towards the kitchen and rainforest!  The view of the sky through the trees is mesmerising, even through the mosquito net.

 

By the time we’d met, gone through the rules, found out about the leishmaniasis risk in the area, eaten, washed up (normal tourists don’t do that obviously, but it’s good for the kids to have to look after their own mess for a change!) had a talk about the macaw project, and made the kids decide on their own experimental design project it was 2230, and with another 0430 start I went straight to sleep!

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The jungle diaries – day 1

May 24, 2008

I was incredibly excited to be told I would have to go to the jungle for 2 weeks with the IB biologists.  A lot of people appologised about it and said that normally the trip would be split between two staff – as if I WOULDN’T want to go for 2 weeks – how odd!

I was less excited when I found out I had to take 26 kids from school, to Cuzco on the plane on my own (the head of biology was meeting us in Cuzco).  Lima – Cuzco could have gone better!  One of the kids was nearly an hour late, and then halfway to the airport realised she didn’t have her passport with her (and had to get her driver to bring it to the airport for her).  One of the kids didn’t have his permisio notorial (there is a big problem with child trafficking in Peru.  If you want to travel with a child that is not yours you have to have a notorised document from BOTH parents, thankfully he had dual nationality and had his US passport.  The government don’t care if we steal foreign kids!) and another had forgotten her yellow fever certificate.  This stressed me slightly, but all worked out OK in the end!

The flight was fantastic – the view over the mountains just out of Cusco and the view over the jungle were magnificent!  When we landed in Puerto Moldonado there was something in the air and I knew I was in for an excellent trip.  We arrived in the middle of a friaje (cold spell) so it wasn’t too bad – about 25 degrees C and 98 % humidity, great in the day time but cold enough for a jacket at night.

1 hour or so by bumpy combi, our luggage strapped precariously on the roof, and then onto a river boat.  We were served lunch – chinese style rice wrapped up in leaves – and a view that the pictures don’t do justice to!

 

The lodge is fantastic, en-suite rooms that are open to the forest on one side!  You have your own hammock, table and chairs for relaxing in and a double bed with mosquite net.  No doors though – only a pair of curtains that close across the doorway.  There is a ‘safety deposit box’ in each room – but it’s to put food in so the opposums don’t destroy your bags trying to get at it!

Bedroom at posada

We had a short lesson on statistics for biology (standard deviation, t-tests and chi squared) and then got ready for dinner.  Thr food was OK, but the most amazing thing about the evening were the stars.  I can’t get over how many of them there are and how bright they look!  The patterns are completely unfamiliar too, being in the Southern hemisphere.

After dinner we did a night solo.  THe guides took us into the forest and left us on our own without our torches for 20 mins.  It was great, warm, dark, insect noises, stars glimmering through the canopy, just me, in the dark, in peace – bliss, could have stayed there for hours, not just 20 mins.  Some of the kids were TERRIFIED though!  Bed was welcome by the time I got there – especially as I had a 4 am start the next day…