Feeding the mosquitos...

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Apr 08, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

5:30 AM in the boats to look for parrots on the colpa...that's a vertical river bank comprised of clay that the parrots gather on...they ingest the clay and minerals and it protects them from some of the tree toxins they will later ingest.  I guess it's also a place to socialize and depending upon who you meet, you may find a partner to share your life with.  We paddle for awhile, the air is still sort of cool...we move up into a quieter tributary and there they are...hordes of parrots swarming the vertical clay banks.  Toucans are flying nearby...it's quiet and peaceful out here so early in the morning, except for the chatter of the parrots...there must be hundreds of them.  Every once in a while something interrupts their concentration and they fly en masse up into the trees to slowly lower themselves eventually back onto the colpa.  It's tolerably warm out here and I could watch this show forever but then the sun comes out full force.  Enough parrot observation...time to go eat breakfast and then hike out to Sandoval Lake.  There are supposed to be 4 meter long Caimans out there, plus piranhas and electric eels...and we're supposed to be able to swim in a "protected" area...I'm wondering how protected it is.
Well the hike to Sandoval Lake was quite an experience.  Frank said it was about 5 KM in...no problem....but I didn't realize it was thru deep argillic mud...the kind that sucks your boots right off of you when you try to pull your feel back out.  So bracing myself with two poles to assist in boot retrieval, I sludge my way thru the mud, but it's a long 5 km.  And of course it's hot and the air is full of humidity.  I'm drenched right from the start...then I'm drenched plus muddy, and full of bug bites...but this lake is supposed to be nice.   And it is.   The minute we get there we jump right into the water....it's not cold, not even particularly cool but it's so welcome....gets the mud and the sweat off of me...cools my core temperature...but I'm a little concerned about two things...a Peruana had told us that there are these parasites in fresh water bodies that enter you thru orifices or fissures in your skin so I'm trying to keep all those possibilities in check.  Secondly, there are still those electric eels that zing you with a 660 V shock and you sink and drown, and then there are the caimans to gobble you up.   Frank points up the lake and says they mostly live over there, not here.  But anyway I swim near Lisa...I figure then there's only a 50% chance I'll be the first.  But once she gets out of the water for lunch, I'm on my way too...that is until the rest of the group swims later.  Since there are about 5 of us in the water, my chances are reduced further and I feel safe. 
This lake is beautiful...it's an old stream meander of the Madre de Dios...an oxbow that is rich in wildlife and protected by the gov't...  As we canoe back to resume our hike, we see turtles on the edge of the lake, some very cool birds...Anhingas flapping their broad wings, Hoatzins...who are big orange headed, Mohawk- haired predators...there are clusters of them carrying on at the waters edge...sounds like they're fighting over something.... and Corey, we even see a few Ruby Throated Bunudgers, just like in NY.  We see a sloth...lots of stuff but of course, the best is the swarms of monkeys, capuchin and squirrel monkeys, as we enter the final channel.  Monkeys with babies on them scurrying through the canopy, just tearing it up, crashing canopy leaves and branches to the ground. We spend a little time trying to catch piranhas with homemade fishing gear.  I can feel them bite...I even see one near the surface as I yank my twine out of the water...but they're good at stealing bait...and we don't catch any.  But we're going fishing in a day or two...to try again.  

And then its time for the hike back, which I can hardly imagine...but it's getting dark, the mosquitoes are out full force, so our hike is muy rapido.  I feel like a human trail machine, ignoring the slips and slides and near wipeouts into the sticky mud.   But I hit some slippery slope, my knee twists, my energy reserves are diminished, I slow down a bit.  But then Johann and I begin to walk together and it takes all my concentration to talk about our lives in Spanish, so the trail shortens, we finally arrive...hop in the boat...a breeze dries my skin and soon we're back at camp.  A long day....530 AM to 630 PM...but an incredible one.    I wonder what they've got planned for tomorrow....

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